Wednesday, December 17, 2008

FollowUp: Seeking San

Earlier I wrote about looking into SAN solutions. Many months before that post I had began a learning excursion - finding different vendors, reading through docs on the various vendor's web sites, and scouring the VMWare forums for user experiences with different storage solutions. It goes without saying that I've had a slight bit of information overload. There are many options out there, each with its own set of unique marketing / technical fortes.

In past lives I've worked with EMC Symmetrix and Netapp Filers and they are great systems without question. I've also worked with "white box" systems running linux +samba/nfs/iscsi. In short I've seen and worked with a decent spread of solutions in some very contrasting environments.

In my current environment being cost conscious is critical - even without taking into account existing global economic issues. Risk / Benefit is always a major factor, and thankfully I've had experiences with a handful of my options in this case and am very comfortable with my final decision.

I don't typically evangelize it, but I am a big proponent Open Source, GNU, and linux. I've used linux in SAP ERP solutions, firewall & routers, file serving(NFS & CIFS/samba), network services(dhcp,dns,ldap,squid,etc), iSCSI, etc.. At all levels of importance, I've used it, trust it, and promote it. The biggest "shortfalls" are: 1) Management doesn't understand anything other than Microsoft or maybe Apple, and 2) Admins are a bit fewer and further between.

Back to SANs and storage. During my investigations with various vendors one conclusion became clear quickly and was not surprising, higher costs. My employer was having to swallow a substantial cost/per useable GB increase to implement any commercial SAN solution. Again from previous experience this was not overly surprising although costs have come down a very long way in the past several years. All these solutions came with excellent feature sets, but these features offered little benefit to my "small" environment that has existed with 99.95% uptime (all inclusive) for years without.

My decided solution will be based on Dell hardware, PERC6 controllers, SAS drives(15k & 10K), and linux (CentOS) providing NFS to ESXi servers and iSCSI to Windows via iSCSI Enterprise Target using dedicated networking equipment segments. This solution will provide significant throughput, high flexibility, great backup options, a very reasonable cost per usable GB, and a low operating cost.

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