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Solid State Storage - why it's already changed IT and what's coming

Vish Mulchand_SNW SSD session.pngSNW Fall is happening in Santa Clara, yet another event I can't attend as my wife and daughter are enjoying a fabulous trip through Europe. One of the hot topics that will be certainly getting a lot of attention is solid state storage.  My colleague Vish Mulchand, Director of Product Management, joined me late Friday night to record this podcast with me as he presents a session at SNW about solid state technology. 


It's a great discussion with Vish - here's an outline of what we covered:

  • Why has solid state changed the IT landscape?
  • Where are the different places customers can deploy solid state storage technology?
  • We discussed when to use solid state technology?
  • Lastly we talked about HP's offerings that include solid state - this is a short discussion. 

Are Fibre Channel disk drives dead?

  By Calvin Zito, @HPStorageGuy

It's time to get back to the topic of storage - as most of the regular readers of this blog know, I've been out for a few weeks dealing with my Mother's death.  Before I jump back into storage, I want to again thank everyone who was so kind to me.  I thank you very much - your kindness helped to get me through a difficult time.  Ok, so now onward....

There are a number of storage-focused groups on LinkedIn.  I noticed a conversation that was started on one of them discussing an article written by industry analyst George Crump.  The article itself was promoting a particular vendor but asked some good questions.  It covered a couple of different emerging technologies that could help reduce storage costs.  George makes the case that customers are buying more drives than they need from a capacity perspective to get the performance needed though I would argue that our EVA array minimizes this issue because of the built-in virtualization.  George suggests that SSD could help fill this gap but because it's still expensive compared to hard drive technology, it's not for everyone.  You can either read George's blog or read the conversation on LinkedIn to get the details of what he discussed.  Today, I wanted to highlight the answer that our own Tim Sheets gave.  Tim works in our Unified Storage Division managing portfolio strategy and marketing operations.  Here's what he had to say:

From a vantage point of a company that sells more HDD's than anyone else in the world, there are certainly changes on the horizon. SAS drives clearly offer an economic advantage and truth be told, the HDD manufacturers are trying to get away from FC drives because they are more expensive to produce. Now as for SSD's replacing FC drives... that is not going to happen wholesale at this time. The costs are too high, and there is still much to learn about the longer term reliability related to write cycles (SSD cells wear out at much lower cycles than traditional HDD's)  

While there is lots of work going on in the SSD market to manage write balancing, we cannot overlook the fact that there is much more work to be done to get to full enterprise reliability at volume economics. SLC is certainly more robust that MLC, but does not have the capacities of MLC. On the flip side, SLC has better write "wear-out" cycles than MLC. Either way, SSD costs are extremely high even when compared to FC HDDs. For now, I think we will primarily see SSD's in very high performance systems where customers are willing to pay a significant premium to get that performance. Texas Memory Systems and Fusion IO are good examples of this. However, we will not see mass adoption until the wear out rates become stable/proven and the costs drop dramatically. According to the SSD manufactures, that is still some time away for enterprise class drives.

Additionally, we will need to see the application developers modify their applications to take advantage of what SSD's can offer. Storage management/tuning tools will need to change in order to optimize storage environments using SSD's. And as Phillip from 3PAR notes above, storage tiering is critical here. (Editor's note: You'll have to go to the LinkedIn discussion to see what Phillip said). Today, solutions that are read intensive and need high IO rates are ideal for SSD. Write intensive applications are probably better off with rotating media for now if cost is a major factor.

All of this will take some time, as does adoption for most nascent technologies. SSD's will become more popular in certain applications, but the industry won't turn on a dime just yet. Longer term (3-5 years or more) they will begin to become more of a mainstream storage technology. For now, rotating media is here to say for a while.

Tim - I hope you don't mind me using your answer here for our readers.

Storage virtualization and the new EVA

By Calvin Zito


In my first post, I gave an overview of the March 10 announcement we did.  In part 2, I gave a bit more color to the StorageWorks piece of the announcement.  Today, I want to talk about the new EVA6400 and EVA8400 that were announced.  If you're already familiar with the EVA and it's virtualizated pool of disk drives, you can skip down to my heading titled "What's New"?


The EVA was first announced in 2001.  We've shipped nearly 70,000 EVAs and nearly half of that has been in the last few years.  Why so many more over the recent past - because we've been able to substantiate the ease of use benefits of the EVA and with the growth of data, I think more and more customers understand that the EVA is the easiest mid-range array to manage in the industry. 


So as a short primer for those of you that maybe don't understand EVA virtualization, I'll briefly summarize it here.  At it's core, virtualization is a logical abstraction of the underlying physical widgets (whether your talking servers, storage, network, etc).  With the EVA, we are virtualizing at the storage system level to hide the underlying physical disk drives so that what you manage is a pool of capacity.  These pools of virtual capacity can be configured as virtual disks and presented to any or all connected hosts.  The EVA capitalizes on virtualization to provide optimal performance, ease of management, improved capacity utilization, powerful data replication tools, and faster rebuild times, while simplifying the management of the virtualized storage capacity.   There's a lot more that we could talk about here on the EVA's virtualization capabilities but for now, I'll point you to the white paper titled Storage virtualization and the HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array.  It is a good resource to get you going on the EVA and virtualization.


What's New?


So that brings me to a discussion on what's new.   There are two new EVA models - the EVA6400 and EVA8400.  They join the EVA4400 that we announced about a year ago when we refreshed the low end of our portfolio; this announcement refreshes the rest of the EVA family.


Here's a summary of what's new:


  • Support for Vraid 6 providing double the parity of Vraid5 while providing the virtualizations benefits to grow and shrink the Vraid set. Vraid6 is unique to the EVA compared to traditional arrays that deliver only RAID6.
  • Increased maximum LUN size up to 22TB to support applications needing larger LUNs like Microsoft and Oracle and we have also increased the number of LUNs supported (NOTE: updated this as I had a typo here in the original post.  The EVA8400 supports either 14TB or 22TB of cache)
  • Introducing 72GB solid state drives (SSD) to support high I/O low latency applications. The EVA supports up to 8 SSD's in an array.
  • The EVA8400 scales to 324 disks and 324TB while the EVA6400 scales to 216 drives and 216TB. With support for the same disk drive enclosure that's supported in the EVA4400, the new EVA's offer increased performance density---more performance in the same footprint
  • Increased cache up to 32GB for improved application read and write performance
  • Increased our snapshots from 16 to 64 for increased flexibility in data mining and restores


Here are a few things you can play with to learn more about the new EVAs.  The first one is a very cool 3D interactive virtual product tour.  This allows you to see a 3D view of the EVA, zoom in, turn it around and really "play" with what the EVA looks like.  There are two of these 3D tours, one for the EVA6400 and one for the EVA8400.   Here is also a Flash-based product demo that gives a high level picture of the new EVA models.  The demo has a tab titled "see it in action" - this is a simple description of how virtualization in the EVA works.  Check these out and let me know what you think.


One of the main benefits we highlighted in the announcement was that the EVA costs up to 50% less to manage than other competitive traditional disk arrays.  I'll discuss this more in my next post.

Changing the economics of storage infrastructure with virtualization

By Calvin Zito

Yesterday I talked about the announcement that our Technology Solutions Group did and briefly mentioned the part HP StorageWorks had in that announcement.  Today, I'll drill down a bit more into the StorageWorks news. 

The current economic conditions are affecting everyone but we all know that the information explosion that we've all been talking about for over a decade doesn't seem to care much about the economy.  Many customers are attempting to take costs out to free up capital for their core business processes but the continued information explosion creates specific challenges for IT to efficiently store, protect, optimize and manage data.  Adding to this, many data centers are not optimized for agility; a good portion of the IT budget is spent in maintenance and operations.  IT is expected to help the business take advantage of opportunities that arise in this new economic era by reacting quickly to deliver new services that help drive growth.  Really nothing new here, but I wanted to set the context.

We believe that the next generation data center is core to meeting these challenges.  We call this the Adaptive Infrastructure.  One of the core tenants of the Adaptive Infrastructure is helping customers move from their current state of high cost IT islands and siloed people resources to low cost pooled assets with more predictable service levels.  Virtualization is key to that.  Many customers have already virtualized their servers and as a result there's been improvements in utilization, service provisioning and disaster recovery/availability of those servers.  If the rest of your infrastructure (e.g. storage, network, etc) isn't virtualized, then you still have limited flexibility.  I just saw a post by my colleague in BladeSystem Jason Newton diving deeper on this topic and it's worth a read. 

These virtual server environments have unique storage challenges around capacity management, storage provisioning, and data protection/management.  And that gets me to the heart of what the announcement this week is about. 

Our goal is to reduce the complexities and inhibitors of virtual server environments through the intelligent use of storage virtualization.  We're making investments in this technology to optimize capacity, simplify storage provisioning and improve data management across virtual IT environments.

This week's announcement was focused on Fibre Channel storage networks.  But we're not suggesting this is the answer for every application or customer environment.  We have a very deep (and I know at times confusing) portfolio of products and solutions.  But you really don't need an infrastructure vendor who only has a hammer because then every problem looks like a nail.  You need an infrastructure vendor who has the breadth of portfolio to match the solution to your specific problem and data types at the lowest cost possible.  So again, this announcement is focused on Fibre Channel based solutions - as we continue to integrate LeftHand Networks into our portfolio, we'll have more to say about storage virtualization with other storage networks (Shared SAS, iSCSI, etc.).

So that brings me to the news. There were three new or updated solutions we announced:

  1. HP StorageWorks EVA6400 and EVA8400 virtual storage arrays helps customers save up to 50% in storage management costs for common storage administrative tasks compared to competitive traditional arrays  

  2. HP StorageWorks SAN Virtualization Services Platform (SVSP) can lower TCO by pooling and sharing of heterogeneous storage resources.  You can improve your capacity utilization by 300% and manage 3X the storage capacity per administrator.

  3. The new Data Protector 6.1 software combined with the EVA offers the industry's best (and we think only) replication based Zero Downtime Backup and recovery for VMware environments and is up to 70% less expensive than other enterprise backup products.

I'll go into more details over the next several days but let me leave you with a pointer to a video by our VP of Marketing, Stephan Schmitt.  Stephan is at FOSE this week and was interviewed at the event just yesterday.  This video is a nice overview of the announcement.

One last footnote I have to make as I can't wait until tomorrow's post where I'll drill down on the EVA6400 and EVA8400.  One of our competitors has tried to make their pre-announcement of solid state drives a year ago as a proof point of their innovation.  The funny thing is that we source those drives from the same OEM partner.  This competitor had made bold and frankly ridiculous predictions that we would not have SSD drives until late this year or maybe in 2010.  Well, I've got news for you Chuck - we have SSD drives in the EVA now and have had them in the XP Disk Array for a few months and in our BladeSystem for even longer. 

HP's New Solid State Storage Web Page

Hi folks,

If you're keeping abreast of the developments in Solid State Storage Technology for PCs, Servers and Storage Arrays, HP has a new web page devoted to the subject. You can find it at:

Take a look today and come back on a regular basis for more updates.


 Jim Hankins

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