3PAR has made detailed claims about its InServ storage array versus Sun arrays. The claims come from Geoff Hough, 3PAR's product marketing director. This was offered to Techworld by 3PAR and we asked Sun to comment. A Sun US spokesperson, Ryan Batty was kind enough to do so.

Hough says that: "Overall, by choosing 3PAR organisations achieve a 50-75 percent cost reduction over three years because 3PAR technology delivers what Sun technology cannot. Neither Sun's home-grown 6920 or Sun's OEM'd array from Hitachi can match any of the features below."

3PAR: Self-configuring – 15 second provisioning with no pre-planning
Sun: Provision via manual system resource allocation and configuration. Such arrangements must be planned via spreadsheets and require lengthy training or costly external professional services.

Sun response
The Sun StorEdge 6920 has Storage Profiles which are pre-set wizards for configuring storage for all major applications, such as Oracle, SAP, Siebel, HPTC, and more. These Storage Profiles are based on application workload data collected in Sun Labs from real customer environments. This enables configuration to the application requirements. Provisioning with the Sun StorEdge 6920 is done in a few seconds by adding capacity to a pool of storage. The 6920 is extremely flexible and, unlike 3PAR, can provision storage without the limitations of the physical boundaries of the storage using virtualization technology.

Concerning the 3PAR claim that *Sun: Provision via manual system resource allocation and configuration. Such arrangements must be planned via spreadsheets and require lengthy training or costly external professional services." Sun's response is: "(With the 6920) This is not true. See the points above."

3PAR claims
3PAR: Self-tuning – fully and automatically load balanced
Sun: Load-balancing and assured performance achieved via manual and disruptive change processes (which is so painful that most try to avoid it by grossly over-provisioning resources)

3PAR: Self-optimising – ‘perfect’ data service levels on demand
Sun: Re-aligning applications with proper data/array service level via manual and disruptive change processes (which is so painful that most remain in an over or under-provisioned state)

Sun's response
According to Batty: "Without knowledge of what the application is that's being served Sun can't imagine storage being optimized - with the Sun StorEdge 6920 system, storage can be optimized to the application workload with Storage Profiles -- an quick, wizard-based tool for tuning the system setting to the application."

And: "The Sun StorEdge 6920 can be provisioned and re-configured online - with active I/O - and no disruption to applications."

Hough claims that 3PAR's InServ is: "Efficient - (you can) cut capacity and related cost up to 75 percent."

3PAR: Thin Provisioning – purchase capacity for written data only
Sun: Dedicate-on-allocation technology, so capacity must be purchased although this may never be written

Sun response
Batty says: "StorEdge 6920 configurations can be as small as 500 GB and as large as 65 TB -- and larger still utilizing external storage arrays. This capacity inventory can be managed with such precision that each GB may be accounted for and provisioned at any given time."

There was no point-by-point Sun response to these 3PAR claims made by Hough:

3PAR: Fast RAID 5 – purchase 66 to 88 percent less data protection
Sun: Fast performance achieved only through RAID 1, which protects data only by making an exact copy of it, requiring twice as much capacity

3PAR: Efficient local/remote copy – affordably protect any application
Sun: Must purchase and reserve copy capacity that may never be written to; also, must purchase extra equipment and must pay for professional services to implement this

3PAR: 2 - 3x density advantage – cut floor space and adjacency issues
Sun: Lease and service 2 to 3 times as much floor space.

3PAR: Massive multi-dimensional scalability – dramatically reduce traditional SAN infrastructure
Sun: Purchase and support far more storage point products such as host or fabric-based volume management, switching, and SRM software

3PAR: Mixed Workload support – predictable performance across workload types in 1/2 the arrays
Sun: Purchase and manage additional array infrastructure in order to serve both transactional and throughput-intensive application workloads

3PAR: Clustered, fully fault-tolerant InSpire architecture – scale confidently and non-disruptively in a single system
Sun: Pay high array premiums for scalability, or manage across many (cheaper) arrays

Instead, Sun's Ryan Batty made a general response.

Sun general response
Sun spokesperson Ryan Batty said: "Some of these arguments have no foundation - I think they have an apples to oranges comparison in many cases, overall. I don't want to get into a point-by-point rebuttal here because many of these claims are so ambiguous, or so tailored to a specific config or situation, that they do not at all apply to each and every unique customer situation. As a systems company, Sun has many ways to address our customers' unique data management needs (the 9000 series and 6920 are only two pieces of a much, much more flexible and broad offering)."

"I think their most specific and defined claim against Sun is around thin provisioning. I am not surprised to hear 3PAR say thin provisioning is something of a cure-all....it's just about all they do!"

"While thin provisioning might be interesting to some of our customers, to others it simply is not a viable solution. For example, certain operations could cause the array to allocate the entire physical space of the LUN which goes against the "thin" aspect of thin provisioning. In addition, Sun has other ways to overcome the issue of overprovision, with our SAM-FS file system. Plus, in the future, our ZFS file system - which has no fixed file system sizes and can seamlessly add/grow filesystems over time - will allow customers to start small and add storage as they need it."

Incidentally both Sun and 3PAR believe the place for virtualising storage is in the array. Storage management applications are layered on this virtualisation foundation and address hardware through it.