[Translation] 10 commandments that storage manufacturers want to hide

Published on July 31, 2014

[Translation] 10 commandments that storage manufacturers want to hide

Propaganda is still driving the data storage system market and vendors are creating numerous myths that the client needs to be able to ignore so as not to be trapped in a system that does not meet the requirements of the business at all.
There are many things that storage manufacturers want to make customers believe, but there are things that no one wants to talk about. These are the ten commandments that they want to make you forget.

A few days ago, I read with great interest the theses that Ben Rossi published in one of the blogs ( original ). Some of them seemed biased to me, some were fair, and some I was not ready to accept. But all of them certainly deserve to think at least once. Below is my free translation.


1. Five-year warranty should be standard.
Most storage providers include a 12-month warranty, and possibly extend it to three years if you put a little pressure on them. But it’s worth talking about a five-year warranty, as the price of the solution will grow significantly. Why? The reason is that the manufacturer would prefer that you plan to replace the equipment every 3 years. Maybe, following Moore’s law, it’s worth changing servers with such a frequency, but for a storage system this is not so. Storage should not only live 5 years, but also meet the performance requirements all this time - this is the basis for dialogue with the manufacturer.

2. You should be able to use the full capacity of the system that you paid for
As soon as we are talking about any other product, no one wants to use only part of the purchased product. If you bought a five-bedroom house, then you will want to be able to use all five at once. If you bought a car with five seats, then you plan that you can put 5 people in it. If you buy storage, then you should be able to use 100% capacity without sacrificing performance.

Nevertheless, many vendors accompany their product with a special “best practice” document, in which you are warned of a significant decrease in performance if you use more than 75% of the available volume. It is possible to create a storage system that will work when using the entire volume without loss of performance. But why aren't most existing architectures designed for this?

3. Upgrade does not have to be complicated or too expensive
A large-scale upgrade or changes to part of the existing infrastructure often develop into a complex and long-term project, which is accompanied by downtime, investment in new equipment, as well as a decent work bill. Online migration is quite possible, but with the real scalable architecture of storage systems, it can become a thing of the past.

4. The storage system does not need staff
It is known that the main reason for failures in data centers is most often the human factor. If we can limit the interaction of people and technology by making the equipment maintainable at the place of operation, we will significantly limit the possibility of refusing a data center. About 70% of the disks returned under warranty are free of defects and a simple rebuild was enough to restore the system. The task is to find a storage provider that can repair and replace disks on-site, which will allow your own maintenance staff not to go to storage for at least five years.

5. When it comes to discs, quality matters
Whether we choose hard drives or solid state drives, the general rule works - beware of consumer-grade equipment. There is a huge difference in the quality of the components used, testing, and most importantly, in the difference in the failure rate for regular disks and corporate class disks.
Conventional “household” drives can be noticeably cheaper, but operating costs and risks are likely to be much higher than for reliable “enterprise” level products. When choosing wheels, make sure that your upcoming capital costs, operating costs and risks are balanced.

6. Flash - not a panacea
Flash drives are not the solution to any problems. Yes, with their help, you can significantly increase application performance for a certain type of load, but this technology has its limitations. For example, if we are talking about sequential recording of large amounts of data, then hard drives are much better. Flash drive and hard drive are two different tools that can and should be used for their respective tasks.

To achieve a balance in performance, it is worth communicating with vendors who do not limit the client to one type of disk.

7. All-flash arrays are not always the most energy efficient
Many people think that flash-only storage systems are more energy efficient than hard drive systems. However, in order to get a complete picture, it is necessary, when evaluating energy consumption, to summarize the consumption of all modules, not just disk shelves.

It turns out that some systems with hard drives consume less power than other All-Flash systems. A decisive influence is exerted by how exactly vendors use “energy-hungry” components in their systems, such as processors and cache memory.

8. Vibration can reduce design performance.
Strong vibration can cause problems not only with reliability, but also seriously affect performance, although many are not aware of it.

Although it is possible to obtain predictable performance results by eliminating vibration, it is not so simple and requires significant investment in the development of such a storage system. It sounds crazy, but the easiest way to check the system is to scream at it well and see how the performance changes at this time. You may be very surprised at the result.

9. You do not need all these bells and whistles
The choice of a corporate data storage system is often made on the basis of a long list of features, and not at all on indicators of reliability and performance. With the advent of SDS (software-defined storage), a significant part of the functionality implemented at the array level is no longer so necessary, as it becomes the competence of operating systems, hypervisors and applications.

For many customers, the acquisition of enterprise storage ends in “slavery” from a proprietary software vendor that is supported on one single platform. The implementation of SDS provides significant flexibility in choosing a platform without thinking about the hardware actually used - this strengthens your position as a customer and allows you to focus on performance and reliability.

10. Scalable systems have their own characteristics.
Many manufacturers offer scalable “up” storage systems, but most of them do not explain that for applications demanding performance, a lot depends on the central controller in the system. Often this can cause significant investment in upgrades to increase system capacity or performance.

However, there is an alternative to traditional vertical scaling. Horizontally scalable systems can be combined into a single storage pool, combining both large capacity and high performance.

Instead of performance and reliability, the storage market today, unfortunately, is largely built on empty talk and abstruse terms. What customers really need is an honest conversation without fuss, in which the vendor helps you choose the best system for your business. So far, there are few such vendors, but they still exist.

PS I have a certain suspicion that everything was started for the sake of the last two or three paragraphs, but I sincerely want to believe in the best motives of the author. In addition, some of the statements are largely true and it is really worth paying attention to when choosing a storage system.