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HP MSA 1040 Storage Review

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HP is getting very serious about the SMB storage market as its latest IP SAN disk array delivers a quality product at a very affordable price. We think the new MSA 1040 Storage looks remarkably good value as it includes dual hot-swap RAID controllers as standard – go to any other Tier 1 IP SAN vendor and you’ll be lucky to get a single controller at the same price point.

There are no compromises either as the MSA 1040 delivers a feature set worthy of an enterprise. Essential end-to-end hardware redundancy is provided making it well suited to mission-critical applications, virtualization or storage consolidation projects.

The controllers function in active/active mode which means they’re both online and performing cache mirroring. If one controller fails, the other takes over all storage management roles and another bonus is all their data ports are usable – cheaper active/passive arrays only have the data ports on the active controller available.

Options aplenty

The MSA 1040 is offered with 12 LFF or 24 SFF hot-swap drive bays and HP’s drive choices include 6Gbps SAS2, SSDs and midline SAS. For review, HP supplied us with the 24 SSF drive bay model with two controllers each with dual 10-Gigabit (10GbE) SFP+ ports.

You’re not limited to Ethernet either as along with dual 10GbE and Gigabit equipped controllers, HP offers 8Gbps Fibre Channel models as well. Cache memory in these 4th-Generation controllers has been boosted to 4GB and their contents protected against power failures by a combination of CompactFlash card and fast charging super-capacitor.

The array comes as standard with dual 573W hot-plug PSUs each with integral cooling fans. However, the very noisy fans make it far better suited to a server room or sound-proofed cabinet and not an open office.

If you’re running out of capacity the 6Gbps SAS interconnect ports on each controller can be used to daisy-chain more disk shelves using dual redundant links. Up to three MSA 2040 12-bay LFF or D2700 24-bay SFF shelves can be added for a total of 48 LFF or 99 SFF drives. If you want more performance and expansion potential you can even swap out the controllers and replace them with faster ones from HP’s MSA 2040 Storage model.

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Slick installation

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HP’s well-designed web console provides graphical views of the hardware and wizard assistance for vdisk creation. – click for a closeup

Deployment is a cinch as we fired up the array in the lab and pointed a web browser at the default IP address on the primary controller. We found the web interface very easy to use and its graphical views made it simple to keep an eye on all controllers, disks, arrays and data ports.

Wizards help out with storage provisioning and guided us through selecting physical disks, deciding on a RAID array type and adding hot-spares. These are used to create vdisks (virtual disks) which we presented to our host systems.

The MSA 1040 supports all key array types as standard including RAID6 but you can’t migrate from one type to another so choose carefully. However, if an array starts running out of space you can expand it online into spare drives in the head unit or attached disk shelves.

Access security is good as after assigning LUNs (logical unit numbers) to our vdisks, we used explicit mappings to allow them to be accessed only by specific hosts. We could also decide on read only or read/write access and allow some LUNs to be seen by all hosts.

Snapshots and clones

A provisioning wizard makes light work of snapshot creation and you get 64 included in the price. - click for a closeup

A provisioning wizard makes light work of snapshot creation and you get 64 included in the price. – click for a closeup

HP includes a 64-snapshot license in the price which can be upgraded to 512. We used these to create point-in-time copies of selected vdisks and using another wizard, could run them on-demand and schedule them to run as often as every minute.

Snapshots are stored in separate storage pools on the array and we found vdisk restoration just as easy to use. After selecting the rollback feature, we chose a vdisk, selected a snapshot from the list presented and left the appliance to complete the process.

You also get support for 64 volume copies included which can be run on-demand or scheduled at regular intervals. - click for a closeup

You also get support for 64 volume copies included which can be run on-demand or scheduled at regular intervals. – click for a closeup

Value gets even better as 64 volume copies, or clones, are included in the price. They’re as easy to use as snapshots where you select a vdisk, choose the copy option and run them on-demand or at scheduled intervals. At any time, we could select an existing copy and present it as a new volume mapped to a selected host – useful for data recovery or for application testing.

HP offers optional replication with its Remote Snap software. It uses snapshot technology to perform block-level replication of selected volumes to another volume on the same appliance or one at a remote site for that all-important disaster recovery.

Good performance

The MSA 1040 doesn’t disappoint in the performance stakes either and to test it we used one of the lab’s dual E5-2600 v2 Xeon servers running Windows Server 2012 R2 and equipped with an Emulex OCE11102-NM 10GbE adapter.

We loaded six 1.2TB SAS 2 SFF drives in the appliance, created a 1TB RAID5 volume and mapped it to the host server over a direct fibre link. With Iometer configured for 256KB transfer requests, we saw impressive raw sequential read and write speeds of 8.1Gbps and 5.3Gbps respectively.

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General I/O operations are speedy as Iometer set for 8KB transfer requests reported a steady 8,500 IOPS. General copy operations are just as good as copying our 50GB Iometer test file using Windows Explorer returned read and write rates of 364MB/sec and 299MB/sec.

PROS:
  • Dual RAID controllers as standard
  • Highly expandable
  • Superb value
  • Choice of Gigabit, 10GbE or FC data ports
  • End-to-end hardware redundancy

CONS:
  • High noise levels from cooling fans
  • RAID level migration not supported

Summary

HP’s MSA 1040 Storage delivers a superb range of IP SAN features at a price that’ll have competing vendors very worried – especially as HP’s Smart Buy option drops the price of the diskless 10GbE model we reviewed down to only $6,800 from nominated resellers.

9 Total Score
Superb Range of Features

HP’s MSA 1040 Storage delivers a superb range of IP SAN features at a price that’ll have competing vendors very worried – especially as HP’s Smart Buy option drops the price of the diskless 10GbE model we reviewed down to only $6,800 from nominated resellers.

Performance
8.5
Features
9
Build Quality
8.5
Usability
9
Value
10
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