Do I Really Need a SAN?


  • Service Provider

    SMBs often jump to wanting to buy a SAN without really considering the benefits that will actually be provided and the trade offs that will be imposed. I wrote this article originally for Datamation and it was later picked up additioally by SMB IT Journal to address this very subject and help SMBs to evaluate when a SAN makes sense for them. This ended up running on Datamation's front page for a full year which is a record for me and, for what I can tell, a record for the site. It's never been linked here and I think that it is a valuable resource so here it is....

    Do You Really Need a SAN on Datamation

    And here is SMB IT Journal's copy of the same article: When to Consider a SAN on SMB IT Journal



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    SMBs often jump to wanting to buy a SAN without really considering the benefits that will actually be provided and the trade offs that will be imposed. I wrote this article originally for Datamation and it was later picked up additioally by SMB IT Journal to address this very subject and help SMBs to evaluate when a SAN makes sense for them. This ended up running on Datamation's front page for a full year which is a record for me and, for what I can tell, a record for the site. It's never been linked here and I think that it is a valuable resource so here it is....

    Do You Really Need a SAN on Datamation

    And here is SMB IT Journal's copy of the same article: When to Consider a SAN on SMB IT Journal

    Wow...here we go again with the SAN/no SAN argument. From a small biz IT provider, I felt like I was being mentored by peer on why I usually use other storage devices other than SAN. I have agreed with this sentiment from my perusing the subject, but as a small biz IT provider, vendors and other bit IT peeps seem to want to add that to the mix immediately without asking other questions. In fact on SW I posted a question similar to one I posted here on ML and SW peeps almost immediately went to SAN and virtualization, however on SW you guys actually asked questions about my enviroment (shout out to @alexntg for link for finding out my needs with dell software).

    I checked out SMB IT Journal's copy and the comments seem to favor SAN. I like ASUS Transformer Series tablets a lot, but that's not going to consider other vendors or even Apple or MS tablets.


  • Service Provider

    @technobabble Comments will almost always favour SAN for two reasons. First, tons of IT pros are either with vendors or consultancies that make huge profit from selling SANs so they will say anything to sell them. The second is that shops that have already purchased SAN feel that they have to defend their decisions irrationally. You never seen good reasons for people promoting SANs, just statements that "everyone else is doing it" or "SANs are magic" or similar nonsense. You never get good, rational reasoning. Or they resort to the lowest blow.... claiming that constant hardware updates are needed and that SMBs can't schedule a little downtime once a year to do so and so vMotion is needed and they claim that SAN somehow makes that possible. The layers of marketing and lies needed to promote SAN in the SMB is incredible but there is so much money and/or shame involved that people really do it no matter who they hurt in the process.

    There are great reasons for SAN, but in the SMB, they are rare. I love SAN, I have many. SAN is great and in the enterprise space where there is scale and SAN saves money, it is awesome. But the SMB doesn't tend to understand its purpose and uses it for exactly the opposite reason for which it exists.



  • Well that does make sense...who wants to be "that guy" who suggested crappy technology! And yes, I get the whole I have the product/technology and lets make it work in the wrong situation. I see that in small business a lot! Which is prompting me to post something new.


  • Service Provider

    @technobabble said:

    Well that does make sense...who wants to be "that guy" who suggested crappy technology! And yes, I get the whole I have the product/technology and lets make it work in the wrong situation. I see that in small business a lot! Which is prompting me to post something new.

    Yeah, I see that in SW a ton. People post anything, no matter how irrational, to defend what they've already done. They make claims that make no sense like saying "well it works for me" when clearly they've overspent or put people at risk. Apparently they are saying that wasting money and taking on unnecessary risk are fine because their goal is to sabotage the business that they work for? The degree of irrational discussion around things like this is crazy. It gets so much worst because it is an area of extreme risk and cost combined with being so widely misunderstood (no one even knows if they have a SAN or not) that you can say anything and feel confident that you can get away with it. This lets the crazies go nuts, sadly.


  • Service Provider

    I know it is tough for people to admit that they made a mistake, but I think that the attempt to defend the indefensible makes it worse and they would realize that if they stepped back and thought about it. If their bosses are watching, better to show growth and admit mistakes rather than show that even after making a mistake that they can't figure out that putting their business at risk or watching their money was a bad thing.



  • I think the lack of failures plays into that too, Scott. If there were more failures of SANs (somehow more publicly seen) then people would see how unsafe they are compared to other options.

    You can show all the math in the world, unfortunately all the flashy ads in the airports and magazines are ridiculously more convincing to those with the power of the purse strings.


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said:

    I think the lack of failures plays into that too, Scott. If there were more failures of SANs (somehow more publicly seen) then people would see how unsafe they are compared to other options.

    You can show all the math in the world, unfortunately all the flashy ads in the airports and magazines are ridiculously more convincing to those with the power of the purse strings.

    You are correct, that they fail twice as often as a system that effectively never fails means that you still rarely see a failure. The real failure is the financial one. People pay double or triple what a safer, faster, easier solution might have been. If the CFO were in on the discuttion I think that they would see the folly very quickly. But because these technical conversations are often held without the oversight of someone who actually controls the purse IT often blows off the fact that they might have burned tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and actually put the company at risk while doing so.

    If SANs did not cost money, that they increase the risk would be minor because the risk is low to begin with and companies worry too much about the wrong things. The problem is that people buy SANs explicitly thinking that they are paying a premium to reduce risk when, in fact, they are raising it. Oops.



  • Also, they are being sold on possible future growth that they more often than not never take advantage of, at least not before the next hardware refresh. I have a friend who's consulting/sales/install company sold him and his school district on a SAN with a single host ESXi server. I've tried talking to him about it, but he always blows me off... saying that's what the consultants were really suggesting so that's what they got. Heck I found out he was doing this less than 2 weeks before it was to happen and tried to get him to SW to read your posts on the subject, but again i was told... consultants... blah... blah.. consultants... dead air...


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said:

    Also, they are being sold on possible future growth that they more often than not never take advantage of, at least not before the next hardware refresh. I have a friend who's consulting/sales/install company sold him and his school district on a SAN with a single host ESXi server. I've tried talking to him about it, but he always blows me off... saying that's what the consultants were really suggesting so that's what they got. Heck I found out he was doing this less than 2 weeks before it was to happen and tried to get him to SW to read your posts on the subject, but again i was told... consultants... blah... blah.. consultants... dead air...

    The only arguments there are:

    • Are you the IT pro or the procurement officer. Where are you using your skills if you just buy what you are told to buy?
    • That's a salesman, not a consultant. At a minimum, he should be taking the time to identify when he's getting consulting and when he is getting sold.

    Don't focus on the SAN, that's not the real problem. The real issue is that he's not doing the role of IT, he's skipping his own decision making and passing it to what he calls a consultant but is actually a salesman. That's the break, that he's not applying any IT knowhow. Anyone can just buy what they are told to buy. A five year old can do that. If that's his opinion of his own job, if he was his own boss, would he keep himself around? I'm guessing that a SAN is so far out of his depth that he can't tell what makes sense, that's fine. So you can't talk to him about tech. But talk to him about employment and business processes. His own statement tells us that he's not doing his job. Does he realize that? Maybe he is blind to the fact that he just sold his company to a vendor and, if his manager is smart, will either be investigated for kick backs or let go for not adding value.



  • This is his first role outside the helpdesk. He has a manager/supervisor he reports to that I guess is somewhat technical, but not really. Since this new job had him move away we hadn't really spoken much for several months - so I wasn't able to help direct him in a better direction for solutions to problems that he's simply never encountered before. He had a problem presented by his boss to solve - reached out to resources the school had used in the past and simply followed what they suggested. Being a basically one man shop for 500+ school district it's been a trial by fire type setup. Overall he's come out very well ahead - moved them from internal OLD Exchange to Google Docs for education (aka, free), replaced most if not all of their wireless home APs to a business class setup, purchased and deployed student and teacher laptops to all, created images to deploy said devices, etc.



  • I'm often brought in to counter-consult against SANs. I get brought into situations where a 15-20 person company is fed a 2-host with SAN config by another consultant. I make some money, the client saves $20k, and often times the vendor selling the SAN gets the server orders, so it's a win-win-win. With technologies like VMware vSAN and VM replication, there's much less of a need for SANs except for in vastly larger environments or situations with highly unusual storage requirements. I do like SANs, but I'm not going to recommend one just because.


  • Service Provider

    The big losers are the SAN vendor and their salesperson who stand to lose tens or hundreds of thousands by the "counter consult".


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