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Not all VSAs are created equal: comparing HP and NetApp VSA

CartoonCalvin100X100.JPG By Calvin Zito, aka @HPStorageGuy


Vaughn Stewart, my storage industry colleague over at NetApp, posted an article yesterday about its new Virtual Storage Array or VSA.  We have a product also called VSA. To avoid any confusion, I thought it would be worth doing a high-level comparison.



After reading Vaughn's post, I can pick out a few things about the NetApp VSA:



  • The NetApp VSA is software that runs on an ESX host but is tied to running on a Fujitsu blade server.  Vaughn doesn't say that the NetApp VSA runs on other ESX-supported hosts so I can only assume it only works on the Fujitsu blade server he talks about.
  • It runs something Vaughn calls Data ONTAP-v.  He doesn't say that it's functionally the same as Data ONTAP that runs NetApp hardware arrays but does say that they are architecturally the same.
  • Vaughn states that Data ONTAP-v is fully compatible with NetApp data management tools and integrates with NetApp physical arrays/gateways.
  • In the comments, Vaughn states that there isn't a software-only download to try it out - only a "simulator prepackaged as a VM available to customers and partners". 

I've talked about the HP P4000 VSA (formerly HP LeftHand) on the blog in the past but here are some highlights I’d like to call out:



  • The P4000 Virtual SAN Appliance has been available for over 3 years.
  • Our VSA is a software download available as a free trial to anyone that wants to give it a try.  You can find it at  This is a great way to try out the P4000 because the VSA trial is a completely functional (snapshots, thin provisioning, etc.) version of the hardware-based P4000.  So go ahead, download it now and give it a try!
  • The P4000 VSA works on any ESX or ESXi qualified server.  That's over 100 different HP servers and who knows how many servers from other vendors.
  • The P4000 VSA also works within Microsoft Hyper-V environments.  The free trial works with either VMware or Hyper-V. 


I have to make some obvious comparisons to NetApp's VSA:


  • There's a flexibility element missing from what NetApp is offering.  There's one server that the VSA is supported on.  How's that different from buying a NetApp array?  I realize there are differences but our VSA will run on any server qualified to run ESX or ESXi  as well as Hyper-V.  If it isn't obvious, this means you can use an exisiting ESX or ESXi or Hyper-V host to run the HP VSA - that's the beauty of it.
  • There have been over 100,000 downloads of our VSA and there are tens of thousands running in production.
  • If you want to run VSA on a blade server, our HP BladeSystem is the leading blade server in the industry.  Period.  It also seems a bit odd to me that NetApp is working hard to build virtual infrastructure by partnering with Cisco.  Why didn't they use Cisco servers for this solution?  I'm guessing it was too expensive compared to Fujitsu but that really is just a guess.  (Editor's note: I had this point in the article but noticed it wasn't here when I published it - this was added back shortly after the original article was posted).
  • Failover with our P4000 is proven and a strength of the product.  Vaughn didn't address this in his post but given what I know about MetroCluster, I have my doubts.  Also, with the P4000, all of the software you need for remote replication and failover management, not to mention snapshots and thin provisioning, is included at no extra cost.  Again, the pricing of any value add software wasn't discussed but since this is an extra cost on NetApp arrays, I'm guessing it isn't included with their VSA either. 

As I wrap this up, I have a couple of videos.  First is the video that shows the the P4000 and VMware Fault Tolerance.





















Here's a video that shows VMware ESX and HP P4000 VSA being installed and talks about best practices. 






















You can learn more about the HP P4000 VSA at

blazilla | ‎12-17-2010 04:58 PM

To make it clear: Data ONTAP-v is a single-node installation of Data ONTAP 8.0.1. This means: No clustering functionality and a single point of failure.

Vaughn Stewart | ‎12-17-2010 08:08 PM



Thanks for continuing the conversation around VSAs.  LeftHand truly lead the industry in creating a new format of shared storage and HP was very astute in acquiring them a few years back.


With The Fujitsu Primergy BX400 blade server powered by the NetApp's VSA we are in some regards following the path blazed by LH as well as setting off on our own course.  I have to be careful here as I am not at liberty to share our roadmap via blogs, but suffice to say what is available today is just the beginning of plans around VSAs.


I want to respect that this is blog is hosted on and as such will refrain from using this space as an advertisement.  For those interested they can hit my blog:


If you're interested in doing a joint post around the strengths of VSA based solutions let me know.  It could be a blast!




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