Storage for 'Enterprise': What does that even MEAN?
For biz, for large deployments, backup memory for the Star Trek starship?
Storagebod I love it when storage vendors invent new market segments: "Entry-Level Enterprise Storage Arrays" appears to be the latest one, from the brilliant marketing team at EMC. And it is always a "new" space that only the company occupies.
But are these new spaces real segments or just marketing? Actually, the whole Enterprise Storage Array thing is getting a bit old and I am not sure whether it has any real meaning anymore. It is all rather distancing for the customer. You "need" Enterprise, you don’t need Enterprise ... you need 99.999 per cent availability, you only need 99.99 per cent availability...
As a customer, I need 100 per cent availability; I need my applications to be available when I need them. Now, this may mean that I actually only need them to be available for an hour a month but during that hour I need them to be 100 per cent available.
What I look for in vendors is the way that they mitigate against failure and understand my problems, but I don’t think the term "Enterprise Storage" brings much value to the game - especially when it is constantly being misused and appropriated by the marketing consultants.
However, I do think it is time for some serious discussions about storage architectures: dual-head, scale-up architectures vs multiple-head, and scale-out architectures vs RAIN architectures. To my mind, understanding the failure modes and behaviours is probably much more important than the marketing terms which surround them.
Storage vendors have offerings in all of those spaces, all at different cost points, but there is one thing I can guarantee: the "Enterprise" ones are the most expensive.
There is also a case for looking at the architecture as a whole. Too many times I have come across the thinking that what we need to do is make our storage really available, when the biggest cause of outage is application failure.
Fix the most broken thing first: if your application is down because it’s poorly written or architected, no amount of "Enterprise" anything is going to fix it. Another $2,000 per terabyte is money you need to invest elsewhere. ®
you want 100% availability
You don't need it.
Very few do. Go spec out what it would take infrastructure wise as well as software(design etc) wise to provide 100% availability and in most cases (I'd wager 99.9+%) it's not worth the investment. Same applies to that software that these enterprise storage companies are putting on their arrays. Bugs happen, systems go down. Having both controllers fail at the same time is more likely than array vendors would like to admit (I have suffered through at least two such occasions from different tier 1 storage companies).
Look through the changelog of software releases, some of the things fixed look pretty scary at times.. fortunately I haven't been bitten by too many catastrophic storage failures. And that's just the public stuff, talking to insiders at various companies reveal even more horrific stories. One such company that I was a customer of once had us go through a good 7 hours of hard downtime because they did not have a proper escalation procedure internally. The CEO later apologized to us and they did fix their support structure.
What you may want even more though is 100% data integrity. If my services go down because storage is degraded that's not the end of the world - but if the system dies and corrupts itself in the process obviously that is more serious. Same goes for if there is a bug that is corrupting data on disk and then your using async replication to send that on-disk data to another array as a "Backup" not knowing it is just sending corrupt data to the backup system too.
Everyone loves to talk about disaster recovery, business continuity.. more often than not though at the end of the day the costs are too high and the company ends up calling it off. One company I was at got as far as tripling the budget for DR, got it all approved, only to then change their minds and direct that budget towards another one of management's pet projects.
I had another company sign a very expensive contract with a big name DR provider when they knew from day one they would never be able to use it (the plan was fatally flawed and they knew this internally), they signed it anyway just so they could tick off the check box for "DR" for their customers. Fortunately for them that company was acquired by a massive company later on and have since put a more realistic plan in place.
The term Enterprise is over used to be sure, it would be nice if there was some more formal method of determining how available a storage system is as well as how well it protects data. People with some level of storage experience can see past it pretty easily, but those less experienced management types that just look at the most basic metrics are playing with fire.
I've learned some good storage lessons over the past several years, and am a lot more cautious now as a result.
But even with all that - the problems and failures I have had with enterprise storage - I'm nowhere NEAR interested in trying to "roll my own", nor am I interested in deploying some half baked open source storage grid to replace enterprise storage. Storage is complicated to get right, while enterprise storage certainly has it's faults, and it is costly, it still is solar systems ahead of pretty much anything else out there for those organizations that do not have significant developer resources to maintain their own thing. In fact the more I use storage the less likely I have been to be interested in using anything BUT enterprise storage (at least for block and file devices - object storage is different). The risk just isn't worth it for mission critical things.
Any storage where the word "Enterprise" is used simply means you need to get a minimum 60% discount to avoid being ripped off. Usually you should get 80% off the first quote for true "Enterprise" kit because in reality all "Enterprise" means is "we hiked the price up to make you think this system was better than the cheaper one and to make our overpriced SAN look competitive with <COMPETITOR>'s overpriced SAN".
Enterprise storage started out as a hangar at Washington Duller, then was a wing of the Udvar-Hazy Center, then it was an inflatable bubble on he deck of a retired aircraft carrier, and now it's another temporary structure on the same deck after a storm destroyed the bubble.
All of which goes to show that Enterprise storage is non-trivial.
Oh, perhaps we weren't talking about the space shuttle of that name?