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SD2003: Rate the disk vendors panel

Attendees to the Storage Decisions 'Rate the disk vendor' session heard some common refrains from panelists as they gathered to dissect the state of the disk vendor market.

Attendees to the Storage Decisions 'Rate the disk vendor' session heard some common refrains from panelists as they gathered to dissect the state of the disk vendor market.

Improved product interoperability was one item that often appeared on panelist wish lists. Better efficiency from vendor products was another common request. In the end, what most panelists seemed to want was the ability to truly exploit the promise of their heterogeneous environments.

Sanjay Mandloi, vice president of J.P. Morgan Chase's LabMorgan technology division, said he wanted to see more interoperability from his vendors so that he could more easily move data from one environment to another. Mandloi, who works in a largely EMC shop, said he wanted it to be easier to move data from "an EMC frame into an Hitachi frame," for instance.

Another panelist, Troy Brick-Margelofsky, said he wanted the ability to move logical unit numbers (LUNs) from IBM Sharks to an EMC box. Brick-Margelofsky, a senior systems and storage administrator for a mostly IBM shop at Land's End, Inc., noted the interoperability challenges he now faced in trying to move data. "What do you do if the QLogic [switches] are one revision off, or if EMC says you weren't on a supported platform?"

While vendors often talk about interoperability and spend a lot of cash on their interoperability labs and certification programs, Brick-Margelofsky said they still aren't there yet. "I don't go to IBM's lab and see an EMC box or a [HDS] Lightning box sitting there," he said.

Mandloi said he learned the hard way with EMC's microcode upgrades that his company needed to have its own interoperability labs. JPMorgan Chase's labs now include an archive and backup of each version of the microcode so that they can easily rollback if an upgrade or system change doesn't take. "Microcode upgrades are very important for us, but the challenge is making sure that the system will come up afterwards," he said.

Jed Summerton, director of data management at Level 3 Communications, an internet backbone provider, commented that microcode upgrades were "the single, number one issue at every EMC customer."

While EMC scored lower in this area among the panelsits present, it came through with high marks for overall customer service. When asked who gave the best customer service for their shop, Summerton had no qualms with stating EMC. "When they find a problem and it's related to storage," he said, "They pretty much pull out all the stops." Mandloi concurred, noting, "On the whole, their support structure is pretty good."

In terms of other vendors, Summerton went on to comment that his group was planning to move off its Compaq boxes after learning the majority of Compaq's storage field technician force in Colorado had been laid off by HP. He commented that he felt that HP had "lost their long-term vision."

When Brick-Margelofsky was asked if he thought IBM had the tools to help his half an employee who was currently managing all of the company's storage hardware, he replied, "They don't today." Brick-Marelofsky noted, however, that he had been satisfied with IBM's hardware.

Links to other session proceedings are available here.

About the moderator: Steve Duplessie is the founder and senior analyst of the Enterprise Storage Group based in Milford, Mass.

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