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Apple’s move away from hardware lock-in to low-cost generic arrays is a shrewd one

I’ve been seeing the scuttlebutt about Apple and Promise Technology and couldn’t help but add my two cents about how many Promise arrays I’ve seen pop up lately.

Last week, while installing our IBM N-series, I saw a couple of admins installing a multi-shelf Promise array. Peering through the cages in one of our colo areas, I’ve seen quite a few Promise and generic arrays installed. Walking the aisles in the areas I have access to, I’ve seen a rapid uptick in the installation of Off-Broadway-brand array vendors.

We own a small (5TB) Promise V-Track array we use for limited duty validation and testing (we bought it before the Storevault was released). I like it — it certainly fills the need and it does what it’s supposed to do. I can buy any brand and size SATA hard drive I want and the management tools come with the product at no additional charge. I was able to set it up in about 30 minutes and after the drive initialization (took close to 24! hours) I was all set and ready to go, all without a PhD. I even did the guy thing and didn’t read the instructions! I don’t know about you, but I can’t really ask for more, considering the price.

I’ve seen the folks at Apple accused of being stupid or lacking foresight in the past (Steve, I’m still upset about my Newton!!). In recent years, the accusers have usually been dining on crow, given the fact that Apple’s products consistently create trends. (Anyone up for an iDog?) I firmly believe they know something about the trend towards lower-cost generic arrays using generic disks in generic trays, otherwise (at least in my mind anyway), a company that prides itself on solidly locking you into their hardware when you use their software would have gone with a more mainstream storage vendor, or simply re-branded something and inserted a v-chip.

You’ve read me typing this for a couple of blog posts now, but I’ll type it again: Small to midsized SANs for under $50,000 with simple software and easy to use interfaces are going to be the market in the coming years. I’ll go a step further and say the days of proprietary drive trays and “enterprise-class ” drives are numbered too.

I seem to recall another big vendor that often gets maligned for lacking foresight snapping up a low-cost storage array vendor recently.

More importantly, Apple knows how to make difficult things easy and stylish. Not to mention that people who OEM for Apple (Foxconn , Acer et al.) are quite happy pumping out the iWhatever. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see Promise doing the same.

If there was ever a company that could pull off making a product that does easy data migration … see where I’m going with this?

Couple Apple’s really-easy-to-use SAN software with low-cost generic arrays and you could have a quick rise to major player in the storage software market. . .for a company many thought would be out of business by now, bringing in another company that “real” storage vendors look down their nose at.

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