We believe that a little buyer education goes a long way, but when it comes to storage arrays, especially in the lower end of the cost spectrum, information is in short supply. Each vendor uses their own terminology, presenting their devices features while glossing over their faults. In an effort to improve the availability of information, Foskett Services teamed up with DCIG to create a buyer’s guide for small enterprise storage arrays, and we are pleased to announce that it is now available for free download, thanks to Aberdeen.
Genesis of the Guide
Jerome Wendt and the rest of the crew at DCIG did a fantastic job pulling together information for their previous Midrange Array Buyer’s Guide, and we were inspired to get involved. Since the quality and quantity of smaller devices has expanded and improved rapidly in recent years, we thought this would be a good market segment to take a look at. After talking with Wendt, we signed on to gather this data for another DCIG guide.
In mid-2010, we began an assessment of the market by examining the systems we knew of in the space. We wanted to know what attributes identified and separated these devices. We distilled a list of key features of these products and created multiple-choice questions and answers to gather this data.
We also set about creating as complete a list as possible of devices in this segment. Some were obvious (NetApp, EMC) others less familiar (Aberdeen, Winchester) and a few were sadly overlooked by us at that time (Coraid, Infortrend). But even so, we were able to contact a good number of companies and many responded by filling in our online features survey.
Not every company responded, but we felt it was important to include certain systems. So we gathered that data and filled out the form ourselves based on publicly-available data. We reached out to the companies to verify our information, and many responded at that time, including some who hadn’t been involved initially. Products evaluated solely based on our own research include a bold footnote stating, “the information represented on this data sheet is based primarily upon conclusions drawn from publicly available sources.”
Evaluation and Ranking
Rather than simply presenting the facts, DCIG’s Buyer’s Guides attempt to score and rank the products included. This is where controversy sometimes arises. We fervently agree that each buyer will have his own criteria and this will significantly alter who “wins” a given evaluation. This makes these Buyer’s Guide ranking less relevant to each reader, but it is still useful on the whole.
It is desirable to have some mechanism to rank the arrays, however. Scoring features was simple: We applied our experience to the sector and judged each feature on its own merit based on what we expected in the market segment. But it was more difficult to decide how to rank features, categories, and the arrays as a whole. We decided that a simple feature-based ranking was most straightforward.
This means that our ranking springs from feature completeness, not how effective an array would be in any given implementation. The top-ranked arrays would be work in almost any environment, but the lower-ranked systems would be appropriate if certain features were not needed.
We also skipped considering price, performance and efficiency, but for more practical reasons. Pricing is highly variable, and we didn’t have access to solid information. And we were unable to actually evaluate performance and efficiency in a lab situation. It would be unfair to estimate or use third-party data so we did not include this information. We strongly advise buyers to consider them before selecting a product!
Production and Publishing
We produced the guide without knowing how the products would compare or who would “win” the ranking, and were quite surprised by the outcome. As usual, DCIG paid us for the data collection, collation, and ranking of products and worked with a graphic designer to create the final product. Once the guide was complete, they went to the higher-ranking vendors to look for a sponsor to distribute the guide for free.
We initially focused only on the upper band, products costing between $15,000 and $30,000. This guide was made available directly to end users, with no sponsor to offset the cost. But we wanted to expand access and completeness of the guide, and some new products were introduced since the original guide.
This is the reason for the second Expanded guide. We added $5,000 to $15,000 storage arrays as well as major new products introduced later in 2010 and early in 2011. Since Aberdeen did quite well in the ranking, they stepped up to sponsor the guide, allowing it to be distributed free after filling out a registration form.
All the work to this point was performed with no sponsor or financial support. DCIG took a substantial financial risk producing the document in this way, but any vendor involvement would have compromised the guide and results. At no time was product ranking or evaluation influenced by DCIG or the vendors. This is the only format we would have been comfortable being involved with.
Get the Buyer’s Guide
The Small Enterprise Storage Array Buyer’s Guide, Expanded Edition is available now!