A couple of months ago, we had to assist a company in Hong Kong who wanted to setup their web infrastructure in the US and had made the decision that they wanted their own hardware and wanted to co-locate it on the West coast. They approached us to help sort out their hardware and software configuration. For the last decade we’ve used Dell hardware – for us it is the perfect combination of reasonable cost, performance and high reliability that a remotely managed infrastructure needs.
In general we prefer to use hardware that is a generation older but in good condition. New hardware has its benefits, but given the tight budgets our client had, we opted to go with 1 generation older hardware.
Our chosen platform was based around the Dell 2950. We needed four servers for this setup – two storage and two app / database servers.
The common elements across all the four servers included dual power supplies, dual quad core Xeons, 16GB RAM, PERC hardware raid controllers and DRAC cards. The storage servers had 6 x 1TB nearline SAS drives (7200RPM) in a raid 10 configuration and the app / DB servers had 6 x 146GB SAS drives @ 15K RPM.
We contacted XByte and got a very quick response from Zach in their sales team. Zach was eager to please (a bit too eager — continue reading for more on this). In our email exchange, we changed the configuration a couple of times and he had no problems revising the quotes and was patient with our changing requirements – which were driven by the fact that their pricing was really good and we could get more for the buck that was budgeted for this project.
At some point in our email exchanges, we mentioned that we may need some CISCO hardware. Zack mentioned that they’d started working with a source who could supply us the required hardware at decent pricing. The pricing for the CISCO gear was not the best that could be found, but somehow we figured that buying everything from a single vendor would make our lives easier in co-ordinating the delivery to our client’s chosen datacenter. This is where things fell apart. The CISCO hardware was being sourced from Europe – something that was not communicated to us in an upfront manner.
Our DELL hardware was shipped promptly and arrived in good condition. We had the tracking numbers and could track its progress from Florida to California without any problems. We’d requested EGI to preconfigure the hardware with certain passwords – this would have been a bonus for us if it was done correctly as it would reduce our remote hands cost. Unfortunately it was not configured as per spec. Again, not that big a problem for us.
The problem started when our servers arrived, but there was no sign of the CISCO gear. During all of this Zach was courteous and even offered to refund the funds to us for two switches that they could not source on time. The refund was made to us via Paypal – unfortunately again this meant taking a ~3% loss. We did get the ASA eventually – but given that it was a gray market import from Europe it was delivered with the wrong power cords.
Overall we’d rate XByte highly for their Dell hardware business and would even buy from them again. However, we’d NEVER buy any CISCO or products that are not in current stock with them.