SAN

HP MSA 2040 Storage Review

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HP MSA 2040 receives Top 10 award from Simply.Reviews

SMBs that thought storage arrays with data tiering were way beyond their budget should think again. HP’s updated MSA 2040 delivers this and more at a price the competition will have trouble matching let alone beating.

HP’s tiering analyses usage and moves data in 4MB ‘pages’ between three different storage tiers based on performance and cost. This process occurs every 5-10 seconds allowing the array to respond rapidly to changes in usage patterns.

New data is placed on the middle, or standard, tier which comprises SAS drives and as it gets cold, it’s moved down to an archive tier of lower cost NL-SAS drives. Value looks even better as HP includes both the standard and archive tiers in the base price.

Offered as an additional licensed feature, the performance tier uses SSDs to store hot data. The beauty of this system is it’s completely automated as the virtual disk groups are placed in the appropriate tier for you.

Converged controllers

The price includes dual controllers each with 4GB of cache memory protected by a fast charging super-capacitor and CompactFlash card. If there’s a complete power failure, the controllers protect the cache contents by writing it to Flash memory.

Previously, you had to decide whether you wanted Fibre Channel (FC) or iSCSI data ports but the new converged controllers give you the best of both worlds. Each one has four SFP+ data ports split into pairs and their personalities are determined by the type of transceiver you plug in.

HP MSA 2040 data ports

HP has added another controller which supports 6/12Gbps SAS direct connections and the chassis are available with 12 LFF or 24 SFF hot-swap drive bays. Drive choices are extensive as HP offers enterprise SAS, NL-SAS, SSDs and self-encrypting drives although SATA drives aren’t supported.

The MSA 2040 offers a very high expansion potential. It supports up to seven 12-bay MSA 2040 or 25-bay D2700 disk shelves and a total of 96 LFF or 199 SFF drives.

HP MSA 2040 web console

The SMU v3 console home page provides an overview of all virtualized storage and port status

The new web console

The latest firmware for the MSA 2040 introduces the new SMU v3 web management interface for configuring virtual disk groups, volumes, data tiering and caching. At any time, you can switch over to the older SMU v2 web console but this only allows you to create linear disks which are not used for tiering.

Deployment is helped along nicely by a quick start wizard which guided us through setting up general system settings and the data ports. Storage configuration takes a very different path to previous models as the array uses two storage pools with one assigned to each controller.

Within these pools, we created virtual disk groups and could choose from mirrors, RAID10, 5 or 6 array types. SAS arrays are automatically placed in the standard tier, NL-SAS arrays go in the archive tier and SSDs are placed in the performance tier.

The process is very simple and HP recommends that the standard and archive tiers should use the same RAID array types to provide a consistent performance. We could also create read caches using SSDs which are include in the standard license and automatically assigned to storage pools.

HP MSA 2040 virtual disks

When virtual disk groups are created, they are placed in the most appropriate tier

Host mapping and snapshots

After creating volumes within our disk groups, we could map them to the data ports and hosts. Our system had FC transceivers in ports 1 and 2 and 10GbE ones in ports 3 and 4 on both controllers and we needed to take care mapping them correctly as the relevant screen only refers to them by their numbers and not their personalities.

Previously known as vdisks (virtual disks), linear disks are independent of storage pools and you can have as many as you want and also create RAID50 arrays. Although separate from the data tiering processes, they can have snapshot schedules applied with the base system licensed for 64 which can be upgraded to 512.

Virtual volumes only support manual snapshots but they do offer a number of benefits over linear disks. Along with faster creation times, they don’t require a dedicated snapshot pool so use up much less space and you can take child snapshots (i.e. snapshots of snapshots).

Whichever you use, both virtual volume and linear disk snapshots can be managed from the new console and used for rollback and recovery purposes or exposed as new volumes. Some other features such as Volume Copy for cloning are only available for linear disks.

HP MSA 2040 outstanding performance

From the performance page, we watched I/O gradually being shifted to the SSD read cache

Top performance

Using an HP ProLiant DL380 Gen9 server loaded with dual-port QLogic 8Gbps FC and Emulex 10GbE cards, we found performance was very good. Using six SAS drives in a RAID5 array on the standard tier, we saw Iometer report raw sequential read and write rates of 785MB/sec for an FC connection and 1,150MB/sec and 965MB/sec for IP SANs.

Prior to adding an SSD read cache, we saw Iometer report 2,000 IOPS for a 90/10 read/write 100% random spread. Using two 200GB SSDs as a read cache, we then left Iometer to run a 90 minute warm-up phase and saw IOPS increase to nearly 9,000.

Using the SSDs as a performance tier saw impressive throughput gains. Using the same Iometer read/write random spread, we watched throughput increase to around 37,000 IOPS after an hour and could see from the SMU v3 performance page and the disk activity LEDs, that all I/O was now concentrated solely on the SSD performance tier.

PROS:
  • Excellent value
  • Supports both 8/16Gbps FC and 10GbE iSCSI
  • Near real-time data tiering
  • Performance tier delivers high IOPS
  • Big expansion potential

CONS:
  • Manual snapshots only for virtual volumes

Summary

HP sets new standards in the SMB storage market as its latest MSA 2040 delivers a remarkable range of enterprise features at a price SMBs will love. The converged data ports add to its versatility while the integral data tiering is completely automated and capable of delivering a big boost to performance.

Review Score
9 Total Score
Enterprise Features at an SMB Price

HP sets new standards in the SMB storage market as its latest MSA 2040 delivers a remarkable range of enterprise features at a price SMBs will love. The converged data ports add to its versatility while the integral data tiering is completely automated and capable of delivering a big boost to performance.

Performance
9
Features
9
Build Quality
9
Usability
8.5
Value
9.5
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