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Distinguishing between tape library products

I'm having trouble choosing between various tape library hardware products. For example, there's less than a $5,000 price difference between IBM FastT900 with TSM tape library software or Hitachi Thunder 9570 or StorageTek D280 (both with Commvault tape library software). I also don't see much difference in sustained disk IOPs or cache IOPs between the products. Most the software functionality (online LUN creation/deletion/expansion/contraction, flash and volume copy within the SAN, SATA and Fibre functionality) all seem similar. All of them have bootable LUNs and dual-path failover HBAs and switches. All have three-year, 24/7 support. I plan to have couple of Unix servers, a couple of Linux servers and a majority of windows servers on the SAN.

What are the questions I should be asking before I make my decision?

The storage hardware market being highly competitive, it forces vendors to keep up with each other in terms of features and pricing. This is a good thing from an end-user choice standpoint but sometimes; too much choice is like not enough! Some of the questions that might help you narrow down you choices could be around:
  • Limitations in terms of the number of partitions or host connections. Depending on the nature of your environment and the number of systems that will share the array, this may be of significant importance.
  • Ability to intermix FC and SATA disks within the same array if tiered storage is part of your present or future plans.
  • Replication limitations such as distance: lack of support for non-proprietary technologies, etc.
  • Solution lifecycle. This is a little harder to determine since vendors typically don't like to discuss solution offerings that are near end-of-life.
  • Making sure that the vendor fully supports the Linux distribution you are using and that all storage features you plan on implementing are available for that specific distribution.

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