Disclaimer: I’m a self confessed fan of the 3PAR architecture. I think its best and cleanest design of all of the enterprise class storage arrays on the market. But I admit that architecture isn’t everything, service, support, cost etc all play a part in the wider solution.
Anyway, now that that is out of the way…. It’s old news that HP recently announced a major refresh of it’s 3PAR line, the P10000 or 3PAR V-Class. I despise HP’s naming conventions so I will call it V-Class.
One potentially interesting thing to note from the product branding P10000 (that’s ten thousand) is that HP have given the 3PAR a higher number than the rebadged Hitachi VSP, the HP P9500. Generally speaking with HP storage products, the higher the number the bigger and more enterprise the array (that’s my interpretation anyway) –
P2000 = MSA. Aimed at small businesses
P4000 = LeftHand iSCSI array. Aimed at SMB
P6000 = EVA. Aimed at SMB
P9500 = OEM’d Hitachi VSP. Aimed squarely at high end enterprises
So one would naturally assume that something with a higher number than the P9500 to be… well….. more “enterprise”.
Anyway lets get to the good stuff……
The Good Stuff
For me, the major improvements that came with the V-Class are the following –
- Moving from PCI-X to PCIe
- 4th generation ASIC
- Peer Motion
Aside from the innovations listed above, the V-Class just feels more enterprise, more high performance. Things like 2 x 4th gen ASIC per controller node, compared to the previous generation T-Class only having 1 x 3rd gen ASIC per controller. Similarly there is 2 x quad core CPU’s per controller node versus 2 x dual core in previous generations. Then there’s more than doubling the available control and data cache per node as well as the inclusion of T10 DIF support. All in all, it feels like it now has the muscle to stand it’s ground against VMAX and VSP.
The Stuff Thats Missing
Of course it’s not perfect. On the Negative side the following are disappointments –
- No 2.5-inch drive form factor. Only option remain 3.5-inch. This is behind the curve and a disappointment.
- No SAS backend. The backend remains switched FC-AL and while I appreciate that this allows large distances between the controllers and disk cabinets I’m unsure how enterprise this is. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea, but I’m not sure I’d want to bet my entire array on a single FC cable routed under the floor and across to the other side of the data centre hall!? Also, the switch to SAS as the backend of choice is well under way.
- No de-duplication or compression. Not that anybody else does this either, but with the knowing that the 4th gen ASIC was on its way I wondered whether we might have seen these features. If HP/3PAR had come to market with this then that would have seen them widely recognised as a leader again.
I won’t spend long on this. I think it speaks for itself.
While I’ve been a long time fan of the 3PAR architecture, I’ve always been a little embarrassed of the PCI-X architecture. It’s old technology and has no place in a modern and innovative high performance storage array. Anyway, its gone, so let’s never speak of it again.
4th Gen ASIC
Why do I care about ASICs, FPGAs and things like that?
While I agree that I shouldn’t really care as long it performs well and stays on its feet, knowing what is under the hood and how something is put together helps you in all kinds of ways.
For me, custom silicon (ASIC) has its place in high end of storage arrays for at least another 5 years. Offloading certain functions to ASICs is more efficient and allows for higher performance. Not too dissimilar to the approach VMware has taken of late where it offloads functions through VAAI to the storage array. The concept is simple, offload specialised tasks to the expert – VMware offloads storage tasks to the storage array, similarly within a 3PAR array, InForm offloads certain storage related tasks to the specialised silicon (ASIC).
Hitachi agree with this approach and the VSP (P9500 in HP parlance) has taken a very similar approach.
For deep technical discussion on the use of custom ASICs in storage arrays listen to the recent “Odds and SODs” episode of the Infosmack Deep Dive podcast that I host.
Peer Motion: More Than a Get Out of Jail Card
At a high level, Peer Motion promises to simplify migrating data between arrays, and potentially federate those arrays into teams of loosely coupled arrays.
The hope from customers will be that Peer Motion will allow them to dynamically and non-disruptively move workloads between arrays – similar to the way that auto-tiering products dynamically move extents between different tiers of storage….
One immediate use case may be as a get out of jail card that allows for more aggressive overprovisioning. The worry about overprovisioning has always been “what do I do when I can no longer add capacity to my overprovisioned array?”. I for one would feel a lot more comfortable aggressively overprovisioning if I knew I had a technology their that could migrate apps to another array and thus free us space on the old array…..
Another no-brainer use case will be tech refresh. Many large organisations struggle hugely with tech refresh. They buy technology and cant get off it. And this isn’t always vendors trying to lock them in. Many times organisations can’t even seamlessly move to the next gen architectures from the same vendor!
If HP/3PAR manage to nail this in true 3PAR style (simple and efficient) then I will be extremely impressed and HP can expect many happy customers.
At day 1 it looks like Peer Motion will allow non-disruptive migrations between any 3PAR systems. Roadmapped, no doubt, will be heterogeneous Peer Motion.
Summing It Up
If 3PAR didn’t have a truly enterprise class high performance model before, they do now!
If VMAX and VSP didn’t see 3PAR as competition at the high end before, they will now!
If you wouldn’t consider 3PAR in the past, may be you should now.
All in all this is a good move forward. While like the move to PCIe and the 4th Gen ASIC, the real killer feature is Peer Motion. If HP/3PAR nail this they are on to a winner.
However, most of the work that went in to this refresh will have been well under way when HP bought 3PAR. So this should be seen as a true 3PAR array with probably very little HP influence (good or bad).
Now the onus is on HP to invest and give 3PAR the space to continue to innovate. On the other hand, the worry is that HP may starve and strangle 3PAR.
Comments welcome, and don’t forget to tune in to the Deep Dive podcast I do over at infosmackpodcasts.com. We try and generate high quality technical discussion on a broad range or enterprise tech topics.