What to ask when choosing a new storage platform

If you want to know what to buy, talk to people who've adopted the technology you're eyeing. Here are key questions to ask

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No one likes to rip and replace. But sooner or later, you need to buy new stuff to upgrade or augment existing your storage infrastructure -- and each time you need to go to school on your options as if you'd never seen a SAN before. That's how fast the technology changes.

Those who buy new storage products based solely on feature lists, quick tabletop demos, and cost comparisons take a huge gamble. Though it's impossible to anticipate every single gotcha, the trick to avoiding a disastrous choice is in knowing the right questions to ask -- and where to get the answers.

Ultimately, the most valuable sources of information are customers who've already implemented the technology in question. Here are some questions you can ask to quickly get to the heart of what you need to know.

It's all about the software
The basic building blocks that form the storage hardware you're likely to consider buying today have largely reached commodity status. There's very little variation in the actual disk or disk interface hardware used across the market -- one vendor's 6Gbps 15K SAS drive is going to be very similar if not identical to another's. It's also increasingly common to see controller hardware that's based around the same general-purpose Intel and AMD processors you'll find in servers rather than the highly customized processors common in previous storage generations.

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