HPs SAN in a Box Makes Sense for SMBs

 
 
By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2005-03-21
 
 
 

HPs SAN in a Box Makes Sense for SMBs


Hewlett-Packard Co.s StorageWorks Modular Smart Array 1000 Small Business SAN Kit makes it easy for small and midsize businesses to implement a SAN.



Click here to read the full review of HPs SAN kit.

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Hewlett-Packard Co.s StorageWorks Modular Smart Array 1000 Small Business SAN Kit makes it easy for small and midsize businesses to implement a SAN.

Taken piece by piece, none of the components in the HP Small Business SAN Kit stands out. However, the ease with which eWEEK Labs could implement the system during tests shows that the SAN kit is more than the sum of its parts .

Even with improvements in hardware interoperability and management software, a storage area network is still out of reach for many SMBs. The HP kit, however, makes SAN technology more accessible by blending HP software with software from QLogic Corp. and Microsoft Corp. into a simple, wizard-driven SAN management suite. In fact, the SAN kit includes everything needed to set up a small SAN except for the hard drives, which are sold separately.

The HP Small Business SAN Kit is one of a few products available in this emerging category. The HP SAN kit is the first of its kind eWEEK Labs has tested, but competitors include Dell Inc.s AX100 SAN Kit, which uses hardware from EMC Corp., and Compellent Technologies Storage Center.

The HP kit costs $9,999. Adding a little more than 2TB of storage to the kit using 300GB, 10,000-rpm SCSI drives increases the price by $8,393.

The HP kit uses SCSI hard drives and 2G-bps Fibre Channel networking, as opposed to the SATA (Serial ATA) drives and iSCSI used in some competing products. In the long run, we think the reliability of the SCSI drives and the high performance of the Fibre Channel networking will be worth the extra cost they add.

Compellents Storage Center has a starting price of about $20,000, with 2TB of SATA storage. This price is reasonable given the superior management software—including replication, snapshot and virtualization capabilities—that Compellent provides. The Dell AX100 is closer in management functionality to the HP Small Business SAN Kit, but Dells use of SATA drives brings its overall price point below the HP SAN kits, to about $13,245 with roughly 2TB of storage.

Click here to read more about the AX100.

As opposed to piecing together a SAN yourself—and invariably running into interoperability issues when working with different vendors equipment—kits such as HPs make it easy to set up a SAN.

The HP Small Business SAN Kit arrived at eWEEK Labs in a single box containing an HP StorageWorks MSA 1000 storage unit, two HP StorageWorks Q200 Fibre Channel HBAs (host bus adapters), an HP StorageWorks 2/8q Fibre Channel Switch, SAN management software and Fibre Channel cables.

After unpacking all the SAN kits components, we could get the SAN up and running in less than an hour.

The key hardware component in the SAN kit is the HP StorageWorks MSA 1000 storage unit, which is a solid performer and can scale to as much as 12TB of storage. The MSA 1000 we tested had a single 2G-bps Fibre Channel I/O module and one RAID controller, but it can be upgraded for higher reliability and performance. HP offers a high-availability kit for $7,499 that includes an additional MSA 1000 controller, I/O module and 2/8q Fibre Channel Switch. It also includes two additional Q200 Fibre Channel HBAs and three Fibre Channel cables, providing everything needed to upgrade to a multipath SAN environment.

Click here to read about a VPN designed to protect Fibre Channel storage area network traffic over WAN links.

The MSA 1000 enclosure can hold 14 disks internally; ports in the rear support disk shelves that let the system expand to 42 drives.

The MSA 1000 uses HP Universal 1-inch disk drives for storage. You could argue that bundling the disks would have made life even easier for storage managers, but we think its better—and more efficient in the long run—to have a choice of disks based on organizational needs.

For example, to support a transaction-heavy database server, customers can purchase HP Universal 1-inch disk drives with a small storage capacity and high performance, while managers who need to support file servers can buy hard drives with high capacity and slower performance.

The HP SAN kit has an interesting DAS (direct-attached storage)-to-SAN feature that will let IT managers move drives from HP servers to the MSA 1000 storage unit, where the drives can be shared with other SAN-attached servers.

QLogic provides the HBAs and the eight-port, 2G-bps Fibre Channel switch in the HP Small Business SAN Kit, but its most interesting contribution is the SANSurfer Express HBA management tool. SANSurfer Express lets administrators manage the HBA drivers and server firmware, and it can be used to update Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003, as well as Linux servers.

SANSurfer Express, which handles storage resource discovery and provisioning, also has ties to Windows Server 2003s VDS (Virtual Disk Service) manager. This allowed us in tests to create disk partitions and file systems from the SANSurfer Express console—tasks that are usually done in VDS or Windows Disk Manager.

In fact, a system administrator with no knowledge of the Fibre Channel protocol or its management technologies should be able to implement the SAN kit with no problem because the SANSurfer Express tools automate everything in the background. A switch management tool is bundled with the kit, but we didnt have to use it because SANSurfer Express configured everything correctly.

Updates for the HP Small Business SAN Kit are provided at an HP Web site. From this site, we could easily update all the components in the HP SAN kit, saving us the trouble of looking for drivers and firmware revisions individually.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

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  • Dells AX100 SAN Kit A SAN kit that is similar to HPs but uses less expensive SATA drives and comes in either iSCSI or Fibre Channel versions (www.dell.com)
  • Compellents Storage Center Offers advanced features, such as snapshots and mirroring, and provides a choice between Fibre Channel drives and SATA and between iSCSI and Fibre Channel networking—but it costs much more than rivals (www.compellent.com)
  • Senior Analyst Henry Balta-zar can be reached at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.

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