Questioning the Value of Value-Added SAN Software

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Some industry pundits have voiced doubt about the value of providing new SAN-based software features to customers. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, Dell and others clearly disagree. That’s why Dell bundles all of the EqualLogic software features in the price of an array at no extra cost. Customers only need to have a valid support agreement in place, and then they can download the latest array firmware and even host-integrated software like ESX-aware snapshots in Auto-Snapshot Manager/VMware Edition.

A while back, we added thin provisioning to the EqualLogic PS Series. A number of our customers implemented it quickly, retroactively applying it to volumes that they had already created. In effect, they ‘thinned’ volumes and recovered capacity that had already been reserved. The feature is pretty easy to use – literally checking a box and moving some sliders around to decide on where you want to set your alarms.

However, thin provisioning may not be for everyone and definitely not every application. That’s why it’s great that on EqualLogic SANs you can easily turn it off and/or apply it selectively to any volume, all without any extra cost or software license scheme.

So there’s no catch-22 about whether you can afford a feature that you want to try. I won’t get into where and why to use thin provisioning and the valid cautions about its use. There are many other documents available for that, here and here for example. Rather, it’s worth pointing out that in these days of tight or shrinking budgets, thin provisioning is a software feature that can add value to IT administrators trying to get more out of their storage. The one word of caution: with thin provisioning, like a credit card, you will have to pay back the capacity debt one day. It’s easiest to do that with a SAN that you can expand easily, incrementally and online, such as the Dell EqualLogic PS Series.

So, as I’ve commented on others’ blogs on this same topic, I think continuously adding features into our products at no additional charge is a pretty good thing for our customers. What do you think?

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