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Four Early Insights from the Forthcoming DCIG 2015-16 Enterprise Midrange Array Buyer’s Guide

DCIG is preparing to release the DCIG 2015-16 Enterprise Midrange Array Buyer’s Guide. The Buyer’s Guide will include data on 33 arrays or array series from 16 storage providers. The term “Enterprise” in the name Enterprise Midrange Array, reflects a class of storage system that has emerged offering key enterprise-class features at prices suitable for mid-sized budgets.

In many businesses, there is an expectation that applications and their rapidly growing data will be available 24x7x365. Consequently, their storage systems must go beyond traditional expectations for scalable capacity, performance, reliability and availability. For example, not only must the storage system scale, it must scale without application downtime.

These expectations are not new to large enterprises and the high end storage systems that serve them. What is new is that these expectations are now held by many mid-sized organizations–the kind of organizations for which the products in this guide are intended.

While doing our research for the upcoming Buyer’s Guide, DCIG has made the following observations regarding the fit between the expectations of mid-sized organizations and the features of the enterprise midrange arrays that will be included in the Buyer’s Guide:

Non-disruptive upgrades. In order to meet enterprises’ expectations, storage systems must go beyond the old standard availability features like hot swap drives and redundant controllers to provide for uninterrupted operations even during storage system software and hardware upgrades. Consequently, this year’s guide evaluates multiple NDU features and puts them literally at the top of the list on our data sheets. Over one third of the Enterprise Midrange Arrays support non-disruptive upgrade features.

Self-healing technologies. While self-healing features are relatively new to midrange storage arrays, these technologies help an array achieve higher levels of availability by enabling the array to detect and resolve certain problems quickly, and with no or minimal human intervention.

Self-healing technologies have been implemented by some storage vendors, but these are seldom mentioned on product specification sheets. DCIG attempted to discover which arrays have implemented self-healing technologies such as bad block repair, failed disk isolation, low-level formatting and power cycling of individual drives; but we suspect (and hope) that more arrays have implemented self-healing capabilities than we were able to confirm through our research.

Automation. Data center automation is an area of growing emphasis for many organizations because it promises to reduce the cost of data center management and enable IT to be more agile in responding to changing business requirements. Ultimately, automation means more staff time can be spent addressing business requirements rather than performing routine storage management tasks.

Organizations can implement automation in their environment through management interfaces that are scriptable or through APIs and SDKs provided by storage vendors. Last year’s Enterprise Midrange Array Buyer’s Guide prediction that ‘support for automated provisioning would improve in the near future’ was correct. While less than 20% of midrange arrays in last year’s Buyer’s Guide exposed an API for third-party automation tools, the percentage has more than doubled to 50% in this year’s guide. Provision of an SDK for integration with management platforms saw a similar increase, rising from 11% to 25%.

Multi-vendor virtualization. A growing number of organizations are embracing a multi-vendor approach to virtualization. Reflecting this trend, support for Microsoft virtualization technologies is gaining ground on VMware among enterprise midrange arrays.

The percentage of arrays that can be managed from within Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) now matches vSphere/vCenter support at 33%. Support for Microsoft Windows Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX), a Windows Server 2012 technology that enhances array throughput, is now at 19%.

Although the gap between Microsoft and VMware support is narrowing, support for VMware storage integrations also continues to grow. VAAI 4.1 is supported by 90% of the arrays, while SIOC, VASA and VASRM are now supported by over 50% of the arrays.

The DCIG 2015-16 Enterprise Midrange Array Buyer’s Guide will provide organizations with a valuable tool to cut time and cost from the product research and purchase process. DCIG looks forward to providing prospective storage purchasers and others with an interest in the storage marketplace with this tool in the very near future.

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Chuck Cook

About Chuck Cook

Chuck Cook is an Analyst at DCIG, an independent storage analyst and consulting firm, which provides informed, insightful, third party analysis and commentary on IT hardware, software and services. Chuck joined DCIG in July of 2014 bringing 20 years of information technology and unified communications experience to the DCIG team.

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