[Beowulf] Third-party drives not permitted on new Dell servers?

Joe Landman landman at scalableinformatics.com
Tue Feb 16 05:32:30 PST 2010

On 2/16/2010 7:53 AM, Micha Feigin wrote:
>> So ... this anecdote complete, if someone called me up and said "Joe, I
>> really want you to build us an siCluster for our storage, and I want you
>>    to use [insert failing manufacturer's name here] drives because we
>> like them", what do you think my reaction should be?  Should it be
>> "sure, no problem, whatever you want" ... with the subsequent problems
>> and pain, for which we would be blamed ... or should it be "no, these
>> drives don't work well ... deep and painful experience at customer sites
>> shows that they have bugs in their firmware which are problematic for
>> RAID users ... we are attempting to get them to give us the updated
>> firmware to help the existing users, but we would not consider shipping
>> more units with these drives due to their issues."
>> Is that latter answer, which is the correct answer, a marketing answer?
> But what if the customer tells you, ship me your system without a drive, I'll
> put whatever I want in there  so you are not my point of contact for failing
> drives but you say, no, I won't allow them in my system and I won't even sell
> you a replacement of what I do allow in the system?

We have tried this before.  Invariably they set up the disks wrong.  And 
then we get the blame and a bad rap from the customer for selling them a 
slow unit.  Even though it was their own fault it was slow.

Or we got a number of different flavors of drive, no guarantees on same 
batch or firmware revision, or even same brand.  And yes, we see and 
deal with those issues.

We simply don't sell bare chassis any longer, because it is our name on 
the box.  When you get it, it works and is fast.  If you make changes, 
and you are welcome to, it will likely slow down.  Several of our 
customers ignored our warnings on this, reloaded the unit and yelled at 
us over their slower performance.  One of our earliest prospective 
customers, absolutely convinced they knew more than us about how to 
configure/build fast storage, reconfigured a working unit with fast IO 
system to be a much slower unit, and then proceeded to benchmark us 
versus one of our competitors.

Yeah, we are sensitive to this.  I won't defend Dell's position.  I will 
point out that they have a point with some of their restrictions.

You want to service the branded drives we ship, you are welcome to do 
this yourself.  We have no issues with that.  We do ensure consistent 
firmware revs between disks, so you'd need to do this yourself.  You 
want to wipe the OS and the install and set it up, you are welcome to do 
this, though we caution that you are going to throw lots of performance 
away by doing so.

My other point about this is that if you don't like Dell's policies, you 
have freedom to choose other vendors.  But giving them heat over 
reducing their exposure to support liability strikes me as not a 
reasonable gripe.  But then again, I am on the vendor side of the equation.

Joseph Landman, Ph.D
Founder and CEO
Scalable Informatics Inc.,
email: landman at scalableinformatics.com
web  : http://www.scalableinformatics.com
phone: +1 734 786 8423
fax  : +1 866 888 3112
cell : +1 734 612 4615

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