Using third-party components in storage using Qsan as an example

An informational reason for writing this article was official support from Qsan for connecting third-party expansion shelves to storage systems. This fact markedly distinguishes Qsan among other vendors and even to some extent breaks the familiar position in the storage market. However, simply writing about the Qsan + storage bundle of the “alien” JBOD seemed not so interesting to us, rather than touching on the partially holistic topic of using third-party components.

The topic of confrontation between storage vendors (as well as other Enterprise equipment) and their users who want to use third-party components will be eternal. Indeed, the basis of the confrontation is money. And the money is sometimes quite considerable. Each of the parties has very convincing arguments in favor of its point of view and often takes certain actions so that this point of view is the only true one. Let’s try to figure out if there is a possibility of a compromise so that both sides remain satisfied.

Typical arguments of a storage vendor requiring the mandatory use of “its” branded components are usually the following:

  1. “Own” components are 100% compatible with storage systems. There will be no surprises. And if they arise, the vendor will solve them as soon as possible;
  2. Support and warranty in the “single window” mode for the entire solution as a whole.

All this translates into the fact that the cost of branded components sometimes significantly exceeds the cost of similar products sold on the free market. And users, of course, have a desire to “trick the system” by slipping storage systems that are not officially designed for it. It is worth noting that such actions were noticed not only by yesterday’s schoolchildren, but also quite serious organizations.

The most popular third-party components that want to install in storage systems are storage drives. This is due to the fact that the cost of branded discs is quite easy to compare with store counterparts. And therefore, in the eyes of users it is in their price that the vendor’s “greed” is hidden.

Storage vendors, for their part, cannot just look at the actions of users that are illegal from their point of view and in every possible way insert sticks into their wheels. Here is vendor lock for “their” components, and the refusal to support the device in the case of using illegitimate disks (even if the problem is obvious and has nothing to do with them).

So is the game worth the candle? Let’s consider whether it is possible to get a win in this situation and at what cost.

100% compatible

We will be honest in recognizing that the number of real manufacturers of HDDs and SSDs is small. The lineup of each of them is finite and is not updated with space speed. Therefore, it is potentially possible to test if not all, then at least a significant part of the drives for a storage vendor. Confirmation of this fact is the support of third-party disks in their compatibility lists with a number of popular storage vendors. For example, Qsan.

Support and warranty for the entire solution as a whole

Free cheese, you know where it happens. Therefore, vendor support (and not only warranty) is never free.

When buying disks on the side, you need to be prepared for the fact that, in case of problems with them, the user will need to resolve issues with their supplier (drive vendors rarely provide their own support for their users). It is quite possible to encounter, for example, a situation where the drive will be rejected during storage, but the supplier recognizes it as serviceable. Also, the speed of replacing a failed drive will be governed by the buy-seller relationship. And hardly will be available advanced replacement with courier delivery as soon as possible.

If the user is ready to put up with such restrictions, then you can try to “lay yourself a straw.” For example, buy backup drives in advance. Such actions, of course, will require additional investments, but in some cases they will still remain financially attractive.

Behind all these disputes on the use of compatible components, do not forget, for what, in fact, it was all about. Storage is one of the tools of a business. And each instrument should work out the funds invested in it by 146%. And any simple storage, and even more so the loss of data on it, is simply unacceptable luxury and a serious loss of money. Therefore, when deciding on the use of invalid disks in order to save money, it is worth remembering the serious consequences of their actions.

Without a doubt, branded rims look preferable to “store” in many respects. But, as practice shows, in the life of companies of any scale, there are times when there are not as many funds for the development of IT infrastructure as we would like. And therefore the availability of the opportunity to use vendor-validated compatible drives is a huge plus. An obvious advantage of storage systems that simultaneously support the use of both “their own” and compatible drives is flexibility in decision making and minimization of their own risks during operation.

And if you can hardly surprise anyone with the support of third-party disks (let’s be honest: Qsan – not the only vendor that allows this). That support for JBOD expansion shelves for all vendors is always limited only by their own models. Yes, in some cases, some of its shelves are the result of OEM collaboration between a storage vendor and another manufacturer. But such JBODs always have their own unique version of firmware (including for vendor lock implementation), are sold through the channels of the storage vendor and are provided with its support. The case with Qsan is unique in that it supports “alien” regiments. Currently compatible models have the following models:

  • Seagate Exos E 4U106 – 106 LFF drives in 4U enclosure
  • Western Digital Ultrastar Data60 – 60 LFF drives in 4U enclosure
  • Western Digital Ultrastar Data102 – 102 LFF drives in 4U enclosure

All supported shelves are High Density. It’s understandable: to compete with its JBOD series XCubeDAS obviously did not plan. At the same time, it is precisely these shelves, although they are not needed as often as the standard form factor JBOD, that are nevertheless in demand in a number of tasks requiring a large number of drives.

As with drives, users have a choice of where and how to purchase a compatible JBOD. If you need support for the whole solution, then you should contact Qsan. If you are ready to solve warranty issues with different vendors, then you can purchase JBOD on the side. In any case, when planning the use of third-party shelves, you should carefully read the relevant documentation, which indicates the restrictions on possible configurations and hardware / software requirements for all components.

Again, returning to the question of choosing “friend / foe” in relation to JBOD, it is worth mentioning that collaboration is not forbidden Qsan expansion shelves and third-party manufacturers within a single system. Therefore, during operation, it is possible to flexibly approach the issue of capacity expansion depending on current requirements and financial capabilities.

Rather ill-conceived by some customers is the purchase of storage systems of a particular vendor and further attempts to understaff it with incompatible components in order to save. Indeed, in this case, the whole meaning of owning such a storage system is often lost, There will be no full support from the vendor. It’s wiser to just choose a storage vendor that has no such restrictions. Qsan it is just such a vendor, allowing users to decide for themselves which components to use and where to buy them.

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