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HPE MSA 2050/2052 Storage Review

We were impressed with HPE’s MSA 2040 storage array when we reviewed it a couple of years ago as it delivered an impressive range of storage virtualization features at a price SMBs found very tempting. The latest MSA 2050/2052 arrays take value a stage further as their uprated hardware controllers deliver a doubling in performance and yet the price remains the same.

A key feature is their real-time data tiering which most competing storage vendors charge a king’s ransom for. Using performance, standard and archive tiers comprising SSDs, SAS drives and Midline SAS drives, the appliances monitor data usage and move 4MB pages between the tiers every 5-10 seconds.

All models come with dual active/active controllers and the speed increases are made possible by a CPU upgrade and a doubling of cache memory from 4GB to 8GB per controller. The cache contents are protected from power failures as each controller employs a super-capacitor and CompactFlash card.

Expansion potential is equally impressive as the controllers each have 6Gbps SAS ports allowing extra disk shelved to be daisy-chained from them in fault tolerant links. You can mix and match LFF and SFF disk shelves with the appliances supporting a maximum of 96 LFF or 192 SFF disks.

Simplified hardware choices

The controllers on the SAN models each offer four SFP+ ports in two groups. These are the converged variety so you can install 8/16Gbps Fibre Channel or 1/10GbE Ethernet transceivers in each group to set their personality.

Bear in mind that the transceivers are proprietary so you can’t use your own and the port group personalities must match across both controllers. HPE also offers 2050/2052 SAS models which come with eight SAS3 host ports for direct attached storage.

Overall, the hardware is the same across all models and the main differences between the 2050 and 2052 are in software. The 2050 comes with the standard and archive tiers enabled and requires a license for the performance tier whereas the 2052 has all relevant licenses included in the price with the Q1J03A model including two 800GB mixed-use SSDs for starters.

Other standard features across all models are support for SSD read caches, thin provisioning, snapshots and volume copies. The 2050 is licensed for 64 snapshots whereas the 2052 can manage the maximum of 512.

Easy install

For our review, we were supplied with an MSA 2052 SFF SAN model equipped with four 800GB SSDs, eight 1.8TB SAS drives and twelve 2TB Midline SAS drives. Our system also came with all data ports fitted with 10GbE SFP+ transceivers.

Installation is a cinch as the appliance’s smart web console runs a setup wizard and then you can get down to provisioning virtual storage. This is easy as the appliance manages two storage pools with one assigned to each controller.

All you do is create disk groups and select controller A or B. For each disk group, you choose the drive type, pick from RAID0, 1, 5 or 6 arrays and leave the appliance to do the rest.

If you choose SSDs, it automatically places them in the performance tier while SAS drives go in the standard tier and Midline SAS drives get dropped into the archive tier. It’s also possible to use SSDs to create a read cache and assign it to a disk group that isn’t part of the tiering process.

Great IP SAN performance

The appliances use two storage pools with each managed by one controller

We tested our MSA 2052 using a pair of Windows Server 2016 hosts with each connected to two ports on dedicated controllers. The MSAs use an asymmetric active/active mode so if you connect one port to each controller you don’t get a performance boost as the link to the controller that doesn’t own the pool shows as non-optimised and is reserved for failover.

With load balanced MPIO links in place and dedicated volumes mapped to each server, we watched Iometer record some excellent cumulative speeds. Sequential reads and writes totalled 28Gbits/sec and 20.5Gbits/sec while 100 percent random operations returned 26.1Gbits/sec and 13.5Gbits/sec.

HPE achieved its claimed 200,000 IOPS using multiple 16Gbps FC connections so our results for I/O throughout for 10GbE IP SANs were lower but impressive nonetheless. Sequential read and write rates across both servers totalled 151,000 IOPS and 67,000 IOPS while random operations returned 116,000 IOPS and 64,000 IOPS.

The web console provides a handy performance chart where you can view graphs of throughput for individual disks, groups, pools, tiers, host ports, controllers and volumes. During testing, we watched the performance tiers and could see data gradually being migrated to them.

Volume copies and snapshots

Snapshots can be scheduled regularly and recovery is a very swift process

Snapshots can be fired off manually or you can use the integral scheduler to run them automatically. It’s very versatile as snapshots can be run as often as every minute, up to 16 per volume can be retained and you can control their frequency with time windows and stop/start dates.

We found snapshot recovery just as easy to use as you simply select a volume and view its snapshots in the list below. Pick the one you want and after disconnecting any hosts, choose the Rollback option to restore your data from that point in time.

You can keep an eye on virtualized storage and hardware performance from the web interface

The Copy Volume feature allows you to copy a selected volume or a snapshot and present it as a new virtual volume. It takes seconds to run as we selected a volume, chose this option and simply decided which controller to assign it to.

Conclusion

HPE’s Gen5 MSA 2050 and 2052 appliances deliver enterprise storage virtualization at SMB prices. The updated hardware boosts performance significantly, they come with a versatile range of features and HPE’s real-time data tiering sets them apart from the competition.

9 Total Score

HPE’s Gen5 MSA 2050 and 2052 appliances deliver enterprise storage virtualization at SMB prices. The updated hardware boosts performance significantly, they come with a versatile range of features and HPE’s real-time data tiering sets them apart from the competition.

Performance
9
Features
9
Build Quality
9
Usability
8.5
Value
9.5
PROS
  • Very simple deployment
  • Big performance boost
  • Unbeatable value
  • Converged FC/IP SAN data ports
  • Automatic data tiering
CONS
  • Can’t currently be managed or monitored via HPE’s OneView
User Rating: 5 (1 votes)

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