One of the more revealing findings out of the recent DCIG 2012 Midrange Array Buyer’s Guide was the gap between those midrange arrays that integrate with the VMware vSphere storage APIs and those that do not, as it was almost a case of the “Have’s” and the “Have-not’s.” But among the “Have’s” there are still levels of differentiation in vSphere integration that the Buyer’s Guide did not examine in depth.
Today I begin a series of three blog entries that examines six key ways that HP 3PAR F-Class Storage (the F200 and F400 models) differentiate themselves from other midrange array models in this increasingly important feature. These midrange arrays offer the same operating system and software capabilities as the entire family of HP 3PAR arrays, thus the features discussed in this blog entry are available for all HP 3PAR Storage systems.
HP 3PAR F200 and F400 arrays achieved the highest scores in the vSphere Integration category in the recently released DCIG 2012 Midrange Array Buyer’s Guide. However, even these high scores do not fully reflect some of the additional ways that the HP 3PAR F-Class models differentiate themselves from other enterprise midrange arrays with respect to VMware vSphere integration.
In every case these HP 3PAR systems optimize vSphere integration in ways that go well beyond what other midrange arrays offer. In particular, the 3PAR systems offer features which make them particularly well suited for storage efficiency and performance in VMware vSphere deployments in two specific ways:
- Full support for vSphere 4.1 and 5.0 VAAI primitives to increase storage efficiency, increase performance and offload I/O intensive storage operations. The HP 3PAR systems, like many other midrange arrays, support the VAAI primitives found in vSphere such as block zeroing, full copy and hardware assisted locking features. However the midrange 3PAR systems do this and much more.
For example, many midrange arrays support the vSphere Full Copy command that triggers the movement of VM data within an array using that array’s built-in replication functionality. In this case, it invokes the HP 3PAR system’s Full Copy command to perform that operation.
HP 3PAR Virtual Copy goes beyond this functionality by also creating thin-aware, point-in-time copies that only copy blocks that have data residing on them. Further, the HP 3PAR system has configurable priority levels that control the speed at which a Virtual Copy occurs to mitigate the possibility of impacting other processing occurring within the array.
- Multiple options for improving array performance and optimizing VM density. A number of midrange arrays provide software utilities that monitor and report on the performance of their internal components (hot spots on disk, cache usage, port utilization, etc.) This information may then be used to balance and optimize workloads on midrange arrays.
How well midrange arrays act on this information varies. Some take action and balance workloads dynamically based on preset policies. Others support only manual intervention. Still others permit administrators to schedule when these workloads are re-balanced across existing midrange arrays resources. A few even support a mix of all of these options.
The HP 3PAR platform inherently provides all of these array performance reporting and management options as well as some features that most midrange arrays do not support at all. For example, the system’s use of wide striping minimizes hot spots by striping data across all of the disks in the array.
In this way, all disks are available to service the workloads of all of the VMs it hosts. Further, if more disk drives are added to the HP 3PAR array, the system redistributes the data across new and existing drives to take advantage of the performance these new drives afford.
As VMs require varying levels of performance, HP 3PAR systems support multiple tiers of disk (SSD, FC and SATA) that satisfy differing performance characteristics. HP 3PAR systems also offer Adaptive Optimization, which dynamically places data on the appropriate tier of disk.
Rather than moving an entire volume to another tier of disk as some midrange arrays do, HP 3PAR Adaptive Optimization Software analyzes the performance of specific blocks and only moves those blocks that are the most (or least) active to the most appropriate tier of storage. This minimizes the resources that the system has to dedicate to moving data within the array while enabling it to optimize its available storage capacity.
Further, through its integration with VMware Adaptive Queue Depth Throttling and Storage I/O Controls (SIOC), the HP 3PAR platform minimizes the impact of I/O congestion often found in VMware deployments. Together, these capabilities increase the number of VMs per physical server while also supporting the addition of higher-performing applications residing on physical servers that use HP 3PAR arrays on the back end.
Finally, the newly introduced HP 3PAR Peer Motion Software is really the platform’s crown jewel. Peer Motion gives organizations the flexibility to non-disruptively move VMs between HP 3PAR arrays to deliver storage federation. This storage federation may be needed to balance VM workloads between existing HP 3PAR arrays or a new and an existing HP 3PAR array. It also may provide a performance boost to existing VMs while better optimizing the available resources on each HP 3PAR array.
In my second blog entry in this 3-part series, I will examine how HP 3PAR Storage Systems expand the use cases for VM snapshots as well as providing advanced storage optimization and utilization technologies.
In my final blog entry in this 3-part series, I will examine how the HP 3PAR platform integrates with vCenter Server and VMware SRM.