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I'm just browsing around at storage servers like the Dell MD1000/MD3000 and the Sun J4200, and although the storage server pricing seems reasonable (approx $3000-$4000 AUD) the hard drives that you buy to go along with them seem exorbitantly expensive. And I'm not sure why. Surely at most they are using good quality RAID level 7200rpm SATA drives, but even then they are still charging almost 4 times the price. What is the advantage to buying these from them?

I can see if one fails then the vendor replacing it is convenient. But at that price you could buy double the number of HDDs, keep the spares on hand, and just claim on warranty directly with the manufacturer. It would be much cheaper and you wouldn't be relying on someone else to fix your problems.

Is this the case of "you don't get fired if you buy IBM?" mentality, or is there some reason I'm not grasping here?

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8 Answers 8

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The reason most people buy everything from one vendor is simple - support.

I buy HP, we can call them up at any time and know that they'll deal with any problem we have as they supplied it all. Buy bits from here, bits from there and you're giving each vendor a perfectly justifiable 'get out clause' to stop talking to you when you're in trouble.

So it all comes down to how much that safety blanket is worth to you.

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+1 It's worth a lot to quickly dish out "it's broken, fix it now!" and actually get that done, every time consistently, within a short time period - instead of having to deal with whatever return process cheaper vendors might have (exceptions exists, simply find a vendor/supplier/partner that gives you what you want, when you want it and cherish them)... also, buying from the chassis producer will hopefully make them take all responsibility and provide fast and accurate knowledge about weird compatibility problems and quirks.. but sure, sometimes the cheaper way might fit the situation better. –  Oskar Duveborn Jan 15 '10 at 13:45
    
Thank you, I'm quite 'time-poor' so being able to just smile and point a single company's engineer at a box when it goes pop genuinely enhances the quality of my (work)life. –  Chopper3 Jan 15 '10 at 14:03
    
+1, the extra cost for support/compatibility is almost always a win –  James Jan 24 '10 at 22:26
    
+1 - actually the killer app of vendor support is actually having them on the hook to support the item. –  ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells Apr 12 '10 at 10:45

Having worked in Dell support, I can tell you that inserting non-Dell drives will not void your warranty on the MD array, but you'll find it very hard to get any support at all.

Suppose a drive fails, and you suspect the array backplane instead of the drive - until you get a Dell supported drive and check the array using that, there is no proof the array is damaged, because your drive was never tested and verified to work with that specific array.

The same goes vice versa as well - you call the drive vendor, and get send to the SAN vendor, you call the SAN vendor - and get sent back to the disk vendor.

Unless you enjoy feeling like a soccer ball, I'd pull out the extra cash, and get the proper support you deserve, if you're already going for a brandname solution.

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This may vary from place to place but purchasing a complete assembly, rather than just a bare machine means no matter what breaks you only make one phone call to get it repaired or replaced under warranty.

The custom drive firmware mentioned by gekkz is also important. I've heard of people who have experienced system failures and were told that the use of "non-genuine" drives voids the warranty because the system was not designed to work with them. Even if you win that argument, it takes time which you may not be able to afford.

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I was looking at storage servers offerings from both Dell, HP, Sun, and others a few months ago. In all the quotes and specs I received the vendors offered fairly competitive prices for the drives compared to what I could buy on the street. I suspect if you look closely you will see you were being offered SAS instead of SATA or drivers with higher RPMs.

Look closely at the drives offered. Give your rep a call. Many of the vendors would let you order a system with cheaper/smaller/slower drives if you request them, but they don't advertise it on their sites.

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I double checked this, and it was 7200 rpm SATA drives from dell. I wonder if the old, "we calculate exchange rates at one time in the year and dont change them" problem has come up again. the AUD has been all over the place in the last two years compared to the USD. –  Mark Jan 24 '10 at 2:32
    
On that exchange rate issue, be sure to let them know the possibility of the sale hinges on the rate being current and fair (at least when it's in our favour). They will normally flex when pushed hard, even for just one server. –  John Gardeniers Jan 25 '10 at 1:08
    
Generally speaking, Dell's markup on 7200rpm SATA drives with hot-swap trays, for one-off type purchases, is around 300-400 percent. It is often possible to get them to reduce the price if you can show them a competitive third-party offer, but they will not price-match deep-discount vendors like Aventis. Ultimately, you really do have to decide whether the high price of officially supported drives is worth it in light of the rapid and accountable support that you should get in return. –  Skyhawk Nov 14 '11 at 4:50

Don't forget that the list price is only for those people who never ask for an offer. When you buy big name vendor stuff it's most likely that they'll be able to offer special prices which include better support options or other goodies. Ie we have some sun gear (sans, server, etc.) and we have never ever paid the list price no matter how small the order.

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on the UK site they seem to be offering SAS 15K disks, not SATA. SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) disks are enterprise grade disks that generally spin at 15000 RPM as opposed to th 7200 RPM offered by most SATA offerings. This gives a very noticeable performance hike on it's own but the SAS standard also offers data throughput of 6GB per second, much faster than SATA (in practice, althoigh in theory SATA can also offer 6GB/Second throughput), hence the higher price.

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Certain branded HDDs may have custom firmware setup on them, but generally speaking it's a bad idea buying RAM and/or HDDs from Dell, since you can save quite a bit by buying them even of newegg or something similar.

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it's always a good idea to buy parts for brand name systems, from the same brand, because you are paying for extended QA, complex support and updates. –  dyasny Jan 15 '10 at 10:54
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And padding some sales schmucks commisssion and sales bonus –  Mark Henderson Jan 15 '10 at 11:21
    
well how else is he supposed to afford to take me out to lunch? –  David Mackintosh Jan 15 '10 at 17:55
    
I once got a quote for RAM from Dell that was 4 time as expensive as teh streeet price. Tell me how extended QUA beats having a second set of ram in the cabinet for half the price ;) –  TomTom Nov 14 '11 at 4:51

I know the main answer has already been accepted, but I felt you should know that you can buy options for things like HP storage servers online for less than you would pay for an HP authorized dealer. They call this "brokered" or "grey market" equipment, and while HP doesn't like it if you install it, they can't tell because the serial numbers for the internal components like drives aren't recorded at the time of installation.

Search google for the part number of the drive you want, and you will find a bunch of companies selling brand new in-box options for way less than you'd get charged by HP or an HP reseller.

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