Published: Wednesday, 03 December 2014 20:52
The MSA storage series from HP is an already good storage system. It scales quite good and is very versatile. With it's relatively low costs it's a perfect entry system for smaller SANs and a perfect backend for storage virtualization software like DataCore. With the latest firmware GL200 HP adds new features to the entry level storage systems MSA2040 and MSA1040. These features are:
- Thin Provisioning
- SSD Read Cache
- Automated Tiering (with Performance and Archive Tiering)
- Snapshot Enhancements
- Wide Striping
All features are included without additional license costs except part of Automated tiering on the MSA2040 and Wide Striping and Automated tiering on the MSA1040 model.
Let's get a closer look at the new features.
- Thin Provisioning: a well known feature on most availabe storage systems, even in the entry-level segment. Thin Provisioning allows the storage admin to present more storage than the system physically has. This makes storage handling easier and more efficient but also adds some culprits as overprovisioning can be dangerous if you run out of physical disk space.
- SSD Read Cache: this feature uses SSDs in the MSA to cache data to accelerate random reads. Can be quite useful in a mainly read-intensive environment. All supported SSDs can be used for read caching. As it is a read-only caching the SSD doesn't have to be in a redundant configuration. Loss of the SSD only slows down I/O but has no impact on data integrity or availability.
- Automated Tiering: The MSA now supports up to three tiers (SSD, SAS and MDL SAS) that can act together in a AutoTiering pool. Data is relocated on a sub-LUN base based on the access frequency. Tiering between SAS and MDL SAS is included by default at no additional costs (so called archive tiering) and has to be licensed separately for the use of SSDs (so called performance tiering). The license is at ~3700€ list price. The SSD tier can only be used in a redundant SSD configuration so at least two SSDs have to be available in the system to build a tier1 group.
- Snapshot enhancements: formerly the MSA series only supported Copy-on-Write snapshots. This is a quite simple snapshot method that has some performance impact. The new firmware supports Redirect-on-writes where only pointers are set and data doesn't have to be copied. The 64 snapshot license is included, an upgrade to 512 snapshots can be purchased separately.
- Wide Striping: WS is a technique enterprise class systems like the EVA series from HP offered in the past. To be able to use WS a new feature called Storage Pool is introduced in the latest firmware. Storage pools allows a LUN (or volume to speak in the MSA language) to span across all physical disks in a pool. Adding capacity will also result in added performance as the existing volumes can also use the newly added disks.
With these enhancements the MSA can compete with some mid-range storage systems but at a much smaller footprint regarding costs and maintenance afford.