Got a brand new pair of Dell/EMC CX200 disk arrays. A total setup fiasco.
OK, a little background here. How to hook up an HP/Compaq fibre channel disk array: Install the FC cards (called Host Bus Adapters, or HBA's). Install the HBA drivers. Plug the array into power, then plug the array into the server. Use Compaq's software to configure RAID, then format the array with the Disk Management snap-in and you're all done.
The Dell/EMC CX 200 initialization instructions are 50 pages long, and involve a null modem cable, an ethernet crossover cable, the use of Dial Up Networking, and Windows NT 4.0, Embedded Edition. I'm not exactly an idiot when it comes to setting up hardware, and it took me 3 days to get the arrays to work.
Look. I don't want to build a rocket ship here. I need disk space, formatted in RAID 10. I don't need a web interface to configure that. I can do that with a character interface, or even a little MMC snapin. If all goes even remotely close to well, I'm going to configure this array exactly one time. Don't spend a lot of effort making the setup look pretty. Just do what everybody else does and I'll be happy. Novelty is the enemy here. A nice, consistent command line interface is fine.
For those who haven't had the (cough) pleasure of setting up an EMC disk array, you get to use this piece of (cough) software called Navisphere. It's basically a little web server that runs on one of your servers, not necessarily one hooked up to the array, that configures the array for you. OK, let's face facts. EMC wanted to build something to impress managers, so they put it on web pages. It's a piece of software that is essentially a manager-impressing crapfest. It's hard to configure, but at least it's hard to use also. It's clunky. It's Java, which won't run on Windows Server 2003 without browsing a lot of web pages, which is purposefully a chore on Windows Server 2003. It's slow (oh, I'm repeating myself, I already said it was in Java). It doesn't work right (oh yeah, repeating myself again, it's in Java after all). I hope the engineers that wrote Navisphere got lots of great resume buzzword compliance out of it, because it doesn't work and I'd hate to think that all the pain I had to go through to use it was for no purpose.
Oh, and Dell sucks yet again: Shipped me nearly $30K in disk array equipment and forgot to include the rack mount kit, the power cables, the null modem cable, or the cable that plugs in the external bonus power supply. Yes, I got a $26K piece of equipment, brand new, not from eBay, and it arrived with no power cables. Just forgot to pack it into the box. Oopsie. And then tried to tell us that it was going to take a WEEK to ship the rack mount kit. We've got 4 hour parts support on those disk arrays. So instead of ordering them through our sales manager, which would have taken over a week for us to get, we called up support and they got the parts out on same-day air. I'd have been happy with overnight, but the choice was 8 hours or 8 days, so Dell loses.
The device drivers are terrible. If you download the StorPort drivers for the HBA, you won't be able to make Windows Server 2003 work without a hotfix from Microsoft (a side rant on that follows), and according to Dell/EMC support you won't be able to get their PowerPath software to work if you use the new, spiffy StorPort drivers. If you use the Miniport driver, then the EMC PowerPath software is supposed to work. Guess what: I install the miniport drivers and PowerPath, and suddenly I can't use any of the attached disk arrays even if I do use the Miniport drivers. Uninstall PowerPath and the problems go away. Fortunately, I don't need PowerPath for the configuration I'm using, but I'm sticking with the Miniport drivers anyway. Oh, and I think I paid extra for PowerPath.
OK, and on Microsoft and Hotfixes. I found a link to the article on the QLogic (the HBA provider) web site. The link describes the problems that will happen and then tell you to install the hotfix to prevent the problem. No big deal. Except that I have to call Microsoft to get the hotfix. And they send me an email with a link to the hotfix. How about eliminating the middle man and just putting the link ON A WEB PAGE INSTEAD OF IN AN EMAIL? Maybe even the web page that, oh, I don't know, the article is on? Calling Microsoft added NO VALUE WHATSOEVER to this transaction. The operator I talked to was courteous and efficient and did a great job of getting me what I needed, but was ENTIRELY unnecessary. I can't use the hotfix without Windows Server 2003. I can't use Windows Server 2003 for more than 90 days without registering it with Microsoft. So why do I have to call to get the hotfix? Microsoft already knows who I am, and the hotfix specifically only fixes one problem.
MSCS setup has come a really long way in Server 2003. It's almost fun. Silly little wizard didn't let me pick my quorum disk, and I had to put it in the right place afterwards, but that's piddly compared to how bad it used to be. There's some nice work there. There's even a command line interface that's well documented in case I need to set up a million clusters or something and I want to script it out. Very spiffy. SQL Server 2000 setup on the cluster was a breeze also, and the service pack updates afterwards were very very very well done. With the exception of the hotfix garbage, Microsoft has this stuff down cold.
As a safety note, if you're going to rack mount any of these storage arrays anytime soon, make sure you've got some good friends to help you out. These things are incredibly heavy. Like 85-90 pounds each, in a 3U form factor. Very damn heavy. I'm just glad they go into the bottom of the rack.