Around the Storage Block Blog
Find out about all things data storage from Around the Storage Block at HP Communities.

Not all VSAs are created equal: comparing HP and NetApp VSA

Vaughn Stewart, my storage industry colleague over at NetApp, posted an article yesterday about its new Virtual Storage Array or VSA.  We have a product also called VSA. To avoid any confusion, I thought it would be worth doing a high-level comparison.

Recap and update on NetApp MetroCluster article

While my colleague Jim Haberkorn wrote the original article about MetroCluster, he's not a Twitter user so I wanted to bring my perspective based on the "twit-o-sphere" conversations.

Labels: NetApp

NetApp MetroCluster: Be sure to ask if the car has wheels

Would you implement a high availability/disaster recovery solution that has six single points of failure? That's the question that Jim Haberkorn asks in this article.

Labels: NetApp

The top Around the Storage blog posts

I have several lists of "best of" Around the Storage blog. I was motivated to do this because of our migration to the new blog platform and some initial challenges we had with URLs to the old posts on the other platform.

Super Bowl ads and capacity guarantees

  By Calvin Zito (Follow me on Twitter as @HPStorageGuy)


If you were like me and about 106 million other Americans, half of the fun of watching the Super Bowl are the ads.  For folks outside of the U.S., you might get the Super Bowl on tape delay but not with the commercials.  They are classic and worth checking out on YouTube. Some of the ads were very funny, others did a great job of making the brand or product advertised memorable.   Still others were trying to be funny but so detached from the product that I was left scratching my head wondering if the advertising manager and agencies that did the ads still had jobs.

One that made many lists of "the best Super Bowl ad" was this one - it's hilarious and my family was rolling on the floor when it played.



After I saw the ad, I couldn't help but think of some of my fellow storage vendors and their capacity guarantee programs.  Here's why.  As a consumer, when I think of a guarantee, I think of products or retail outlets that say "if you aren't 100% satisfied with your purchase, return it for a no questions asked refund".   Well, these capacity guarantees are far from a satisfaction program.  One of the programs that does talk about their requirements publicly, the list of what you have to do to be part of their guarantee is longer than a winter night at the North or South Pole.  Really, how is it a guarantee when the vendor stacks the deck with requirements that really is their guarantee that they won't lose the bet their making.  And that takes me back to the commercial and the guy baiting the dog with a bark collar to speak so he'll give him a chip to eat.  Let's look a bit closer at this.



What do these capacity guarantee programs promise?  There are a few of these programs out there and all of them guarantee a 50% savings in capacity over your current environment.  Wow - that does sound impressive, doesn't it?  But I think you have to dig a little deeper.


How do these programs measure the 50% capacity savings?  3Par recently announced a guarantee and is short on disclosing any requirements that help you understand how they'll measure the savings.  They have a link to a poster that is supposed to have more details and it's more like those home-made ads you'd find hanging in the lobby of your local grocery store - just missing those little bits of paper that you tear away to to have the phone number to call later.  However, there is a rather prominent box where you can put your contact details and have someone get back in touch with you.  I'm sure they'll be happy to call you and give you the details.  In a Twitter conversation, Marc Farley (@3parfarley on Twitter) responded to a question about what's required by saying, "..there is a contract involved.  There is necessarily going to be fine print.  That's what contracts have."  Maybe it's just me but I can't find the large print.  





At least NetApp's guarantee lays out the starting point and some of the requirements.  You have to be using RAID 1 (mirroring) or 10 (mirrored and striped) on your current array.  My colleague Jim Haberkorn already covered the details of NetApp's program in a post titled "NetApp's 'Shining' Moment - its Capacity Guarantee Program follow-up" and he showed that by switching from RAID1 or RAID10 to NetApp's RAID DP, customers will get a 43% savings.  Let me say this a different way to be as clear as I can - 43% of the 50% savings comes from changing RAID levels.  HDS's new program has the same stipulation that you are using RAID 1 now and will use RAID 5 with their array.  This sounds more like bait and switch than a guarantee. 



HP doesn't have a capacity guarantee - so you must not be able to help save capacity, right?  Our StorageWorks portfolio certainly has strong technologies that will help customers better manage your existing storage capacity.  I could (and probably should) fill a blog post talking about all of these options but here are a few that come top of mind:

  • By virtualizing SAN storage with our SAN Virtualization Services Platform (click here to see SVSP product page or here to see previous SVSP posts).  SVSP can also help you leverage tiers of storage with different cost characteristics and help you drive cost out.  You can move from a single storage tier to a multi-tier system by using the migration capabilities of SVSP. 

  • Our midrange HP StorageWorks EVA family has many features that improve it's capacity utilization (and is one of the reasons that most of us just shake our heads here when we see these capacity guarantees).  Again, I could fill a blog post talking about this but here are a couple of things:

    • Array-based virtualization in the EVA pools disk drives into large virtualized disk groups so that capacity can be more efficiently utilized.  When new drives are added to the EVA, they can be part of an already capacity-efficient disk group.

    • You can mix high-performance and lower-cost drives in the same EVA creating different tiers of storage capacity

    • EVA Dynamic Capacity Management is software that automates provisioning and improves capacity utilization much like thin provisioning software.

  • The HP LeftHand P4000 comes with Thin Provisioning software along with all of the other included local and remote replication software.  When snapshots are created, they are "thinly provisioned" replicas so you only use what you need (versus other technologies that initially set aside all of the capacity you need for the snapshot).

  • Our XP Disk Array has a couple of optional software products that can help drive costs out by being more capacity efficient: Thin Provisioning software and Tiered Storage Manager.  With multiple disk drive options, you can also lower your capacity costs. 

  •  The StorageWorks X9000 Network Storage System comes with software that allows administrators to set up policies to move older, infrequently accessed files to lower cost storage. 

The budget an end-user spends on storage capacity is just one slice of their bigger IT budget and probably a small slice compared to the rest.  I'm not saying you shouldn't try to save money on capacity - you should and we can help you do that.  But I'm not sure these marketing ploys really have many customers in their programs.  I would love to know how many customers try to take advantage of these guarantees only to be turned away because the vendor knows they will not be able to deliver.  The bottom line is that these guarantees are designed to get customers to engage with these companies' sales team and hopefully drive a sale. I get that - we have activities designed to find prospects and drive sales too. 

That leads me to the bigger picture.  All of these vendors who have capacity guarantees only have one thing to offer customers - storage.  HP is a total technology provider and is much better suited to help customers take cost out of their infrastructure just by virtue of the fact we are more than a storage company.  NetApp, 3Par, or HDS can't do anything to help you drive down your power and cooling costs by making your data center more efficient.  They can't help you to virtualize you entire infrastructure so that you can consolidate and have more flexible, adaptive resource pools.  With solutions like Data Center Transformation, Data Center Smart Grid, Converged Infrastructure and Energy and Space Efficiency to just mention a few, HP can help you take cost out.  One last suggest is you might consider attending the Realize the Future tour.  Several of our senior leaders from our Enterprise Business (Services, Storage, Software, Servers, Networking) are part of the tour.

I can't help but leave you with one more Super Bowl commercial that had reminded me of these guarantees.  Just be sure when you go to checkout and the "guarantee cashier" asks you RAID1 or RAID5 (RAID DP or whatever they want to impose on you), don't give the wrong answer or the capacity police just might haul you away!

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