Today I had a great conversation with a customer about picking a SAN vendor. It was a very eye opening discussion because I could fully empathize with his predicament. This person was allocated a set amount of budget for storage that needs to be in production working well for at least 4 years. If you stand back and think about it, that is a large task to accomplish. You know, predicating the future. To further highlight the difficulty you need to predict something that is anything but a stationary target. This technology changes by the second, literally. It reminds of buying cassette tapes and someone telling me in 10 years everything would be digital.
What makes the decision even trickier is that there isn’t a good, better best solution out there. There are hundreds of options, configurations, and features to go over. Do you go EMC, NetApp, Equallogic, LeftHand, 3PAR, HP, IBM, Hitachi, etc… It is my humble opinion a difficult if not impossible challenge. However grim it may sound there are a few things to look for when narrowing down a vendor. One piece of clarification, I don’t personally endorse one manufacturer or solution over the other. They have all their strengths and opportunities declaring a clear and concise winner would be naïve at best.
- Build for growth not budget: When I go over qualifications of a project some basic questions always come up. Budget? Timeframe? Etc.. But what I found to be realistic and is more specific, what do you need now and what will you need in the future? And be very generous with that figure. Budget twice as much as you think because you probably will be short anyways. Plus asking for more today seems always easier than asking for more later when it actually costs more and not in the budget.
- Must have vs. Nice to have: Picking a storage vendor gets much simpler if you can list a set rule of “must haves” vs. “nice to haves” based on your infrastructure. For example, if you “must have” fiber channel, that narrows it down. Converged network, even better, less choices. Primary de-dupe, really narrows it down. Please don’t throw out typical expensive vendors here either; pricing is much more competitive that it has been in the past.
- New vs. Old: This is a hard one to figure out. There are 5+ year old technologies out there that have stood the test of time and are just as good now as then. However, there are new upcoming vendors with game changing items that could fit very well into environment. They even tend to be discounts for early adopters. So who do you pick? I don’t know personally, I like to listen to the new stuff first then challenge the main stays and see when they might release that feature.
- Acquisition Target: If you think the vendor you pick will be purchased don’t shy away. This tends to work in the customers favor (outside a few exceptions), plus we see a lot of extra love during acquisitions to make sure customers are happy.
- Marketing is just marketing: Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) as it often referred to, is just a one sided conversation. It is big bucks for these vendors to plant seeds of doubt in you the buyer. If you listened to every pitch you would find the same pattern of presenting a feature and pointing out why the other guys same feature doesn’t work as well. Some of it is true, but most of it is skewed. Best way to avoid this, match your personal environment and solutions needs to what the SAN can provide. Ignore the rest, it will just confuse you.