Am I a luddite? (or … do I purchase on price or features)

February 7, 2014

Yes I have an iphone, imac and yes I use a laptop (constantly), but I’m only just getting around to moving up in the world to an ipad. I recently decided that I would have use for one of these new-fangled contraptions so went to work on my research as to which model was the right one for me.

While I’m not about doing any free promotional work for Apple (they can afford to pay me if they want me to promote) … my research paralleled quite a few phone calls from customers talking about RAID cards and I saw some synergies I thought a little interesting.

With the boss in mind (wife, not employer), I immediately started looking at the lowest price unit. Thinking I had to justify my expenditure and that the lower the price the easier the justification, I started reading websites, reviews and technical specifications like any good technician would.

However … as soon as I started reading I realized that the base model didn’t give me the oomph I was looking for, or the fancy features, or the warm and fuzzy feeling that my purchase would do the job I was looking for and not leave me with any apprehensions or misgivings that I should have purchased something different (or better). Yes I went and did the look and feel in some shops, but I have little time for salespeople who try and tell me that this is better than that etc. Instead, I consulted my kids (now adults), whom I regard as seasoned, experienced and knowledgeable advocates of this sort of products – content experts so to speak.

Note that I didn’t look at other vendor’s tablet products – it was an ipad or nothing as far as my mindset was concerned. End result – an ipad air is on order – heading my way from central China … and I’m waiting with baited breath.

Now let’s transfer that purchase process to my customers and RAID cards … here’s the typical process (in this scenario I’m pretending to be just one type of my many customers):

1. Look at the pricelist and start at the bottom (cheapest first)
2. Look at the features and see what that cheap model can do for me
3. Look at my customer requirements and see how I can work around the limitations of the cheapest model  and still keep the customer happy
4. Maybe read some technical specs … but generally I don’t understand too much about that RAID mumbo-jumbo
5. Maybe talk to a sales person from my reseller or distributor, but generally I think he’s only going to try and sell me a more expensive model so he can make more commission

End result … I’ll buy the cheapest I think I can get away with, then turn my attention to the other components I need to build the server.

Now I’m not sitting here promoting that you should go out and purchase the most expensive product we make in the blind ignorance that it will ‘do the job you need’. Instead, I’m trying to point out that even with all the technical reading in the world, you still may not consider all the aspects of a product purchase … and that you don’t lose anything by talking to a product expert.

I do this a lot (be the product expert that is). Lots of my customers, even the ones who use our products a lot (in fact these guys ring me more than others), ring me to discuss what is the right RAID card to for a certain application. Along with the card discussion I generally have drive discussions at the same time – looking at the overall picture. Note that SSDs are prominent in these discussions these days – the price seems to have dropped to a point where people are more than willing to put them in their systems.

So I end up with discussions like:

1. “I am looking at purchasing a 6405e (entry card) and 4 x 1tb SSDs to put in a RAID 10” … I can see a lot of problems with this so talk to the customer about IOP performance, initially recommending that if they are going to put together a fast database system on RAID 10 they need a 7 series for IOP performance to match the SSDs – ie a 71605e will be fine because they don’t need cache protection (with SSDs we turn off cache). However when I ask my usual question of “what are you going to be doing with this system – what sort of data are you dealing with?” I find out that we are talking about “saving PDFs from a high speed scanner. Hmmm … end result is a 6405 controller with 4 x enterprise SATA in a RAID 5 … a much lower overall cost to the consumer, much more capacity and a much more sensible solution to the problem at hand.

2. “I’m looking to put 6 x 15K SAS drives in RAID 10 with 2 x SSD as caching for the array – do I need to purchase an AFM700 with the 7805Q?” … answer: “No, Q cards come with AFM included”. Again the discussion comes about to what the customer is doing – high-speed but relatively small capacity vmware server running a few vm’s … storage will be elsewhere. A pretty good build that will do the job more than adequately at a good pricepoint.

Question 1 was from a customer who doesn’t do much RAID, while Question 2 is from a customer who uses hundreds of our cards … but both those customers needed some additional support to help determine the correct purchase. Lesson to all this is that before you go and purchase your latest and greatest or cheapest possible RAID card – talk to the vendor to see if they can give you recommendations to help you get the right product at the right price.

Interestingly neither of these customers looked anywhere other than Adaptec, like I didn’t look anywhere other than Apple – brand loyalty drives that (as I said i have an iphone and I also have a imac on the desk), but why should they not take advantage of the accessibility of the vendor – if the support is there: use it!

Now where’s that tracking number for the ipad – I’m in a hurry to get my hands on this thing :-)

Ciao
Neil

 

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