Purchasing Professional Storage Services, Part 2


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In our last article we covered some of the basics of purchasing storage professional services (Storage PS). This time we are going to go into more detail on determining who would be best for which types of jobs and why.

We’ll start with a key point from the first article. Basically, integration of new storage systems comes down to picking between four options (or a combination of the options):

  • The hardware or software vendor’s professional services organization

  • The hardware/software provider or integrator who might sell you the solution and their internal PS group (integrators occasionally contract to the vendors for part of the work)

  • An independent contractor who has no relationship to the vendor or the integrator selling the hardware and software

  • Training your own staff for the task

In many cases the line between the hardware/software vendors and the people who sell you the hardware is blurry, so I tend to lump those two organizations together.

With the various servicing options in mind, let’s look at really answering the question of who is the best group to install, configure, and service the hardware and software that you have chosen.

Is the Hardware the Same Color?

This is a term we often use in consulting that basically means is all of the hardware coming from a single vendor. For example, we use the term Blue (for obvious reasons) to describe IBM. For a standard configuration, having the hardware and/or software from a single vendor (aka a homogeneous environment) simplifies the configuration and allows you to work with a single support organization to get problems resolved.

Large storage vendors such as EMC also have PS organizations that can often provide services for all of the hardware and software products they sell and will include support for their products on the server or servers.

In general, if you buy all the hardware and software from a single vendor, it makes good sense to also contract the PS from the same vendor, as you then have one organization that is responsible for support and servicing, and the vendor's PS organization is likely to know that vendor's hardware and software better than a third party. Notice I say likely, as I have seen individual PS engagements where vendors send unqualified people to support a configuration.

This of course becomes a bit blurry when you talk about Linux clusters. Most of the large Unix server vendors all sell a Linux cluster system, which is often put together with parts from AMD, Intel (CPUs), Quadrics, Myicom (interconnects), Linux software providers, and a hodgepodge of other companies.

While in many cases it is best to select the typically higher priced vendor PS organization to configure new systems purchased from a single vendor, there are a few exceptions, including:

  • If you have the time and money to train your own people and have them do the work, you may be better off in the long run in terms of both ongoing support and employee moral

  • If the configuration of the hardware and software has not been attempted before and the vendor says something along the lines of “We think it will work,” you may want to consider another organization that has previously completed work of this type

Another general statement is that vendor PS organizations are almost always familiar with their own hardware but generally unfamiliar with others. For example, asking the PS organization of HP to install LSI Logic RAID controllers is probably not going to be the best answer given that they do not resell them and have limited experience – if any at all – with them.

As another example, large storage vendors such as EMC generally have multi-server vendor experience, so if the storage is EMC they can deal with the other services, but EMC cannot likely install HDS RAIDs.

So what should you do if you happen to have storage from LSI, HDS, and EMC, and are adding some new servers and a shared file system with HSM? Rather than relying on a single vendor’s PS group, heterogeneous environments such as these are typically better served by an independent PS organization.

Page 2: Using Independent Organizations

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