Applications for Storage or Storage for Applications?

With many new start ups from storage arrays, converged, hyper-converged to software defined storage (SDS), many users starts to have lots of choice to make.

Recently encountering many questions on which should they choose and which is better.  However there is no straight answer as there are just too many choices to choose from just like in a supermarket.  In the end, some may choose one that advertise the best and create the best reminder in your mind.  To be truth, you will not buy and replaced the rest, but rather some have a hybrid environment for some reasons which we will go through later.

With several asks and questions, I like to give some guideline when deciding.  Here I will do my best to start with no bias towards any technology and this is my personal opinion and may not be the same with others.

1.  Ease of management: A big word often misused by marketing I would say.  Assess it and ask yourself do you have a team to manage different components and if you have a lean team to manage it.  How it is define for ease of use?  Walk through the daily things you commonly need to perform on a traditional setup comparing to this new technology you are evaluating.

2.  What are the applications you are running it on, can this components support the performance:  When performance comes into play, many only look at the storage throughput and IOPS, we need to also look at the daily operations tasks.  How fast can it spin up a workload in a server landscape and VDI landscape (if you are using as well)?  Test everything not just look at a demonstration on one scenario but all.  Rate everything a score and decide which you can do with or without.  There won't be one that will fit all the bill.  Pay for what you need and now and not extras and future.

3.  How are you intend to protect this application?
You know they can meet your requirement in day 0 operations however do you need to protect this application?  If you are doing a backup, can it support any backup API.  This can be from Microsoft or VMware?  Weight the cost between the two.  Would you need storage snapshot, if so, would your workload need to be application/data consistent?  Can the storage as part of this new devices you are looking at able to do it?  If it can, is it build in or via a script or via an agent?  How easy?

4.  How are you going to do disaster recovery?
The cheapest way might be leverage some host based replication technology that will work with any of the device chosen.  However what if you need to perform some kind of storage replication?  Will your workload be application/data consistent?  Can the storage as part of this new devices you are looking at able to do it?  If it can, is it build in or via a script or via an agent?  What are the application it support if you are going to place them running on these new equipments?

5.  Is it easy to do maintenance doing physical components upgrade, firmware upgrade, software upgrade?
This is important as you will definitely do this as it comes along.  We can't expect to have something which give you an ease of day 0 operations yet create lots of work for a maintenance.

6. Does it comes with a per-requisites?
The fine prints that always exist in this world of things.  Ask other than the equipment you are choosing, does it come with a requirement you need have or can it work with your existing infrastructure components.  Leveraging existing investment.

7.  Proof of Concept: Before you perform a pilot or proof of concept, are you placing real data or dummy data.  You need to decide whether this data can be removed easily from the equipment later and whose responsible to do that?  If it's yours, know how you are suppose to do it before you start any activity.  You definitely do not want decision to be made because your data is on it after the test instead of it meet your requirements.

8.  Can it offload storage activities e.g. Full copy, snapshot activities to storage or this will leverage on your hosts' CPU cycle?  Understand this help to identify the specification requirement for your nodes or servers you are using and not to find out contention later.

9. Can the new device leverage on your current investment?  E.g. Reuse existing SAN, IP storage, etc.  Can it use both its build in storage for converged and Hyper converged with existing storage.  For new storage array, can it work with your existing equipments e.g. Servers HBA, Network cards, etc.

From all these above considerations, there might be more however these are just some questions ought to be thought through.  Definitely not one equipment can fulfill everything, this also means, either you might have mixture for different workloads which might need your traditional setup.
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