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RocketScientist's Miscellaneous Ramblings
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Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

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.

Print | posted on Tuesday, December 16, 2003 4:36 PM |

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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Chris:
Ordered the CX 200. Shudder to think what will happen ;-)
-srini
12/31/2003 4:40 PM | srini
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Why didn't you stick with the HP arrays?
1/8/2004 4:05 AM | Dan
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Politics. Our CEO likes dell and won't even look at PO's for anything else because Dell is the low-cost leader. Of course, they are the low cost leader because they do crappy research and product development and produce shoddy, low quality, hard to configure equipment, but that's my problem, not his.
1/8/2004 9:26 AM | rocketscientist
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

It's sad to see this stuff happening when we are an extremely happy dell shop with a cx400 and a ns600g, both from the Dell/EMC partnership. This is someone who has worked with DEC, no wait, Compaq, uh, my bad HP for a long time and will never do anything but printers with them again.
5/18/2004 10:00 AM | Mike
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Very helpful article. I especially enjoyed the rant about the Microsoft hotfix, yet not bothering to tell us the actual hotfix number. I guess rocketscientist wants us to all share the experience?
5/21/2004 7:22 AM | Steve
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Oops. Knowledge base article attached. Here it is again just in case:

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;818877


rs.
5/21/2004 10:02 AM | rocketscientist
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Yeah...HP makes good printers and pocket PC's....If you are looking for high functionality, stellar performance and the best damn storage on the market today according to Gartner, EMC is the obvious choice. Don't confuse DELL and EMC just because of their partnership.

If you don't beleive me, just take a look at HP's recent release...Carlie even said their storage is crap!!!
8/26/2004 10:59 PM | Joe
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Hey where could I get those direction. My stupid emc xc200 the os crashed and cannot configure the raid. I need some prodcedure please help out because dell will not.
10/7/2004 1:41 PM | Dharmesh
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Dell has some online docs, but you're better off going directly to EMC. You may be able to get support from them, but you will be able to get access to their online documentation, which is in the "private" section of their website. The documentation is either called the "installation" guide or the "configuration" guide, navigating their doc library is hell.
10/8/2004 10:40 AM | rocketscientist
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Hey I really need directions for this can anyone help me out. dhampatel@hotmail.com
10/8/2004 10:41 AM | dharmesh
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

In the time it took you you write this rant, you could have researched your EMC products and found the Navicli util. It does all you need without Java. On the other hand, if you aren't capable of getting it going in timely fashion with the GUI version.....well nevermind. I am pretty sure you can have someone from Dell or EMC come install it for you as well. Then you only have to deal with day to day usage.
6/9/2005 12:40 AM | FYI(JC)
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Actually, FYI(JC), Navicli USES JAVA!

Yes, its a total pile of poop, too.
10/31/2005 1:47 AM | Nathan
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

I have an CX700 and have not had any problems with it. I bought my through Unisys and an ES7000, they installed and turned up the CX700 in 1 day. If you want it done right call Unisys, Dell has been nothing but a pain.
11/30/2005 10:27 PM | Bill
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

We have a two CX-700's. They were both purchased from EMC. EMC support is very poor. Everytime we undergo a "non-disruptable" Flare code upgrade we have problems with hosts finding their LUNS. During one upgrade our EMC "engineer" destroyed our entire array, and we had to restore 10TB from backup tapes.

I would NOT recommend EMC to anyone. Their Customer support is terrible, their onsite SE's are worse, the executive team does not give a damn about customer service.

Buy your storage from anyone but EMC, try Hitachi or IBM as they are known for their customer care. EMC is a company which needs to end up in bankruptcy and revert back to selling mainframe and mini-computer RAM products.
12/10/2005 5:28 PM | Bob WIlliams
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

We bought NetApp and have never had to look at any other vendors storage because it handles NAS, SAN, iSCSI, NFS, CIFS simulaneously and offers greater disk outage protection than EMC or HDS can for less price.

You really should eliminate your headaches once and for all and go with a flexible storage platform.
12/14/2005 10:02 AM | Scott
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Well... you can buy any storage you want Bob.... but let me tell you something. The fact that you recommended IBM and said they have good customer service? They make crappy storage gear and what they don't make is low-end, rebranded LSI Logic. Customer service sucks even worse than EMC.

Buy any storage you want, but think twice before buying IBM.
1/11/2006 8:30 PM | Mike
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Funny I we put in a CX500 & booted 10 Win2k3 Servers from the san, dual connected all the servers, ran 2 McData Flexports, & have had zero problems with the thing & this is going on 3 years.

One note. Never Never Never buy EMC through Dell. They are horrible. Buy through someone that knows what they are doing with the stuff like Forsythe.

Anyone like old Bob up top here that would reccomend IBM sotrage is a nut.

Go IBM if you have an AS400, other thatn that it can only be used as a boat anchor.
2/25/2006 8:04 PM | Ron
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Sounds like you have an attitude problem driven by ignorance?
2/28/2006 12:36 PM | John Doe
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Somebody should remind everyone here that Dell is cheap because it has very little costs with those "useless" things like support.
Managers only see how much they pay, and don't care about difficulties ins seting up, because they blame those in "incompetent" staff.
Look at Oracle. Used to have thousands of people in support, and managers complained about price. They cut on the support staff, and everybody who worked with support complained on the surveys, but, strange enough the management surveys were excelent.
Bottom line, if you pay cheaper, you loose the "extras" that are support, and ease of use, because those cost money which you only pay for when you buy.
3/22/2006 9:33 AM | Nef
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Same scrape here ...
But with Linux 4.2 and CX500.
There is a very sevier issue with PowerPath.
If you run into some trouble just skip PowerPath ....
PowerPath => Lemon ....
4/11/2006 10:43 AM | A disappointed customer
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

I dislike the way lots of emc people play around with customers, presenting lots of lies. Also the software charges and restrictions of who´s allowed to upgrade fw sucks. To use windows in cx for mgmt has sofar led to weekly updates... and why should a buy software like p-path when we could use software thats included in os or handed for free. My tip is to ignore lots of the silly "pc/manager papers" and go for a platform that keeps software charges a low cost, where upgrades are included and can be done of the customers. I want the 2-3-4 year hw + sw maint cost bundled into one piece and NOT the way that hw are 2-3 years but sw only 90 days...
5/23/2006 3:01 PM | A good guy
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

EMC storage is ok but their service is crap! I use Hitachi storage for the SAN, never brakes, excellent support! Probably because they are the only vendor that actually manufactures all their own equipment.
6/21/2006 4:26 PM | Storage junky
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Sound to me like the biggest problem with storage is that you really need to know what you are doing...

It's not as forgiving as Windows servers there you can mange them without propper knowledge. With Storage you need acctully need some skills before tring to mange it.

Read the support matrix from the storage vendors, people, and you will find that it starts to work for you too.
7/13/2006 2:06 AM | Storage Monkey
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

We purchased a HP MSA1000 SMB SAN kit and unboxed/racked & were running in 2 hours. Everything came in the kit except the drives. They had a SAN installation poster that walked us through the process. Simple and Easy. The only service question we ever had was answered quickly and their web site is very helpful.
7/27/2006 5:45 PM | Storage made easy
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Wow, I'm not impressed by the ranting. First you're running windows, what do you expect! Second, you let EMC feed you lies, what else do you expect! Storage Monkey says it best. So please don't rant about something you obviously know little about.
My two cents.
8/8/2006 12:53 PM | Adam
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

"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."
Get a USB hard drive, you may be able to set it up.
It took me 3h to do it the first time without even reanding the complete manual.
Installation procedure is 5 pages long....
9/1/2006 4:11 AM | zOU
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# re: Dell and EMC. They deserve each other.

Monkey said :

"Sound to me like the biggest problem with storage is that you really need to know what you are doing... "

And did he ever hit the nail on the head.

Back in the mainframe/disk farm days, we had entire groups dedicated to storage. Now it's just a task added to a few people on top of their other job functions.

We're currently deciding between an EMC DMX3 or a high end NetApp filer dual site solution.

As one of the idiots who volunteered to carve out storage, I can tell you what a pain it is usning Control Center. What a cluge. You use it so rarely that you practically have to relearn it every time your in there. NetApp on the other hand was a breeze. Of course you can always have EMC put a new bin in for you at 10-15 grand a pop.

And the EMC people are weasels. Our 3.8 million dollar bid had come down to almost 2 once they found out NetApp gave us a filer to test out.

just my 2 cents.
9/17/2006 11:23 PM | Trashman
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