National Storage Rip-Off Day, Part Deux
So many responses to my earlier post on this, I had to open another thread. Basically, I got hammered by a few guys for comparing EMC/IBM/HP/HDS wares aimed at SMBs to less expensive products from Zetera, Promise Technologies, Hifn, etc. Apples and oranges they said.
Complaints came down to several things. Some said these much more expensive collections of spinning rust from brand names have a lot more testing behind them. They come with one stop shop hardware and software builds. They have big cadres of support folk behind them and even phone home if a problem arises. And they are certified to work with various OS's and application software, a pricey but useful discriminator.
I could do (and have done) a big rant on a lot of the so-called certification programs out there that are complete and utter BS. Pity that some believe that they have value, forcing the small guys to have to "pay to play" -- to spend precious resources they could be using to build market and sales channels to buy access to proprietary APIs. It is a huge rip-off unto itself.
TCO wise, I have never seen demonstrated the purported value in buying products that are "certified" with third party wares versus those that aren't. On the one hand, VMware says that it can use any LUN exposed by any storage device. On the other hand, they want storage vendors to pay ($30K per SKU) to be "certified." Doesn't this strike anyone as odd?
There is no rocket science in storage. Standards exist at the device level, the array level, and to some degree at the interconnect level. Where these standards don't work, it is because the vendors have developed the standards to ensure that they don't work.
Management remains the huge gap. Vendors don't want their products to be managed in common because it gives the impression of commoditization and enables folks to unplug vendor A and plug in vendor B at the drop of the hat.
As for after sale service and support, we are looking at huge fees for something that could be purchased from third party service providers, local integrators, or local aftermarket service organizations just as readily as from the equipment vendor itself.
I feel very uneasy about the fact that phone home functionality seems to be more frequently used today and that guys show up at the door with replacement parts because the equipment summoned them. Why is there always an uptick in this activity when new equipment sales slow down? There might not be any correlation, of course, but if users start to believe there is one, what do you think will happen to the idea of phone home being a value add?
Finally, we have all-in-one on array software stacks that some readers here regard as the real discriminators between the big brands and the little guys. I hear this one a lot: "I don't want to cobble together my own set of storage management software. I want it all to be delivered on the array." Alternatively, this comment takes the form of "I don't have a huge IT staff, so I want my storage to be drool proof." I agree that there is merit to this view for small shops. I also have to say that acceptance of lock-in proprietary functional sets at a huge mark-up is not going to serve the department as it grows, as applications and corresponding storage infrastructure diversifies, and as you need to make more capacity remain manageable by fewer folks. Fielding a bunch of proprietary platforms, each with its own proprietary management interface, becomes problematic and costly over time.
Architecturally, the storage device may not even be the right place to host some of the value add functionality.
Finally, misapprehension abounded about RAID levels and mirroring/WAN mirroring capabilities (or lack of support thereof) by the equipment alternatives I cited in the earlier blog. The commenters didn't know very much about these products or their support for preferred functionality and simply assumed that they didn't support them. Some investigation is in order on their part and I invite Zetera, Promise, etc. to use this blog to post some responses to the intelligent questions that were being asked. Since it would cost these vendors nothing more than a little time, it's the cheapest form of customer education I can think of.
Anyway, thanks to everyone for writing and voicing their views. Keep it up!