Hewlett-Packard StorageWorks MSA1000 Small Business SAN Kit

Need an affordable FC SAN solution? HP's Small Business SAN Kit may be just the ticket.

April 26, 2005

6 Min Read
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StorageWorks MSA1000Click to Enlarge

For this test, I chose to use our faithful old Compaq DL-580 server with four 800-MHz processors, 1 GB of memory and a fresh build of Windows Server 2003. The test system arrived at NWC's Green Bay, Wis., Real-World Labs® in the form of an immaculately packaged cardboard monolith; and though the setup took somewhat longer than the advertised 35 minutes, the SAN went together in a little over an hour--what I'd consider record time for an FC installation.

I took the time to read the simplified instructions to envision how difficult it would be for an FC newbie going through the same process for the first time. I found the physical build quite simple, and the kit came with rails and templates for racking the main drive subsystem and FC switch. For storage, our test system came with four 72.8-GB/10,000-rpm drive modules that snapped in place in minutes. This left only the final steps of inserting the HBA card in our test server, connecting the server, switch and storage with the provided cables, and powering up.

HP and company did a fine job of making the process relatively painless for Server 2003 installations. All necessary device drivers and management tools are provided on a single setup disk, though I found that the simplified documentation and setup wizards included are targeted primarily at Windows Server 2003 users. HP also includes drivers and support applications for Windows Server 2000, as well as an alternative installation routine for Red Hat and SuSE Linux. The three SAN-management tools included as part of this Small Business Solution are HP Storage Manager, HP Switch Manager and an express version of QLogic's SANSurfer, which serves as the simplified/centralized management interface for the SAN environment under Windows Server 2003.

During installation, the software wizards guide the new user through the most difficult parts of the FC SAN configuration process, automatically creating domains, zones and World Wide Names for the attached devices. Optimized to take advantage of Server 2003's VDS (Virtual Disk Services), the software seamlessly handles basic storage concerns like LUN discovery, formatting and masking. It also provides the platform for advanced storage features, such as RAID stacking and the ability to dynamically grow and shrink LUNs.Upon opening the SANSurfer application for the first time, you're presented with a "Configure Your SAN" wizard that leads novice users through the process of designating a physical disk array, creating a new logical disk and formatting it for use. Advanced users desiring more control can skip the wizard and dive into the graphical management interface that controls LUN mapping and volume administration and provides limited inline management of the switches and HBAs in the network. For users desiring even more control over their storage environment, HP's SAN Manger and Switch Manager applications offer more detailed administration capabilities, but companies requiring mirroring and replication will have to upgrade to a full version of HP's OpenView software.

Good

• Turnkey FC SAN solution

• User-friendly setup and management• Single SKU-ordering simplicity

Bad

• Limited FC network interconnectivity

• Mirroring and replication require the purchase of additional OpenView software

StorageWorks MSA1000 Small Business SAN Kit, $9,999 without hard drives. Hewlett-Packard Co., 800-888-9909, (650) 857-1501. www.hp.com

I was intrigued by the RAID stacking capabilities offered in SANSurfer, so I decided to build concurrent RAID 0, RAID 0+1 and RAID 5 volumes on the four lone disks that came with our test SAN. Because the Small Business SAN Kit also supports HP's ADG (Advanced Data Guarding) RAID specification, a dual-parity scheme designed to survive the loss of two disks in the array, I added ADG to the RAID mix. Arrays can be configured to build in the background, making them available immediately; but as you'd expect, the system will run at full performance only after the build is completed, so I let them finish building overnight.

Switch Manager FaceplateClick to Enlarge

I came back the next day and fired up IOMeter to establish read and write benchmarks using four workers to test each of the individual LUNs. Read capabilities topped out at about 170 MB per second for file transfers larger than 1 MB, regardless of RAID level. This translates to 1.74 Gbps and is safely in the range of acceptable 2-Gigabit FC performance; especially given the fact that we had only four drives in our array. The differences between RAID schemes were more distinct in the write tests, where top performance ranged from about 95 MB per second for striped arrays to about 50 MB per second on parity arrays.

I experienced some performance hits on tests that hammered more than one LUN simultaneously. To establish the mixed performance of stacked arrays, I ran the same series of tests using two workers assigned to the RAID 0+1 and RAID 5 LUNs, and another series assigning one worker to each of the four RAID types. Read performance of the combined arrays dipped by about 30 percent overall, but the write performance dropped substantially, to an average of only 29 MB per second. In all fairness, I doubt that anyone would run a production environment that utilized four different RAID types on a single four-disk array; but it does illustrate the processing overhead required to manage RAID stacking, and it would be reasonable to expect better performance with more physical drives.

The MSA1000 ships with redundant power supplies, and network redundancy can be added with the purchase of a "High Availability" upgrade kit that provides a second controller for the MSA1000, another 2/8q FC switch, two HBAs and additional cables. Alone, the MSA1000 storage array is functional in a variety of data-center applications, but the SAN Kit as a product is specifically targeted at the SMB market. You're limited to only seven server connections because of the number of available ports on the FC switch, and the 2/8q switch doesn't support interswitch links, so it wouldn't be possible to connect the kit into an existing FC SAN environment.

Overall, the HP StorageWorks MSA1000 Small Business SAN Kit accomplishes what it sets out to do: providing one-SKU shopping for the hardware and software required for a scalable, small-business FC SAN under Windows or Linux. Setup and management can be handled without the need for specialized IT staff, and storage expansion is available through the purchase of up to two additional HP-MSA30 drive enclosures, connected by SCSI and supporting a maximum of 42 drives for a total of 12.6 terabytes of raw storage. Filling the 14 drive bays in a single enclosure with 300-GB/10,000-rpm Ultra320 SCSI drives would cost an additional $16,786, bringing the total cost of the kit to $26,785 for 4.2 terabytes of raw storage.Steven Hill owns and operates ToneCurve Technology, a digital imaging consulting company. Write to him at [email protected].

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