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Trading Commodities

‘Would you trust your business on a storage array built from commodity hardware?’ to paraphrase a remark which came up in a meeting today? This comment took me aback as we were discussing another array which is also built from commodity hardware, although the questioner seemed blissfully unaware of that. I left meeting feeling a little perturbed and put out with something nagging going round my head.

The comment is not an uncommon one to be honest but does it really mean anything at all? And then it hit me,

‘We risk all of our business on commodity hardware all the time; what the hell do you think those servers are?’

Most of the time, they will be clustered to fail over in a very similar manner to a commodity dual-head storage device. And as we put virtualise more and more services; the impact of a failed server or server-chassis is possibly very similar to the impact of a the failure of a head in a dual-head storage array.

So would I trust my business to commodity hardware? Well, I don’t think we’ve got that much choice these days, do you? Be it storage or servers; its getting to be pretty much the same thing!


  1. I think the issue is whether the hardware & software has been fully designed and architected for high availability and resiliency. If not, it’s worthless. I’d be happy with commodity if the engineering and software quality is in there.

  2. Martin Glassborow says:

    Completely agree…but the same could be said for any platform, the engineering is key and especially the software engineering quality.

    1. AFidel says:

      I agree, hardware WILL fail, it’s what the software does when the failure happens that separates reliable systems from unreliable systems. EMC has seen the light, and I think key people in HP have seen it as well and of course Netapp has always used commodity systems. There may be some niche applications where a proprietary design is needed but most of those will be extremely limited areas of opportunity as the edge that is held by the proprietary solution will be eroded by the march of progress in the commodity space.

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