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The Complexity Legacy

I don’t blog about my day-job very often but I want to relate a conversation I had today; I was chatting to one of the storage administrators who works on our corporate IT systems, they’ve recently put in some XIV systems (some might be an understatement) and I asked how he was getting on with them. He’s been doing the storage administrator thing for a long time and cut his teeth on the Big Iron arrays and I thought he might be a bit resentful at how easy the XIV is to administer but no…he mentioned a case recently when they needed to allocate a large chunk of storage in a real hurry; took 30 minutes to do a job which he felt would take all day on a VMAX.

And I believe him but…

Here’s the thing; in theory using the latest GUI tools such as Unisphere for VMAX, surely this should be the case for VMAX? So what is going on? Quite simply the Big Iron arrays are hampered by a legacy of complexity; even experienced administrators and perhaps especially experienced administrators like to treat them as complex, cumbersome beasts. It is almost as if we’ve developed a fear of them and treat them with kid gloves.

And I don’t believe it is just VMAX that is suffering from this; all of the Big Iron arrays suffer from this perception of complexity. Perhaps because they are still expensive, perhaps because the vendors like to position them as Enterprise beasts and not as something which as easy as to configure as your home NAS and perhaps because the storage community are completely complicit in the secret occult world of Enterprise storage?

Teach the elephants to dance…they can and they might not crush your toes.


  1. Ed says:

    I gave up on EMC’s GUI when control centre took forever to commit, probably nearly 10 years ago. Since then though, I’ve come to really appreciate Symcli and symapi. GUI tends to end up a difficult line to walk between simple and controllable.
    But being able to completely prep a very complex change, so once it’s approved all I have to do is run the script (and reasonably expect that it’ll still work) is what makes me still like working with Symmetrix.

  2. JS says:

    Good point Ed, that is the same reason I would rather work with *nix than Windows. platforms. Are dumbed down GUI that good of a thing ? It it my belief that if you don’t understand with is going on under the covers, you won’t make a very good storage/admin guy. Don’t get me wrong, Navisphere is very good, but I had to resort to the CLI to take care of a unsolvable problem on the GUI twice this year. I could have called tech support, but where is the fun in that ?

  3. Matt Davis says:

    I’m going to make 3 sweeping statements regarding his comment on “all day” – assuming you had the storage available on the VMAX. Either it is…

    1. Being managed like an old Symmetrix without using any of the features available for years now on the VMAX code base
    2. A lack of automation (via symcli if necessary)
    3. The architecture constraints in place on the XIV aren’t considered appropriate on the VMAX by staff (large disk pools + thin devs, etc).

    I absolutely agree with your statement around people being more scared of big iron arrays. I tend to believe it’s because, the big difference between big iron and other arrays is when something gets screwed up, it’s likely the op’s fault.

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  5. InsaneGeek says:

    I’m not sure where he’s coming from on taking all day on the VMAX. I presented storage to over 75x new UCS servers in a few hours, each server getting individual boot luns and then separate cluster groups. That included zoning, carving up and masking, I’ve only found it taking a long time if you do things in ways that it’s not really meant to do; which in my experience applies to pretty much any storage.

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