Right, thanks to everyone who's responded so far.
After spending far too long last night getting up to speed with what's out there and poking around to see what they can do I'm currently eyeing up EMC VNXe and Infortrend hardware.
I've got a few calls in to vendors and a few more to make.
If you end up needing more options the IBM kit can be cost effective, at least hear and not to bad, mainly rebranded and packaged LSI stuff where they have actually bothered to finish the software. Saying that IBM are the only company I know that are able to make their basic config and monitoring tool take 2GB of hd and a GB of ram thanks to bundling every bit of oss in existence but our sas based one has worked well. Luckily they are still made by IBM rather than Lenovo so they still include build quality as standard.
Give the Viglen Storage Group a call. They know their stuff, and have plenty of experienc building SANs. Their product range might not be a good fit, but you'll find out pretty quickly, and they completely remove the hassle of worrying about getting (and keeping) it going:)
I would go for the EMC, we have the vnx5300 and had an NS120 before it, very reliable kit and the vnx series very easy to configure.
You can download a VM that will simulate the vnx and let you hold 20GB of data. It should give you an idea of what it can do and how easy it is to use.
Also try and find your local EMC education contact they will usually give you a massive discount :)
We just got a vnx 5300 with 30TB, very happy. we had quotes from net app, IBM, 3PAR, Dell. Performance wise and flexibility EMC where miles ahead. Price was competitive to. Let me know if you want some more info. We used a company called softcat, very professional and honest.
From personal experience I would avoid the Sun / Oracle SANs, complete nightmare and the support contract costs were too high when it was Sun it was acceptable now its Oracle its too expensive. Also with them killing off the Sun Rays recently I would fear what is next given they are such a small player in the SAN market.
If I was buying again I would ensure I got something like an EMC.
The Sun Ray announcement was a bit of a shock and disappointing, but I doubt the SANs are going anywhere since Oracle's Exadata products use them extensively as backup devices.
And as I've said before, I've heard horror stories for EMC and HP SANs and have personally seen issues with a couple of HP SANs and saw a million dollar fibre channel Hitachi SAN die on a major Australian retailer about 9 years ago taking the backed databases for two retail chains down with it. Good backups and DR strategy are the key no matter what you're using.
I had a 7110 and a 7120, the firmwares were as bad as each other, iSCSI performance sucked on both boxes on any firmware, SMB was ok but if you had to restart your DNS service then the box would choke till you reset the SMB Service and if you had any latency on DNS it would randomly stop sharing. NFS was reliable though, it never dropped my VMs ever which was good.
The statement unplug and it just start, true to a point, again if your DNS isn't 100% perfect then you had no chance with it, if it started before the DNS was ready it would freeze / lock up / not respond and then log files would slowly fill the disks making the box moan.
The GUI would randomly sulk if you had too many analytics open which was a shame as I enjoyed using them as they were amazing and that is one thing EMC kit lacks is those amazing analytics.
Firmware wise,if anything, the Oracle FW was worse than the Sun ones, I remember the first Oracle branded F/W for them, man it was atrocious and was agreed by a number on here at that time. At least with Sun new F/W was out often which was good as bugs were being fixed, updates and new features added etc... but now its Oracle its not that often, when I last looked it must have been 3 releases or so in the space that in the old Sun days we would have had 10.
Having seem what an EMC bit of tin does as we have enough of them where I now work and the issues I and others on here had with the Sun kit (including a colleague I work with) I would not spend that money again on them it would be better invested in something from EMC.
RE the support, when it used to be few hundred £s a year with Sun and it shot up to be closer to £1K for the 7110 as Oracle only were willing to do a Platinum 24x7x365 support contract at the time that isn't what we wanted and thus blew the budget and the 7120 was even worse which was a shame, with the costs of those contracts in a few years we could have bought a new EMC array instead. But as the kit was buggy and the only way of support is via them its too bigger risk to take to not have the support on hand. I did get some money out of the contract as the 7120 started eating HDDs 3 in 3 weeks so that is a few quid of value.
In the latter times I found the support was also less than acceptable, it seems that the UK had lost its Storage team based in Reading as they were excellent but I never managed to deal with one of them in the last 6 months maybe they have all left, certainly most of the people I had an email for it was returned as undelivered implying they had left which was sad as there was a lot of long timers in that team that knew the kit from day 1 and you could tell were suffering at the hands of Oracle.
Support cases were too often fobbed off on your using it wrong, wrong type of data being stored despite asking for advice from them on setup etc.... Best one is the data we were storing was not the right type and had caused a high fragmentation thus it needed re-building from scratch, which is great but where do I put all those TBs of data to allow me to do that, as a result cases were just being closed with cannot do anything till you reformat so I said can they help with a loan unit to move the data to etc... to which there was no response or offer of help / suggestions on what we could do other than buy another SAN as obviously I have thousands of £'s laying around doing nothing....
Down here, I've been told by several people to stay away from EMC as the support was terrible and expensive. At one point when I was considering EMC as a vendor I was told by their distributor in Oz that no EMC SAN units were available in country for at least 2 months. That was ridiculous, so they got no look from me. Clearly support and availability are much better in the UK for EMC.
Maybe you have better support from Oracle, maybe they have no interest in the UK Market. Certainly for UK I would not consider one and would be looking at EMC.