You have users. You have a budget without a dime you can waste. You have a vendor in mind. So how small is too small?
That’s the proverbial question cost-conscious administrators have to ask before locking sights on a particular product.
But let’s take a step back. Iomega, an EMC company (and the “go-to-market brand of EMC’s Consumer and Small Business Products Division”), recently announced a revision to the StorCenter linup – the px12-350r – and it looks to scale nicely: up to 36TB with CIFS/NFS/iSCSI all out of 2U of rack space.
The VNXe 3100 is.. wait a minute. 2U, CIFS/NFS/iSCSI.
At first glance of the spec sheets, the two products look to overlap like a solar eclipse. So is Iomega pushing on the mother ship’s SMB ambitions? Before we let that first impression mislead us, let’s figure this out ourselves.
What’s the difference?
The heart of the matter is Fault Tolerance. There is a great deal to be said for the px12’s resiliency features. Iomegas has RAID protection, multiple interfaces, redundant fans and power supplies, and is designed for five 9s availability. There is even support for a UPS (uninterruptible power supply). The design is one of survival without added cost to the customer.
The main difference between the px12 and the VNXe is that the px12 has to have a single controller, which leads it to have no mention of fail over capabilities. Though single controller VNXe 3100s are available, the architecture of the lineup is one of no single point of failure, particularly when you consider the dual controller model. The VNXe has no need with a dedicated UPS thanks to the combination of onboard BBUs (backup battery units) and the inherent power outage safety of destaging write cache to flash-based vaulting space, you immediate recognize the VNXe is a small box built with Enterprise expectations in mind. It comes down to whether a single controller sufficient for your SLA.
As a performance junkie, I also have to highlight the drives. The enterprise-quality SAS drives available for the VNXe can crush out IOPS beyond the scope of the SATA drives available in the px12. If you need more capacity than throughput, NL-SAS (near-line) is also a comparable option for the VNXe. The VNXe can also scale up to 96 drives with two controllers, calculating up to 192 TBs of raw space.
Management - I hear great things about the px12’s user interface. Out of the box it requires _no_ configuration before it is up and going. That said, what I love to highlight about the VNXe is how Unisphere, the UI management interface, is truly application-centric. You create storage _for an application_ rather than for the sake of a file system or LUN or pool. It’s a big shift in idea from anything else I’ve seen on the market.
Creature Feature tit-for-tat – The options are the heart of the matter after the dual controller consideration is taken into effect. Snapshots with robust replication options, Active/Active controllers, Replication Manager integration, compression and deduplication all add up to more than meets the initial spec sheet’s eyes.
*Disclaimer* That is not to say these VNXe features are free. It is worth checking into pricing options before you consider this comparison as apples to apples. It’s also worth the shout out that Iomega offers a FREE rsync-based asynchronous file replication. Not as robust as the VNXe options, but it is hard to beat the price point.
Appropriate sizing is nothing new to our day-to-day lives. You have to size your storage system like you size a growing child’s closet: If you buy what fits now, you’ll run out of room sooner than you can afford. You have to balance longevity with suitability; size with salary.
Or thought another way, a storage solution is like a new car: you buy within your budget and get the creature features that come with the price range.
Classifying the px12-350r as “bare bones” doesn’t quite do it justice these days, but a glance through the detailed review of what the VNXe has to offer shows it is intended as a different class of system altogether.
First glaces are often deceiving and the cliche holds true in this comparison. Iomega has a solid entry system with some stacked features and RAID options to spare (pun intended?). The VNXe 3100 on the other hand has a rich Enterprise-grade scope, including the high availability, support and upgrade pathways Enterprise customers expect. You may say the target audience is on a lighter budget, but SMB deserves Enterprise treatment too.
Bottom line: If you’re debating between Iomega products and the VNXe 3100, you’re either overbudget or under-sizing. EMC provides an appropriate degree of overlap in capacity options, but that should not be confused with in-house competition. The markets are clearly differentiated, so aim appropriately.
If your curiosity is still not quashed at this point, I highly recommend reading up on Chad Sakac’s thoughts on the VNXe system, which includes demos and detailed specs, Christopher Kusek’s VNXe system breakdown, which will link further to Chuck Hollis’ history lesson, and Jase McCarty’s shoot of VNXe body shots. If you want to know what it feels like to own one, Henri has done a phenomenal job at mapping his experiences here.