Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Storage as a commodity

I just read a comment over at Zerowait regarding Netapp and proprietary hardware. It reminded me of something I was thinking about recently on the commoditisation of storage.

There's nothing worse to my mind than a storage vendor who has no competition. Inevitably in some organisations that situation can exist when a single supplier is chosen to supply (for example) switches, SAN or NAS. The difficulty though is how to avoid that situation. Most vendors would love to lock you into their proprietary tools and relating back to the above article link, Netapp is one I see who try that more than anyone. They have a bewildering array of interlinked product options; once your hooked (especially where you use a feature to retain long term backups via snapshot/vaults) then you're sucked into a dependency on their products which just isn't healthy.

What's the solution? Well, for me I like to commoditise storage functionality. Pick out those features which all vendors support and only use the proprietary features where absolutely necessary. At least then you can maintain multiple vendors all on the hook for your next piece of business.

Of course implementing commoditised storage is more difficult than just picking a few common product features. However as far as your users are concerned, a LUN is a LUN and NAS storage is NAS storage, with a few caveats on things like driver levels for HBAs and so on.

I've previously posted a modular storage comparison sheet. As an example, here are some of the features that almost all support:

  • RAID 5 protection
  • Consistent LUN size
  • dual pathing
  • Active/Passive failover
  • remote replication
  • Fibre Channel presentation
  • SNMP alerting
  • online code upgrades
  • hot swappable components

Before I get lots of comments saying "hold on, not all modular products are the same"; remember I'm not saying that. What I am saying is having a consistent set of requirements allows you to maintain a shortlist of vendors who can all enjoy the healthy competition of bidding for business. So, time to draw up a NAS spreadsheet....

No comments: