HP vs. Dell server for VMWare ESXi and SAN Melody


I know similar questions have been asked in the past, but I'd like to get a fresh take on this.

We are in a virtualization project (VMWare ESXi4) for a mission critical environment and I had planned a full HP solution: 2 x DL380G6 servers with their Lefthand P4300 G2 SAN, but another SAN option came up in the 11th hour, which is SAN Melody from Datacore, and the reseller usually use Dell servers for their installations (due to a very substantial price difference).    

Comparing the Dell servers (PE R510s) to the ProLiants, the price difference is about $2,000 / server.  The specs are more or less the same.  

With the SAN Melody solution (with 2 servers for the ESXi and 2 servers for the SAN), the price difference is about $8,000, which is quite substantial.

We currently have a couple of HP servers and are happy with them.  But if the Dell servers have the same quality and offer the same quality of support, I find it hard to justify the extra cost.  

So to summarize:
* Are today's Dell servers as robust and reliable as HP's?  This is the most important part, of course.
* Is their support as good?  Getting replacement parts quickly without hassle?  
* Does Dell have something equivalent to HP's ILO2 with Advanced pack (=full KVM functionality and remote disk mounting, etc.)?  If so, is it as good?

Lastly, if you have experience to share regarding SAN Melody (especially versus on HP's Lefthand SANs), it would be much appreciated.  I have more research to do on SAN Melody, but one thing that stands out is that the reseller quoted 3 days of professional services for setting this up (something I would prefer to do myself, using support as needed).  If it takes 3 days for a SANMelody expert, it might be a more complex SAN solution than we are looking for (we need something that is easy to setup and manage).


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Here's a question.. who the heck is San Melody?  What's their market share, whats their reputation, who are their customers, what's their support like, how custom of a solution are they offering if it requires them 3 days to setup?

Now, we use HP & Netapp, they work well together.  Dell's never been hot on our list.  Their controllers have always been poor & hard to configure.

If you're going to compare though to lefthand, I would compare it to Netapp and look at vmware performance across that solution.

Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
I've configured both for vmware and HP is a better product.  From the ILO to the guarantee that the parts you get in the future are the same that came out of your server.

On the SAN side I am not a fan of Lefthand because I like my hardware to be specific to my SAN, we have had several customers with Lefthand issues with RAID,etc.. Netapp, even Equallogic from Dell in my opinion is a better product.

Matthew EnglandTechnology ConsultantCommented:
I agree with Gregory_V in that my initial reaction also, was that I've never heard of SAN Melody. Although, I've successfully implemented Maxtronic Arean SAN storage at several sites and often get the same reaction from people. Just keep in mind that if you go with vendor that's out of the mainstream, it's harder to find people who are qualified to support it, and you do want to make sure the company is stable. Your SAN storage is one place I wouldn't hesitate to spend a few extra dollars, since a good system will be a viable asett for a considerable amout of time, and particularly if your vendor supports component upgrades.

As for the servers, it's often a toss up & generally cost wins out. HP, Dell, IBM, Sun/Oracle, SuperMicro and many brands, will all do the trick in most cases, despite any of our personal preferences. That said, contrary to the previous post, I prefer the Dell configuration over HP, and generally find it easier, more customizable, and overall, prefer dealing with Dell support to HP.

At an overview level, I often find that the HP servers, are more power hugry (although they're making strides to fix that), and they also tend to run hotter and noisier, than their Dell or IBM or Sun/Oracle equivalents. (Just stand behind a rack of HP's, then behind a rack of any of the others and you'll feel the difference.) If power or cooling or noise are of concerns, which in most datacenters they are, then these are things you'll want to look in to.

See if you can get demo units of the HP and Dell servers proposed, and do your own analysis of performance, ease of configuration, power consumption, and heat output etc...

Two answer your questions more directly:
* Are today's Dell servers as robust and reliable as HP's?
Yes. Dell servers are extreemly reliable, & can be configured to do anything you can do with an HP server, although I wouldn't reccomend their blades quite yet.

* Is their support as good? Getting replacement parts quickly without hassle?
Personally, I prefer Dell support to HP. There are of course different levels of support, which will affect the speed of replacement parts.

* Does Dell have something equivalent to HP's ILO2 with Advanced pack (=full KVM functionality and remote disk mounting, etc.)? If so, is it as good?
Yes. Dell has an excellent remote management system and includes:
1. Open Manage, ( http://www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/sitelets/solutions/management/openmanage?c=us&cs=555&l=en&s=biz ).
2. BMC, IPMI 2.0 compliant systems management with BIOS and OS controls. ( http://www.opengear.com/SP-Dell.html )
3. optional Lifecycle controller, which provides some nice bare metal impage deployment features.

The downside is that if you're already using HP management systems, bringing Dell servers in to the mix will mean, you won't be able to see all your systems from a single console.

I hope this helps you out some.

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Lars007Author Commented:
Regarding HP vs. Dell Servers: I guess I'll get views and experiences in both direction.  I just find it hard to understand how Dell can sell the same quality hardware for $2K less ($8K for the same specs as HP is charging $10K for - and I am talking HP prices direct from Ingram Micro, not via reseller).  There has got to be a reason for the $2K difference, and I can't help thinking that it has to do with the quality of build (and if it is not in the quality of the build, then what?).   Some more feedback on this from people with experience with both would be great.  

Regarding SANMelody and what their reputation is and so forth: This is one thing I am trying to find out more about.  They seem to have been around for a while.  They apparently won the
"Virtualisation Product of the Year 2008" (whatever that really means):  http://www.networkcomputingawards.co.uk.  Ikea is using them: http://howto.techworld.com/storage/2320/case-study-flatpack-san.    Here is a link from a VMWare forum: http://communities.vmware.com/thread/144664 (which also links to http://sanmelody.blogspot.com, probably not very unbiased, though).  

I want to make sure I understand SANMelody enough, including peoples' experience, how widely deployed it is, etc., so that I can make an educated decision about it.  Hopefully someone here has some experience to share on it...

Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
If you're using this for vmware and you have a SAN why not go with the DL360?  Same memory and CPU capacity and you can put 2 dual quad port nics for 10 nic port capacity.  
Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
My understanding is the Dell R710 is direct competition to the DL380

Alex GalbraithSolutions ArchitectCommented:
Dell = Cheap and cheerful, but dont expect to get the same level of quality.
HP = High quality, but you pay for it.

The question comes down to whether down time will be costly to you, and if so, more costly than $2k per server. If its not, go Dell. If it is, buy HP. Pretty simples. :-)

Obviously factor in the support cost for your HW contract when looking at the cost of downtime.

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If you're willing to pay for quality, I suppose I am wondering why IBM isn't on the list?  I prefer their support over Dell's on any day.  IBM is always someone in the US, and they are always ready and willing to ship parts without making me jump through lots of hoops.  I've been doing this for enough years that I know when something's failed, and when something just needs to be tinkered with.

As for SANMelody, they are fine.  I've demo'd their products in sandbox environments (had no intention of buying, just wanted to check out the product), and it's pretty good.  I've also met several of their SEs/SAs.  Very knowledgable bunch of guys.

I have used Dell and HP in the past, and have come down on the side of Dell due to cost time and again. Both make nice servers, if you are Brand agnostic and they are offering same warranties, etc.... I would go with Dell. Dell's remote management console was as good as HPs last time I was using both of them, but in the last 2 years we have moved to Dells exclusively and have not regretted it. None have exploded, died or burst into flames.
 When Dell first entered the server market they were a bit flaky, but we have 20 running in the lab atm and they are fine, they have survived a couple of power outages( No UPS on testing rack ), and still going.

Save the $8000, the old adage was no-one ever got fired for buying IBM, true but they wasted a hell of a lot of money doing it.

If you are worried about the downtime/replacement time, look at their SLAs for the replacement programs.

>  the old adage was no-one ever got fired for buying IBM

There's a reason that's the old adage - because it's true.
We are running two datacore san melody installs synchronous  on hp dl380s.  We love them.  San melody might be a bit more complicated then some other sans, but great cost and great support.  The reason for the need for vendor support is Datacore basically insists that vendors do the installs and any major changes.  They have  a high level of expectation from there vendors and want to make sure each install goes well. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have about datacore san melody.  I will do my best to help
Lars007Author Commented:
Thanks for all the input on the Dell vs. HP.  One more factor on this is that the quality difference might not be as relevant in a fully redundant environment.  Anyhow, I think I have enough info on the Dell Vs. HP.  Why not IBM?  We already have a couple of HP servers and they work great.  There is no cost benefit to IBM.

I'll open a separate post to continue on the SAN Melody topic.

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