The Buyer’s Guide to Primary Storage

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The Buyer’s Guide to Primary Storage

[Blog post] Choose the right storage for your workload.

What storage medium best suits virtual desktops, online transaction processing or archival storage?

That's the question we attempt to answer today with the launch of The Buyer’s Guide to Primary Storage.

A few months ago, iTnews and independent advisors PivotNine identified the need for a comprehensive scoping of the data storage market.

This project came about through a combination of naïveté, hubris, and red wine, as the best ideas do.

I thought it wouldn’t be that hard, wouldn’t take that long, and who better to do it than me? I was wrong on all counts. I set out to write the guide with a single question in mind:

“If I were buying new primary storage for my largish business, where would I start?”

For such a simple question, the answer is bewilderingly complex. Do I need flash, or will HDD do? Should I go hybrid, or possibly Server-SAN? Well established vendor, or startup? What products even are there these days?

I put this central question to many of my colleagues across the industry over the past year. I kept receiving a variation on the same answer

“The storage market has just exploded in complexity. It’s hard enough to keep track of it all when you work in the industry. What chance do customers have?”

In putting this guide together, I have attempted to survey the industry with a beginner’s eyes, but coupled with the wisdom—such that it is—that some 20 years in the industry brings. I sought to provide simple guideposts for customers making their first forays into a market that has changed radically in the past few years.

I have explicitly excluded the SMB market; this is a guide for storage that lives in a datacentre, not under your desk. More challenging was excluding other options, like Virtual Storage Appliances, and software-only options such as storage accelerators that, while clearly enterprise storage options, are not supplied with physical media. Ultimately, I had to draw lines somewhere in order to have a hope of completing this project.

The guide has two sections. The first provides an orientation of the primary storage market as it exists today. I have categorised vendors into four groups:

  • Traditional, 
  • All-Flash, 
  • Hybrid, and 
  • Server-SAN.

The second section matches vendors and products against major use-cases common to mid- and large-sized enterprises, including VDI, OLTP and DSS/OLAP.

I have been cautious not to recommend One True Solution for any use-case. Instead, there are sometimes choices that would be clearly be a mistake (a single 7.2k SATA for VDI, for example), so I steer you away from them to others that are a stronger choice.

The most handy part of the guide is a summary matrix of product/vendors and their capability around a given use-case matches for quick reference.

Your individual circumstances will dictate the right solution for you, so use this guide as a beginning, not an end. My goal has been to educate you so that you can make a more informed choice, not to make the choice for you.

I humbly hope that you find the guide useful. You can download it here.

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Justin Warren
Justin Warren is a 20 year veteran of the IT industry.
He has consulted to many of the biggest brands in Australia, including ANZ, Australia Post, IBM, Telstra, and Suncorp.
Warren specialises in bridging the gap between business and IT, helping executives to use IT to improve revenues, rather than focus solely on costs.
His marketing and strategy expertise helps organisations to look beyond the next quarter to develop a sustainable competitive advantage.
Warren holds an MBA from Melbourne Business School and is a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Read more from this blog: The Ignorance of Experts

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