Review: HP Virtual SAN Appliance teaches dumb storage new tricks

HP’s LeftHand P4000 Virtual SAN Appliance offers a wealth of flexibility with a few caveats

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As previously mentioned, each VSA can support no more than five 2TB disks. If the initial disks added to the appliance are less than 2TB in size (in my case, the first I created was 500GB), there is no way to increase the size of those disks. To get the full five-by-2TB capacity, you'll need to remove the VSA from the cluster, delete any sub-2TB disks from it, and install the larger disks before adding the VSA back into the cluster. In these cases, the restripe time is substantially longer than the resync time involved in adding a new disk -- generally measured in hours or days depending upon the amount of data involved. In short, you'll typically want to add storage in increments of 2TB if it is likely that the full capacity of the VSA will be used in the long run.

Monitoring and managing
In addition to allowing you to view current and historical alerts, the CMC will also let you configure email and SNMP-based alerting to make sure you're aware of any trouble brewing within the environment. The CMC also contains a fairly detailed performance graphing utility, but this is substantially limited by the fact that the CMC must be explicitly commanded to start and stop recording performance statistics.

Those interested in retaining these stats (highly recommended) will undoubtedly want to implement a third-party trending/graphing platform so that performance can be monitored over long periods of time and trends can be identified. Fortunately, this is easily done. Most of the platform's performance stats are exposed via SNMP, and a large number of third-party monitoring platforms have prebuilt templates made for the P4000 series.

Putting it all together
Overall, I found the HP P4000 VSA to be an extremely flexible storage system that's also easy to work with. End to end, it took me only an hour or so to get it set up running -- and I didn't use the Zero-to-SAN wizard included with the installation package. Simply put, for existing P4000-series users who already leverage virtualization technology, the VSA is a no-brainer for solving a variety of problems. In fact, a number of P4000 system bundles include VSA licensing, so many customers may already own VSAs without being aware of it. For prospective P4000-series users, the cross-compatibility between the VSA and the rest of the P4000 series will undoubtedly be a huge selling point.

For small-business customers seeking to implement shared storage to support features such as live virtual machine migration and automated host failover, the HP P4000 VSA is definitely worth a look. The only strikes against it are the relatively high cost of the stand-alone VSA licenses (about $3,700 each on the street) and the cost of equipping host servers with enough raw storage to support Network RAID10. In many cases you'll pay no more for an internally redundant physical SAN. But if you already own the storage and you simply want to take advantage of the clustering, snapshotting, or remote replication functionality, the VSA licenses may be well worth the expense.

This article, "Review: HP P4000 VSA teaches dumb storage new tricks," originally appeared at Read Matt Prigge's Information Overload blog and follow the latest developments in storage at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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