The state of enterprise storage for the Little Guy

Earlier this month I spewed some vitriol over an unpleasant discovery regarding the Sun StorageTek 6140 array and its underwhelming out-of-the-box feature set (which, three weeks later, remains an unresolved issue even after contacting and working with my VAR, Sun sales rep-proper, and two Sun SEs. Sigh) (NOTE: As of 8 Feb this issue has been resolved). This whole issue was over the sneaky renaming of a feature commonly known as LUN Masking and charging beaucoup bucks for it as a license-activated addon.

Well, I want to write some more about this with an industry-wide perspective because as of this past Thursday, Apple is now playing a similar game regarding their Xserve RAID systems. With the release of RAID Admin Tools 1.5.1 and associated firmware, Apple has removed LUN Masking as a feature of the Xserve RAID. Yep. Removed it. In a minor version release of the software, no less. Absolutely astonishing.

So, with the Sun StorageTek 6140 and its crippled features (unless you fork over $10+ mega bucks for a Storage Domains license pack of adquate seat count) and Apple rather brashly removing LUN Masking for no real stated reason and, to top it off, without warning, where does this leave us? And what of the (otherwise reputable) mid-range storage vendors who are left (HP? IBM?); who’s to say they won’t pull a similar stunt down the line?

Well, I know IBM is out of the picture for me as they OEM the same LSI Engenio system that Sun uses for the 6140. Yep, both IBM and Sun sell the exact same system, only IBM calls it the DS4700 Express and Sun calls their version the StorageTek 6140. Their only appreciable difference is one comes in IBM Black and the other in Sun Silver. You also have to buy the IBM equivalent of the 6140’s Storage Domains, which IBM calls “Partitions”. Talk about a screwed up sense of storage terminology.

Anyway, that pretty much leaves HP, and I’m petty unfamiliar with their product line or prices. I don’t even know if I can even get HP kit since I’m not aware of any current State of Maryland purchasing contract with them for this sort of stuff.

So what’s with this apparent vendor hate of LUN Masking in mid-range systems, anyway? One either has to pay out the nose to have it (regarding Sun and IBM) or it’s there but disappears into the night (Apple). Crikey. Whoever does product planning at Engenio, Sun, IBM, and Apple needs a serious reality check. For us people where mid-range is high-end, this behavior matters quite a bit. It just seems like feature sets are imploding rather than expanding, removing a distinct competitive advantage from these products.

3 Replies to “The state of enterprise storage for the Little Guy”

  1. The need to purchase some sort of server license for lun mapping/lun masking is indeed painful but unfortunately is something you are going to find in pretty much every mid to high end storage system.

    As you say this is a pretty basic feature and one that not having is very not cool.

    So why do they do it? You could say that it is simply greed but actually the answwer is a bit more complex. The hardware manufacturers don’t want to make a lot of different products so they try to make a product that fits with in a range. Take your 6140 for Sun it costs them the same to manufacturer no matter how many servers are attached to it so how should they price it? If they price it based simply on a fixed profit percentage and charge the same for everyone then users that only want to attach 1 or 2 hosts to the system are effectively paying a lot more for their storage than someone that wants to attach 16 hosts to it (on average). This pricing makes it less attractive for customers with fewer servers.

    To get around this the manufacturers are basically providing a discount for customers to purchase at the entry level with only a few hosts and as their need goes up they recover some of this initial discount in the form of license fees.

    This may seem like they are taking advantage of you but in reality they are trying to make their product attractive and price competitive to a wider range of customers.

    The real problem isn’t that the Sun/IBM/HP/EMC/Dell etc do this the problem is that they don’t explain it well or sometimes at all.

  2. How did it get resolved? Did they include the domains for free? Some kind of discount?

    We ran in to the exact same issue.

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