The HP LeftHand P4300 4.8TB SAS Starter SAN Solution is an affordable, scalable and manageable iSCSI SAN for midsize and larger organizations.
The centerpiece of the offering is the SAN/iQ storage software and its excellent management capabilities. The combination of LeftHand's software and Hewlett-Packard's hardware (the units I tested were 2U DL185 servers) creates a true n-way clustered architecture, allowing for a combination of load balancing and failover.
This architecture allows multiple storage controllers (servers with drive arrays) to present to administrators, users and applications as a single logical system. This facilitates expansion because a single node can be taken offline to upgrade components (such as CPU, RAM or NICs) without downing the whole cluster.
New storage controllers can be added very easily. During eWEEK Labs' tests, I added one to my cluster in less than 15 minutes simply by assigning IP addresses and an admin user name and password. This sort of flexibility is worth its weight in gold in the always-on world of enterprise storage. In contrast, the Cybernetics mi-SAN-D I recently reviewed offers only active/passive failover, which means no load balancing and offline upgrades only.
After racking and connecting the dual power supplies, dual 1G-bps NICs for data and a third NIC to my management network, I powered up the two units that are bundled together in the HP LeftHand P4300 4.8TB SAS Starter SAN Solution, which starts at $35,000. (Alternatively, a 12TB SATA Starter SAN starts at $30,000.)
The first system booted smoothly and launched an ugly but useful installation tool with which I configured the server name, IP networking, and an admin user name and password. The second server started, but failed to recognize the array controller and therefore didn't boot completely.
Of course, the first thing I did then was take the server apart, at which point I noticed that the board containing the SAN/iQ software had fallen off of the P400 RAID controller-obviously a casualty of rough handling during shipping. Popping it back on did not solve the problem, but after an e-mail and a quick call, a new controller and a third server were on their way. After I installed the new controller, the server booted up smoothly.
The next step was to install the Windows Solution Pack and the SAN/iQ management console on my Microsoft Windows 2003 EE server. The Windows Solution Pack includes the LeftHand DSM (Device Specific Module) for MPIO, which greatly improves performance between Windows Server and the cluster, and the VDS and VSS providers necessary for virtual machine storage management.