This is the first time in a while that I won’t be attending HP Discover. It’s a pity, not only because I have the chance to get updates directly from the horse’s mouth there, but also because it is always well frequented by good bloggers and other interesting people. At the event, HP usually organizes what they call “coffee talks” and you have the chance to get briefed and also have a lot of confrontation on each single line of their business (not that I’m really interested in everything they do, but Storage, Cloud and Enterprise IT in general are all well covered). BTW, thanks to my friend Calvin Zito I got news in advance and even though I’m overseas at the moment, I want to comment on what I discovered a few days ago.
When good gets better
You’re most likely aware that I still consider HP and HDS among the best companies when it comes to some enterprise storage solutions (especially when we talk about tier 1 storage) and, this is the case of 3PAR, I really like the fact that you can buy a storage in the order of $25.000 that has the same identical characteristics and features of the biggest one. Different in size, identical in functionalities.
This is a major benefit for the end user. A small organization knows it can grow with virtually no limits on an enterprise-class platform, while the larger ones have many possibilities to serve, on a single platform, most of their needs from the primary data centers to the branch offices. This really helps if you want to keep your IT infrastructure as simple as possibile, and you care about TCO.
3Par has come out with a lot of good things in the last couple of years both from the hardware (the 7450, aka the flash memory play, is a vivid example) and the software aspects (features like peer motion or Adaptive flash cache for example). All steps that have contributed to building up a very interesting and comprehensive family of products. But something was always missing!
File (and objects!)
Looks like we finally got it! Native File interface from 3PAR (through a software license, not external appliances!!!). On paper it looks pretty good: SMB3, NFS v4/3 and, of course Active Directory, DFS, Microsoft Management Control integration, NMDP and other features you usually find on the best NAS boxes. (I said “on paper” because I’m not there to see how it really works, but on paper it looks great!).
And… there’s more. Object Access via API (which is not totally clear to me… the documentation is a little elusive). Let’s suppose this is an S3 (or Swift) interface to the same files you can access via SMB or NFS, it would be another great feature. (something I wrote about a few years ago indeed, and I’m glad other unified-storage vendors are working on it too)
A feature like this can’t compete with real object storage, just because 3PAR is a primary storage and can’t achieve the level of cost and scalability of an object storage, but this could have its (many) applications! If you need a few TBs for sync&share, a development system, a private object storage for some critical data, you name it.
On the hardware front, if I got it right, you can all of these features on a new model called 7440c. C stays for Converged and specs are very comparable to the 7450 (no new ASIC so), but it’s “hybrid”… which obviously means that you can have it with both Flash and disks. The 7440c can also scale up to 3.5PB of usable space (calculated with dedupe on, of course).
It’s not clear to me whether File/Object access is available only to this model, but I’m hoping that all the features will soon, if not already, be available on all other models of the family (like it already happens for any other software feature).
The icing on the cake
There is a new feature that allows a 3PAR array to move its snapshots directly to the StoreOnce VTL! This is called HP StoreOnce Recovery Manager Central. No backup software and no complexity.
Long story short: Nice and useful! You can take a consistent snapshot and you can automatically save the data directly into a StoreOnce VTL. Time saved, software backup saved and complexity saved.
The first version is compatible only with VMware but other options will be added later. I would love to see a demo (but I’m not there)
Closing the circle
Has this post been taken on by too much enthusiasm? The answer is, yes it has. (sorry)
I don’t have enough information to go in depth on all this stuff at the moment nor to detect any flaws, if any. Some features, even if expected, sound too cool to be real. On the other hand, Dave Scott and the 3PAR team have been giving us hints about where they’ve been heading for over a year now. Most of the things announced today have been discussed many times in past HP events.
The P10400, and more in general all P10000 models, absolutely needs a refresh. The the 7440c outshines the P10400 and it probably costs a fraction. I’m sure that at next HP Discover in Las Vegas we will see a Gen5 ASIC and other features that will re-establish the right positioning of the whole line-up. It’s highly likely next year’s event in Las Vegas will bring a lot of news again. (a new ASIC for sure, IMHO)
I really love the File access option. It is really interesting, especially in the SMB space where the 7200/7400 can now fight with similar functionalities (but a better backend architecture) against NetApp FAS and EMC VNX. My only concern is about CPU/ASIC usage on current (old) models and, consequently, performance. I hope that HP will show some benchmarks soon.
Disclaimer: HP has been a client of Juku consulting. Last year I published a couple of white papers for HP (one about 3PAR and one about StoreVirtual VSA), they also invite me often to their events and I recently joined an advisory council with other bloggers to review some of their products. However, the content is not reviewed, approved or published by any other person than the Juku team.