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Get What You Pay For?

By Steve Jones,

Many items that we choose to buy have some relation between the price and the quality of the item. We often find that a more expensive appliance or automobile has better quality than a cheaper one. There's certainly a point at which spending more doesn't necessarily get you better quality or even value. This seems especially true today with many "over the top" products that have added features or design that don't seem to be worth the additional cost. At the other end, there are times many of us pay less for less quality, consciously making that tradeoff. I also think that the base level of quality has risen for so many products that it might not be worth spending more than some amount for an item. They're all close in value and performance.

I ran across a piece that looks at the value of consumer and enterprise SSDs. This isn't a scientific analysis, but rather a short discussion of why enterprise SSDs might be more than twice as expensive as consumer ones. There are some details, such as the architecture and spare capacity, but ultimately the author notes that people purchasing drives also worry about the perception that they might have saved money with a cheaper drive, but lost data because the warranty and support are lower. Even if the same hardware were being sold by the vendor, which I'm sure happens, having enterprise support is a crutch that can provide the employee some protection if there are issues.

There certainly are hardware differences for most devices, though the buyer should beware and verify that they are actually buying enterprise level gear. The big difference for me is that the large over provisioning of enterprise devices offers more predictable performance sustained over longer periods of time. This is important, especially for databases that might get quite a bit of transaction log or tempdb activity. In those cases, we need sustained high rates of I/O.

There are no shortage of white papers, articles, reviews, and vendor claims about their particular hardware. This is a very competitive and also highly profitably space. If you've had to purchase a new SAN device at any point, you know these are expensive and complex. Making the decision is stressful as it can take lots of time ot evalute, lots of resources to get things installed, and so it's not easy to go back on the purchase. In addition, many of us that have to make a recommendation are usually asking management to spend 6 or 7 figures on a device. If it doesn't perform, we will take the blame and may find our choice to be career limiting.

I don't envy anyone that needs to make hardware decisions for their database or organization. There are so many companies in the storage space now that it's a large project just to evaluate the various products and try to make a decision. It's complex enough these days that I can see why moving to the cloud is attractive for some. While we can't control everything and we may have large monthly bills, we typically don't ever have to face that extremely large capital purchase decision.

 
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