HP iSCSI pack kicks DAS

Amazing Application Storage Manager smooths migration to networked storage

Migrating file servers, e-mail servers, and databases from DAS to networked storage improves resilience and performance, and it’s probably less expensive in the long term, but it requires a mastery of a variety of storage technologies — a mastery many small companies lack. No wonder they choose to stay with the old-fashioned but easier-to-manage DAS.

If this picture describes your company’s attitude toward storage, consider the new version of the Hewlett-Packard ProLiant Storage Server IFP (iSCSI Feature Pack). IFP is essentially HP’s OEM version of FalconStor’s iSCSI Storage Server (see page 27). HP offers two versions of IFP, one for stand-alone ProLiant servers such as the ML370, and a predictably more expensive version for gateway servers such as the DL580. Both versions run on top of Microsoft WSS (Windows Storage Server) 2003 and add block-serving ability to WSS’s built-in file serving. The result is a single storage server that combines the powerful iSCSI SAN from FalconStor with flexible file serving.

The new version of IFP introduces HP’s ASM (Application Storage Manager), a remarkable application that automates data migration from existing servers to networked storage. The ASM GUI is so easy to use, you could put your mom in charge of the migration from DAS.

Storage genie
ASM is an expert system that hides the complexity of managing WSS, IFP, and storage arrays behind a simple, application-oriented management GUI. ASM automatically finds your Microsoft or Oracle databases on existing legacy servers and, following embedded best practices, migrates their data to the storage server. If you use Microsoft Exchange for your company e-mail, ASM will migrate its storage groups, too.

Your administrators don’t need to know how the underlying storage systems work. They can manage the migration to a new system by simply pointing a wizard to existing databases and requesting the move. ASM manages the grunt work, including creating LUs (logical units) on the storage array and the iSCSI server, configuring the iSCSI initiator on the application server, and pointing the application to the new data location. It’s like having a storage genie at your service.

Perhaps even more important is that ASM doesn’t create a dependency; you can retire it and turn to human control at any time, typically as soon as your administrators complete storage training. A noteworthy bonus to using ASM is that it accelerates that training.

Easy as ASM
I tested ASM in a typical entry-level setting that included a PDC (primary domain controller), an HP ProLiant DL380 application server running Microsoft SQL Server and Exchange, and another DL380 assuming the role of my new storage server.

The storage server connected to a single SCSI disk enclosure via an HP Smart Array 6i controller, with WSS and IFP/ASM installed. My testing objective was to migrate the databases from the local disks to the storage server.

To open the SQL Server migration wizard I chose “Action” and then “Host SQL Server database” from the ASM menu. After a welcome screen and a suggestion that I continue only if I had a good backup of the database, the wizard asked me to choose a database from a pull-down list.

I didn’t have to type names because ASM automatically discovered my databases and e-mail storage groups. After I chose Northwind as my database, the wizard asked me if Northwind is update-intensive, a factor which obviously affects the amount of storage to make available.

The next window proposed how much space to allocate and what RAID level to use, values you can eventually change. From your answers, ASM builds a list of activities for the move. The next screen showed the list and allowed me to schedule or execute it at once.

A larger database will take longer, but in minutes I had safely moved Northwind from the local drives to the storage server. I repeated the exercise with other databases as well as with Exchange, and in every case ASM transferred my data reliably without forcing me to open the hood of my storage server.

Using similar, friendly wizards, ASM will help expand a database running out of space without even stopping its applications. And you can use ASM to allocate space on the storage server for just about any application. For example, you can create new shared folders for users’ files or a new volume for your homemade applications. ASM won’t move the data, but it will do all the dirty work of provisioning storage.

Migrating to networked storage has never been easier or more affordable than it is with HP’s ASM. If the disks in your ProLiant servers are bursting at the seams, now may be the time to take advantage of the unified storage offered by HP’s iSCSI Feature Pack.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Value (10.0%)
Performance (20.0%)
Scalability (20.0%)
Management (20.0%)
Interoperability (10.0%)
Reliability (20.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
HP ProLiant Storage Server iSCSI Feature Pack 9.0 8.0 8.0 10.0 9.0 9.0 8.8
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