Hardware Doesn’t Matter – it’s a commodity only to those who are ignorant or oblivious to the details

In today’s world nothing is really commodity except for gold bars. There is always a difference to those who are educated and know where to look. Even chicken eggs aren’t all equal. There are conventional eggs, organic eggs, pasteurized eggs, Omega-3 enriched eggs but just by looking at them you would be hard pressed to discern which was which visually or even by taste.

Well, data center infrastructure such as servers, hard drives, SSDs, and Raid Controllers offer an extreme amount of diversity. It is easy to tell the different versions and models since they are typically clearly marked with a model and serial number. But even below that surface there is often a lot of variance. Think of something like a RAID controller. That hardware in general meets a certain design specification and over time those may vary because parts become obsolete, it may require a change to the software. Furthermore, there is firmware and versions of firmware that run on the embedded processor on the RAID controller. Some vendors may create custom firmware for that controller to further modify the behavior in an effort to improve functionality. There are also those values on the controller that can be modified by the user or manufacturer at any time to achieve a desired result. In summary, different versions of RAID controllers will have distinctive settings available to the user or OEM. There many settings and the various permutations can result in huge fluctuations in performance and behavior. It is important that they are correct from the start or the system may have erroneous or erratic behavior. For example, in a complex system there are tens or hundreds of these types of components and they all must be coherently programmed, configured and managed.

There has been a push in various engineering situations to use non-specialized components; the thought being this creates competition, drives down the price, and ensure parts can be interchanged. Just using the lowest common denominator means that now you are sacrificing the unique value the hardware can provide and disincentivizing innovation in the hardware. (Side Note: The government does this which is why we have wide, sweeping rules that don’t seem to make sense; think of me the next time you are going through airport security). This is bad because certain functions are better implemented in hardware than software because they can result in total cost savings, lower power consumption, and future improvements. For example, leveraging Intel’s AES instruction set enables systems to very efficiently encrypt and decrypt data so that security can be implemented more widely and with minimal performance impact. So isn’t it better to get the most out of your hardware and not just ask for a very generic or vanilla CPU? Work smarter not harder.

A well-engineered system is greater than the sum of its parts! Just like when an architect designs a house or building the nuances and details can have a dramatic effect on efficiency, comfort, energy savings, aesthetics, and resale value. The house for your data, a storage system, is very much the same and in my own opinion even more nuanced. The hardware is the foundation of the house and the architecture is critical to the overall value.

As a computer engineer I have a lot of passion for hardware. I personally believe it serves as the foundation for great software. Choosing the right components for a system is the first step. Choosing the firmware, validating, and configuring it is the next 1,000. Understanding exactly how all of the pieces can work optimally together is more challenging than it appears to the unwitting. (Side note 2: The first time you do a home project like tile a bathroom or install crown molding you are suddenly keenly aware of all the imperfections and craftsmanship in other people’s work). Things may be fine at the start or maybe they won’t and you will be left with an uphill battle right from the get-go. But when it comes to long term support finding the needle in the haystack will prove to be costly. At RackTop we take pride in our solutions and leverage off the shelf components we have vetted and configured to create a fully engineered system. And in that process we know that things don’t always work as advertised but we perfect those issues in our lab before we deliver anything to you. If issues arise, we work quickly with our suppliers to make firmware fixes and get the permutations right and to keep your system running as it should.

I think we do a great job of creating tailored solutions that provide the maximum value to our customers. We understand our systems from top to bottom and have a team with decades of experience so you don’t have to. If your data needs are serious – explore BrickStor.