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EMC vs Nimble Storage SAN

Posted on 2014-02-18
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Last Modified: 2014-04-02
Hello:

We have been looking to virtualize our old servers.  We currently have 2 quotes that are reasonable but the SANs vary in price.  The EMC SAN is much less expensive than the Nimble Storage SAN.

The EMC SAN has 500GB SSD and 12TB disks.  The Nimble Storage SAN has 320GB SSD and 12TB disks.

I am told that the Nimble Storage SAN will have more 'usable' space because the snapshots are handled more efficiently.

I do not have any prior experience with SANs and could use a little advice from some experts.

Thank you
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Question by:MeowserM
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by:David Carr
ID: 39868513
Nimble is relatively new to storage but their approach is really great.  Is there a way you can evaluate a device before purchasing? Quotes on paper are great but hands-on can make a difference.

The EMC has bigger disks but is cheaper?
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by:MeowserM
ID: 39868527
Yes the EMC SSD are larger and it is considerably cheaper.  Unfortunately it is with a Vendor that we have never used before and I have a strange feeling that there is some kind of hidden surprise.
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by:David Carr
ID: 39868540
I would go with the EMC. Paying more for "usable space" may not be worth it in the end.
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by:gmbaxter
gmbaxter earned 167 total points
ID: 39868581
Within the last 12 months I've looked at EMC, NetApp and Dell Compellent.

EMC use an old fashioned approach, they still carve out raid pools from the array leaving hot and cold spots. This is wasted space and money. Their upgrade policy is essentially rip and replace and you have to buy new licenses when you replace hardware. Their tiering is quite poor as it only works in multiples of 2GB.

Compellent is initially more expensive, however it is modular and allows phased upgrades. Licenses are a one-off purchase whether you retain your original hardware or replace it. Tiering is superior working in multiples of 2MB. All disks in the array are fully utilised to ensure maximum performance.

I've heard of nimble but don't have any experience with it. Look into Compellent before ruling it out.
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Jeff Perry earned 167 total points
ID: 39868622
EMC is likely cheaper because to get to 12TB Raw space you will end up with less spindles on the larger drives.

This could affect performance considering your application.

The main consideration will be the number of hosts versus the number of virtual machines that will be hosted on the san.

ssd only drives will give you pretty good performance but personal experience shows that once a solution is in place virtual server sprawl is too easy to lose control of. To that end make sure you discuss with EMC and VMware to find out exactly what your solution can realistically support without a decrease in performance.
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by:MeowserM
ID: 39868646
gmbaxter - what licensing are you referring to?  The only licensing on the 2 quotes are for the VMware not the hardware.....maybe I am not understanding.  thank you for the Compellant tip.

Jeff Perry - with both EMC and Nimble storage quotes we are getting 2 hosts.  The Nimble storage vendor also told me to be careful about a decrease in performance with the EMC.  I am told that Nimble has advanced compression.  We plan on starting out virtualizing our ERP system, CRM system, and possibly our domain controllers.  So performance would be an issue with ERP and CRM.
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by:gmbaxter
ID: 39868667
When buying a San you generally buy hardware and software. When you replace an EMC you will have to buy the software element again. Sorry I should have been clearer.

Remember a SAN is not just about space. Consider the following;
How many IOPS is each solution proposing?
How many IOPS do you need?
What are your projected space and IOPS requirements over the next 5 years?
What are the year-on-year costs from each vendor to meet all of the above?

Also, are they proposing SLC or MLC SSD?
What speed are the disks?

Hope that helps.
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by:Jeff Perry
ID: 39868668
The advanced compression will get you a higher usable data count but that is not really a plus when your main use for the san is virtualization.

For the virtual environment the number of Input/output per second is the number to track.

You can use performance monitor to gauge the I/O that each of your proposed host will use.

From there you compare which solution will better serve not only the initial vm's but the others that are (at least in my experience) likely to follow.

You didn't mention which models of san's you were quoted but the higher up the model chain you get the more features (licenses) you are likely to be pitched. With EMC there are quite a few but at the lower levels they are usually bundled with the device.
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by:Gerald Connolly
Gerald Connolly earned 166 total points
ID: 39869900
Vendors typically have licensing to cover everything, so it could be capacity based ie an extra licence (and it's associated cost) for every TB, or snapshots, or features like RAID level migration, NDMP client, etc etc

Just make sure you read their specs carefully, and ask questions, questions, questions.

Get the vendors to compare their systems with each other.

There are lots of vendors in this space, EMC is one of the big boys along with Netapps, HP, IBM and probably 30+ other reputable companies
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Author Comment

by:MeowserM
ID: 39870282
Thank you all for your questions.  It gives me information that I can ask the vendors.  

The EMC is a VNXe3300 with dual controllers.  I can't seem to get a clear answer on IOPS.

The Nimble is a CS 220 with dual controllers.  Again, not clear on the IOPS.

Thanks again for your insight.  Very appreciated
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by:Jeff Perry
ID: 39870365
In actuality if both solutions are quoted with ssd drives I have a hard time believing that you will hit the I/O limit before using up all the available storage.

The typical 15k SAS drive is rated around 175 I/O's while an SSD drive is rated in the thousands of I/O's.
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by:gmbaxter
ID: 39871134
That would depend on whether the SSD is used as cache or a data tier. If a data tier, then not everything will utilise the SSD IOPS, and if auto tiering is present it will depend on the granularity offered whether the SSD fills up too quickly impacting performance.
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Author Comment

by:MeowserM
ID: 39874073
I just spoke to the EMC vendor and they seem to be pulling ahead of the competition.  

They changed thier quote to include Flash SSD at 500GB usable space and 15K disks at 3TB of usable space and 7200 disks at 14TB of usable space.

I kinda like the varying levels of Flash speed, performance speed, and capacity "file server" type speed.

It seems to keep the costs down.
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