Do you see things a little differently?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Providing value, and Why use RAID?

I've started a new job with a new employer, and it is a bit of a career change for me. I was an IT Manager for 8 years and I feel that I was fairly good in that role. I am now employed by a Distributor as a technical resource. The same skills and some of the same knowledge are applicable, but how I utilize them is completely different. I have never been very fond of the typical world of sales and that hasn't changed. What I like about this company is their goal to be a partner to the customer. I was explicitly hired to be a resource which ensures they are getting the best options for their environment. I can't speak to the pricing side and frankly I don't want to.
An example of where I can show value is a project for a new video security system. A customer of a customer (we sell to an integrator who is the actual vendor) is developing an RFP for the new system. The better systems today are based on IP cameras and the video is stored on what amounts to a server. The number of days that you keep data and the rate of recording will affect how much space you need on the server. Some of the first systems I have encountered were glorified desktop computers with large hard drives. Typically they do not have any kind of fault tolerance and when a hard drive fails, you lose everything. In some cases this may be fine. Everything is a gamble and if the video isn't that important and cost is the number one concern, then these are the systems for you. If you happen to be an integrator on the hook for a 3 year warranty or the end customer with industry regulations which require that the data be available, then a system with some fault tolerance is worth considering. You may have noticed that I said "when" not "if" a hard drive fails. Based on a recent study published by BACKBLAZE you can see my reasoning. They published failure rates on a very large number of drives and the very best brand and model of these would still have about a 1% fail rate per year. Lets assume the customer has 1,500 locations needing surveillance. Now assume that each system has 3 drives to provide the minimum amount of storage. That adds up to 4,500 hard drives of which we can expect 45 to fail in the first year and that is assuming the best model (the worst model was about 25% or 1,125 drives). This means that without fault tolerance, the integrator should expect to make 45 service calls in the first year as a best case possibility. Each service call may take a few hours if the system requires rebuild and in every case some data loss can be expected. If we instead configure the systems with a RAID configuration for all partitions, it may be possible for the integrator to courier a drive to the site and have someone on site replace the drive with no down time and no loss of data. The worth seems obvious to me, but if you are not in the industry it may not be that obvious.