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At work, we have decided to finally virtualize and have decided to upgrade out SAN setup with higher capacity Hard Drives. However, what exactly is the difference between Hard Drives that come packaged with a SAN set up, or going to New Egg and picking up a bunch of 1 TB hard drives?

I ask because the quote we received for a new SAN set up with 12 TB (6 TB usable) capacity was $15,000 which seems INSANELY high, especially since I could go to New Egg and pick up 12 TB hard drives for ~$1,500.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Well there may be obvious differences, such as interface type, rotational speed, etc.

Beyond that, even when two disks have identical entries for the above spec, the drives that come in a SAN will probably be certified/warranted for 24hr continuous operation, and may also include custom firmware from the SAN manufacturer.

As for the price difference - if you're buying a decent (or even semi-decent SAN) you are buying a lot more than a bunch of hard disks - the drives may only be a relatively small part of the cost.

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Having run both SAN systems and our own disk arrays with drives bought from NewEgg, I'd want to add that there is definitely a noticeable difference in quality of the drives. Standard drives bought from normal retail stores are not meant for the typical 24x7 workloads in enterprise systems. That's not to say the cheaper drives don't have their place, but you definitely get what you pay for and will need the higher quality drives for 24x7, high performance operations. –  Paul Kroon Jan 28 '11 at 0:09
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The drives themselves will usually be high-end, high-rotation drives, possibly with custom firmwares installed to run on the particular SAN. They are probably sole- or restricted-sourced, meaning the SAN vendor is paying a bit of a premium to ensure that they can get EXACTLY these drives for the next period of time.

There's far more to a SAN than just hard drives.

There's the RAID controllers. There's the networking components. There's the physical shell the drives come in, with associated power (frequently redundant). There's the software that has been written to run, monitor, and manage the whole thing. There's a large quality and testing organization which is there to ensure that when you get it, it "just works". And there's probably a warranty service that will have a replacement drive show up within 8 to 24 hours should one fail.

Plus there's the fact that you are using this to gain some cost- or operational-efficiencies, and the vendor is simply monetizing some of that efficiency for themselves.

Sure, you could buy 12TB of drive space for $1500. But you would still need a computer (or two) to put them in, an OS to present them to the network, and someone to make sure it would work and be reasonably redundant.

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A SAN is exactly that, a Storage Area Network. This usually includes not just the hard drives themselves, but a chassis, (motherboard etc) and software. SAN's can be expensive, but they usually provide much faster throughput than a single hard drive. Whether or not you need one of these is a totally different matter.

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The main reason is that these expensive SAN hard drives comes into a case with a chip and a firmware into it. Also, the chip detects automatically if the hard drive must be replaced and allows the hard drive to be hot swappable.

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