Is 14.4TBytes of Data Storage for $52,503 a Good Deal? It Depends!

A news story about the school board in Marshall Missouri approving data storage plans in addition to getting good news on health insurance rates just came into my in box.

I do not live in or anywhere near Marshall Missouri as I live about 420 miles north in the Stillwater Minnesota area.

What caught my eye about the story is the dollar amount ($52,503) and capacity amount (14.4TByte) for the new Marshall school district data storage solution to replace their old, almost full 4.8TByte system.

That prompted me to wonder, if the school district are getting a really good deal (if so congratulations), paying too much, or if about right.

Not knowing what type of storage system they are getting, it is difficult to know what type of value the Marshall School district is getting with their new solution. For example, what type of performance and availability in addition to capacity? What type of system and features such as snapshots, replication, data footprint reduction aka DFR capabilities (archive, compression, dedupe, thin provisioning), backup, cloud access, redundancy for availability, application agents or integration, virtualization support, tiering. Or if the 14.4TByte is total (raw) or usable storage capacity or if it includes two storage systems for replication. Or what type of drives (SSD, fast SAS HDD or high capacity SAS or SATA HDDs), block (iSCSI, SAS or FC) or NAS (CIFS and NFS) or unified, management software and reporting tools among capabilities not to mention service and warranty.

Sure there are less expensive solutions that might work, however since I do not know what their needs and wants are, saying they paid too much would not be responsible. Likewise, not knowing their needs vs. wants, requirements, growth and application concerns, given that there are solutions that cost a lot more with extensive capabilities, saying that they got the deal of the century would also not be fair. Maybe somewhere down the road we will hear some vendor and VAR make a press release announcement about their win in taking out a competitor from the Marshall school district, or perhaps that they upgraded a system they previously sold so we can all learn more.

With school districts across the country trying to stretch their budgets to go further while supporting growth, it would be interesting to hear more about what type of value the Marshall school district is getting from their new storage solution. Likewise, it would also be interesting to hear what alternatives they looked at that were more expensive, as well as cheaper however with less functionality. Im guessing some of the cloud crowd cheerleaders will also want to know why the school district is going the route they are vs. going to the cloud.

IMHO value is not the same thing as less or lower cost or cheaper, instead its the benefit derived vs. what you pay. This means that something might cost more than something cheaper, however if I get more benefit from what might be more expensive, then it has more value.

If you are a school district of similar size, what criteria or requirements would you want as opposed to need, and then what would you do or have you done?

What if you are a commercial or SMB environment, again not knowing the feature functionality benefit being obtained, what requirements would you have including want to have (e.g. nice to have) vs. must or have to have (e.g. what you are willing to pay more for), what would you do or have done?

How about if you were a cloud or managed service provider (MSP) or a VAR representing one of the many services, what would your pitch and approach be beyond simply competing on a cost per TByte basis?

Or if you are a vendor or VAR facing a similar opportunity, again not knowing the requirements, what would you recommend a school district or SMB environment to do, why and how to cost justify it?

What this all means to me is the importance of looking beyond lowest cost, or cost per capacity (e.g. cost per GByte or TByte) also factoring in value, feature functionality benefit.

[Cross-posted at StorageIO Blog]

About Greg Schulz

Greg Schulz is founder of the Server and StorageIO, an IT industry advisory and consultancy firm. Mr Schulz has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, server/storage architect and capacity planner for various IT organizations. He has worked for various vendors before joining an industry analyst firm and later forming StorageIO. In addition to his analyst research and advisory consulting duties, Schulz has published over a thousand articles, tips, reports and white papers and is a sought after speaker at events around the world. Greg is also author of the books Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier) and The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC). His blog is at www.storageioblog.com and he can be found on twitter @storageio.