Many organizations recognize their SAN as a necessary evil. It is a huge performance boost to I/O intensive applications, but it is also considered a ‘dark art’ because of a lack of knowledge in how to troubleshoot or optimize it. As a result, SANs across the globe have been over-provisioned, or over-architected to ensure predictable performance. This is music to the ears of any storage vendor sales person, but a painful pill to swallow as a customer, and the customers are getting wise to this.
OEM storage tools, on the whole, are very good at managing the storage but are horribly lacking when it comes to showing performance or troubleshooting metrics. If vendors want to really prove they are the best game in town, show customer this by letting them form their own conclusions based on hard data. Give customers an in depth and intuitive performance tool. Give them the ability to trend performance data over time, and show them where performance tweaks can occur.
As a customer, being told that you do not have to buy more HBAs to gain bandwidth or short stroke a RAID group to gain IOPS is an immediate save. Getting more out of your storage investments allows you to justify buying more of that type of storage. It may sound counter-intuitive at first, but consider the following: You buy a new car for its ability to haul ‘stuff’. You did your research, and learned that this car holds 64 cubic feet of ‘stuff’. Now, what if that car dealer taught a class on ‘how to pack your car properly’, allowing you to get a little more out of the space you already have, rather than trying to sell you a second car to haul more stuff. What if instead of a ‘hauls a lot of stuff’ car, you bought a ‘goes fast’ car. Imagine being given instruction on how to take corners at speed, how to heel-toe shift, etc. Even if your car was not the fastest, you would know how to get the most out of it, and you would probably become a repeat customer at that dealership.
If storage providers would spend a little more time presenting performance and utilization metrics in an easy-to-use and intuitive format, it would empower their customers to get the most from their product. No longer would the customer feel like they were throwing money into their SAN money pit. When the time came to actually buy more hardware, the customer would know they are making the right decision, and what is more important is that this purchase will solve their needs the first time.
A ‘pie in the sky’ solution would be for storage vendors to capture useful metrics from not only their storage frames, but also from the switches they sell to interconnect your SAN into a single performance tool. At the very least, storage vendors should work to standardize a common set of performance and troubleshooting metrics so other products could pool those together into a meaningful performance tool.
Action Item: Vendors should consider showing their customers how to optimize storage versus keeping SAN a dark art as a means to sell more storage. While a single deal situation might lead to less storage being sold, doing so will lead to higher customer loyalty and a longer relationship with that customer.