The funny thing about technology is that there is rarely one answer that fits all situations. This is the root of the reason behind the all-too-familiar IT answer, “It depends.” Rarely is this challenge more evident than when trying to write a book that is applicable to as broad an audience as possible. The challenge is compounded when the topic of your book is a large, complex suite of software like VMware vSphere.
As an author, you want to provide information that is helpful, yet at the same time you know that you simply cannot provide the “right” answer for all the possible readers out there. And you also know that you simply don’t have enough pages or enough time to discuss every single potential factor that might play into how a particular technology should be deployed or configured. As an author, you rarely have the time and page count to go as deep as you’d like. (There are exceptions—the HA/DRS clustering deep dives are good examples.) So, you try to take a balanced approach, making fairly broad recommendations that will apply to the largest group of individuals in the most common set of circumstances or situations.
Because you know you can’t provide the “right” answer for all possible situations and environments, you also know that there will be individuals for whom the book isn’t as helpful as it is for others. Perhaps their particular environments have circumstances that aren’t common, or perhaps their functional requirements drive their vSphere environment in directions most organizations don’t go. That’s fine—that’s the whole reason “It depends” is such a popular answer.
As a result, I can’t say that I was terribly surprised when someone on Twitter pointed me to this Spiceworks thread criticizing some broad RAID recommendations that I made in Mastering VMware vSphere 5. As I’ve already stated, it’s impossible (in my opinion) to provide the “right” recommendations for every possible user in a relatively-mainstream IT book such as Mastering VMware vSphere 5. What did surprise me, though, was that the thread was surprisingly vitriolic, focusing more on me personally than on the recommendations themselves (“Mr Lowe…should not be spreading his ignorance” and “I’ve seen some stuff he’s written and I’m none too impressed”). That’s a shame—it would have been so much more helpful for other Spiceworks community members and the virtualization community as a whole if the thread had focused more on providing “better” RAID recommendations than what I included in the book.
So, I’d like to take this opportunity to issue a call to the storage experts out there (which I am not, and have said that on numerous occasions) to chime in and provide what they think are the “best” RAID recommendations or storage configurations to support a VMware vSphere environment. Keep in mind the challenges I described earlier—you need recommendations that are broadly applicable to many users, many environments, many situations. Please add your thoughts in the comments below, and—where applicable—please provide any relevant affiliations or disclosures. All courteous comments are welcome!
(Full disclosure: I do work for EMC, although this is not an EMC blog and “Mastering VMware vSphere 5″ was not sponsored or supported by EMC in any way. I speak only for myself.)