I considered entitling this post "Is storage becoming commoditized?" but the technical definition of "commodity" doesn't quite fit the bill. My question is this: Is the market for shared block-level storage continuing to become more accessible to a wider variety of customer? Personally, I think it is, and this is a good thing. With one exception, for most of my career, I've worked for fairly small organizations. A few years ago, the idea of a Fibre Channel-based SAN didn't even get raised because of the cost and complexity of such a solution. It was RAID all the way in most servers. For some servers, even RAID wasn't considered due to cost. Remember, RAID and SCSI drives used to be expensive!
Now, though, the storage market has exploded. With the introduction of iSCSI and new breeds of Fibre Channel being offered, it seems like there is something for everyone and at every price range. Here are some examples:
- Dell AX150 array, Fibre Channel, 6TB raw, dual processors, refurbished, not scalable, 10 hosts max: $7,500.
- EqualLogic PS400E, iSCSI, 10.5TB raw, fully redundant, scalable, unlimited hosts: $60K - $65K.
- Overland ULTAMUS RAID 4800, Fibre Channel (4Gb), 18TB raw, redundant: $42K.
- Left Hand Networks NSM 160, iSCSI, 2TB raw, redundant with three units (6TB): guess - ~ $40K or so.
- Nexsan SATABoy, Fibre Channel/iSCSI, 7TB raw: $18K.
- Nexsan SATABeast, Fibre Channel/iSCSI, 42TB raw: $55K.
Please don't use these prices for your budget. I Googled for this information, so some may be out of date. The point of this exercise, however, is to demonstrate that choice and price is all over the map. If you need shared storage for 2 or 3 servers and are on a super-tight budget, buy the Dell AX150. If money isn't an object and you want "best of breed" iSCSI, go for the EqualLogic PS400E. If your storage needs are a little more modest and budget is somewhat important, look to the SATABoy. For kicks, take a look at the SATABeast specs, too. At $55K for 42TB, it easily wins the price/TB comparison and supports both Fibre Channel (4Gb no less) and iSCSI.
Every time I look, there is something new to consider in the storage space. Sure, not all of the new options have whizbang new features, but they are certainly providing additional choice at prices that are all over the map. As a result, although the storage market is becoming a little more complex to navigate, there is incredible opportunity for customers of almost any size to take part in the shared block-level storage game.
Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at email@example.com.