I got a call from an integrator late yesterday who wanted some input on EMC Celerra. I gave him what little I know then asked a bit more about the customer requirements he was seeking to fill.
He said the customer, a healthcare provider, was making its first foray into a “SAN” — or what goes by that name in the storage marketecture of today. The shop had bought a blade system to process some critical data — about 8TB or so initially and expected to grow by leaps and bounds. They wanted performance and scalability, and manageability was important too, given the smallish size of their IT shop. HP was the blade provider, but the reseller who sold it to them (not my guy) screwed the pooch on his pricing for a complimentary HP storage solution. (No surprise.) Now, EMC was pushing its Celerra solution to the customer via yet another reseller, and the customer was about ready to ink the deal — based on the brand familiarity of EMC, rather than its product capabilities.
The customer has not received reliable performance data on Celerra — mainly because there isn’t much out there. EMC doesn’t stand for public testing of its kits.
The customer is being told that a Celerra is a SAN. I always thought of it as a NAS head slapped on top of a Clariion rig that might offer some FC and some SATA drives inside. Oh, and a boatload of software features that I may or may not need.
By the way, the EMC NAS products we have tested in the past were pigs, the SMB-oriented crap sold through Dell, but I have had some more positive experiences with Clariion.
The customer is being told that Celerra scales performance and capacity well. Damned if I know whether this claim is true.
The customer is being told that Celerra holds its value over time. Reference was made to NetApp’s tendency to end-of-life its gear after 18 months, while EMC supposedly takes much greater care of its customer’s investments. I haven’t made the comparison and I wonder if anyone else has.
Finally, the customer is being told that EMC is a much more trustworthy company from the standpoint of its ability to execute over time than is, say, Xiotech, which my friend in the reseller world wants to suggest as an alternative. In fact, EMC apparently has a whole playbook it uses when Xiotech is competing for “their” business and “their” customer prospect, and they are giving it both barrells to this customer.
Note that I am not singling out EMC in this regard: I have seen similar playbooks in just about every storage vendor I have visited. Unfortunately, sifting the truth from the bullshit consumes more of a consumer’s time than does making an intelligent and thoughtful comparison between products with respect to their fit with specific application and business requirements.
I agreed to chat further with this customer about the considerations that need to be foremost in his strategy for selecting and deploying storage. In Xiotech’s favor, he can start small and buy storage in a way that captures the underlying falling cost of disk. Given Xiotech’s web services-based management paradigm and its growing ecosystem of web services-enabled third party software vendors, including great companies like DataCore, he can custom build readily managed infrastructure while containing costs. Xiotech’s performance numbers have been validated and re-validated and are the best in the business, though I would encourage everyone to try it with their workload before committing to any vendor’s gear. Finally, I would ask the fellow to consider the broader context of data management. As a healthcare services company, HIPAA probably applies, which means that he will need a disaster recovery and an archive capability sooner rather than later. I would prefer to have a flexible model for implementing these services, again controlled via web services, rather than a lock-in model that will go hand in hand with EMC’s inevitable pressure to buy Centera and other hardware/software stovepipes for data protection.
I will report on how effective the truth can be against EMC marketing. Heck, I would love to test both solutions under his workload in our labs and report the results here, if he will let me. Unfortunately, having been down that path before, EMC puts a hard stop on public disclosure of the performance of its gear in the warranty and maintenance agreement. The fellow needs to understand that this is a nifty way that vendors (not just EMC) use to make sure that storage decisions can never be made in a transparent or scientific way.
That alone makes me recommend Xiotech over EMC in this case. It is irritating to me that he may go with the latter because of FUD they are laying on him about the “questionable future” of “minor or niche players in the storage market like Xiotech” — a quote from the bullshit that the EMC reseller is laying out about his competitor. When I compare sales acceleration numbers at Xiotech to the low growth numbers from EMC, I think that everyone needs to start reconsidering who will be here in ten years and who won’t.
Returning to my original question: is Celerra a SAN, even in the beaten-down idiotic definition of what a SAN is today? Comments welcome.