Recently I was giving a presentation on designing storage for VMware Horizon. I was referencing the HP Client Virtualization SMB Reference Architecture for VMware View, based on an earlier version, but still valid. The conversation kept coming back to well can’t I do more than that, or why wouldn’t I just do it this way.
One of the better hardware compatibility lists is actually the VMware Compatibility Guide. The best feature is that it is simple to understand, searchable, and matrixed. This is a critical tool because it enables us to know what has been tested and what works, but more importantly what can be supported. Of course it is often more expensive to go with supported configurations, but if we are looking at cost as the primary criteria, it would make more sense to use open source technologies. While I am a big fan of open source for labs and various projects, the cost of supporting these in a production environment is often far more than simply using supported configuration and paying for support. This is also true for using commodity hardware which is not supported.
The same can be said of reference architectures. HP does an excellent job of creating these, especially because they have hardware in all major categories. In the example I started with, the major issue was that the questions were around cost. The person creating the design wanted to know why the can’t remove parts or replace them for cheaper ones. The short answer is simply that the reference architecture is tested with all the components it contains. It is a known quantity so it will work, and if it doesn’t the support teams can fix it since they know all the pieces.
So to sum up, doing things the way the manufacturer recommends will save a great deal of heartache. To answer the question, you can do things your own way, but you may find that it is more trouble to support than it is worth.