Are you using your storage the right way? …

October 23, 2013

Spent a short time yesterday at VMware VMworld 2013 “Defy” Convention. Now maybe that should be “deny” convention but that would be cynical of me. 99.9% of the vendors at the show were showing SAN products – storage, backup, de-dupe, migration, DR … you name it, it was there – all based around SAN product. Now I’m not that dumb that if you hit me over the head with a SAN for long enough I get the point – they greatly benefit the functionality of all things VMware by allowing migration etc (just plain moving stuff around). So VMware focus on, and promote SAN as their primary/preferred storage medium – makes sense to me.

However … (and yes, there is always a gotcha) …

We sell an awful lot of RAID cards to people using VMware on DAS (direct attached storage). Now I could not even find one person who was willing to discuss direct-attached storage – it was basically a no-no discussion point since it does not fit all the functionality and marketing hype that VMware put around their products – after all it’s all stuck in the one box!

The reality is that no matter what a vendor thinks, and how hard they promote a specific use of product, the customer will always come up with an innovative (I call it “left field”) way of using your product, often to a point that you don’t think is very smart or realistic, but you keep that opinion to yourself because right or wrong, you want the customer to buy more product.

In RAID storage it’s akin to the customer running RAID 0 on a bunch of desktop drives all running an old firmware – stability is non-existent but the customer expects that since this is an option in the RAID card, then it should work just as well as every other option in the menu. Or the customer (and yes I hit one of these guys the other day) wanting to build a RAID 10 out of 16 SSDs … a slightly rather too expensive configuration for my taste, but the customer was convinced that this was the right way to go.

So what is the “right way” to use your storage? There really isn’t one, but I’d strongly urge people to talk to a vendor and discuss the pros and cons, risks and benefits, shortcoming and upsides of their configuration – it may just be that while the customer has thought of all the innovative and “left field” ways of using storage, they haven’t considered the fundamental underlying problems they may run into because of their design.

So the lesson is? Talk to your vendor and don’t worry if they laugh/choke/smirk/scoff or otherwise deride your ideas … just listen to their input and balance your enthusiasm with their usual conservatism.

Ciao
Neil

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