HP Refreshes MSA

New SMB series could go head-to-head with EMC's AX4

February 7, 2008

3 Min Read
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Hewlett-Packard has upgraded its Modular Smart Array (MSA) series of low-end SANs, in a move that rounds out a flurry of SMB releases by big storage suppliers.

Like its predecessor MSA1000, of which HP claims 120,000 have shipped worldwide, the MSA2000 comprises iSCSI and Fibre Channel in a single- or dual-controller array. Each box can also serve NAS heads directly or through a gateway on a server (an HP ProLiant, of course).

What's new in the MSA2000? Here's a list:

  • SAS backend. By replacing a SCSI disk interface with a SAS backend, HP enables the MSA2000 to support both SAS and SATA drives in the same enclosure. Capacity has also gone up from 12.5 Tbytes per array to 36 Tbytes. While HP uses 750-Gbyte SATA drives today, the vendor promises 1-Tbyte drives "soon." These will boost the overall capacity of each box to 48 Tbytes. Each MSA2000 array also supports up to 64 hosts via Fibre Channel, compared to a total of 20 FC-linked hosts before.

  • 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel. The MSA2000 also supports iSCSI, which is still relegated to 1-Gbit/s, though a dual-controller setup can serve two 1-Gbit/s ports at once.

  • LUN enhancements. Each MSA2000 sports 256 LUNs, versus 32 in the former series. "The increase was driven by the needs of virtual server environments," says Charles Vallhonrat, manager of MSA marketing for HP. LUNs also can expand to 16 Tbytes, versus a former limitation of 2 Tbytes -- a feature Vallhonrat says is crucial for archiving.

  • Better backup support. HP now offers a persistent cache based on non-volatile RAM (NVRAM) and Flash that does not require a battery. New software enables customers to license from 8 to 64 snapshots per system.

On the downside, HP does not support controller-based replication, though competitor EMC has promised this for its recently announced AX4. "If controller-based replication is critical to a customer, we would expect them to evaluate an EVA product," states Vallhonrat.

Pricing for the MSA2000 ranges from $5,000 for a single-controller iSCSI system with no hard drives to about $14,313 for a dual-controller system with six 300-Gbyte SAS drives. HP includes the management software, but snapshot and cloning software cost extra.

HP's MSA2000 aligns most closely with EMC's AX4 and the rebranded Dell version of that product, the AX4-5. And at least one analyst thinks it's going to be war.

"EMCs AX4 will go head to head with the MSA2000 family, so both EMC and HP will fight it out tooth and nail for the hearts and share of wallet of HP ProLiant server customers,” states David G. Hill, principal at the Mesabi Group.There are other competitors, too: IBM's DS3300; and the recently announced PS5000 iSCSI array from Dell, the first announcement to surface from Dell's purchase of EqualLogic.

Despite competition, there's also commonality among all these offerings. HP has rounded out the list of major SAN suppliers throwing their weight behind iSCSI, SAS/SATA disks, support for virtualization, and improved management for SMB customers.

At least one analyst views today's news as an incremental indication of overall trends. "HP is offering a traditional architecture. It's not revamped; it's freshened up. But it's a fairly wide, pretty reasonable, and decent upgrade," says Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Mesabi Group LLC

  • Taneja Group0

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