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SAN Server : HP MSA2012i

Posted on 2009-12-29
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Hi gurus,

I'm interested in buying my first SAN (iSCSI) for use with VMware vSphere.  My company is small so cost is very important...Through various inquiries, it seems that the HP MSA2012i Server is a recommended choice.

Can anyone give me more details on the server:
1) does it come with it's on SAN software or do I need to install one, ie. OpenFiler
2) I need an explanation on single controller versus dual controller.
3) I'm virtualizing Exchange and SQL primarly for clustering/redundancy, will regular SATA drives suffice or will SAS drives provide better performance given the price difference.
4) any other tips/guides and what to shop for will be greatly appreciated.
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Question by:jetli87
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by:Paul Solovyovsky
ID: 26141765
I have setup a few of these, they work well.

1) does it come with it's on SAN software or do I need to install one, ie. OpenFiler
The MSA2012i is a SAN and you can connect to it using regular NIC ports on the ESX hosts

2) I need an explanation on single controller versus dual controller.
The dual controller allows one raid controller to fail and still have access to your VMs.  It will also provide multipath and failover in case the controller itself goes down

3) I'm virtualizing Exchange and SQL primarly for clustering/redundancy, will regular SATA drives suffice or will SAS drives provide better performance given the price difference.
Depends.  If it's a SQL with not a lot of I/O than SATA may fit the bill, SAS is faster but more expensive

4) any other tips/guides and what to shop for will be greatly appreciated

Take a look at the NetApp FAS2020 as well.

On the MSA2012 you can trays as you go so it's easy to expand.  It's not blazing performance but for a small shot it's a good fit
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by:Chatfield_Public_Schools
ID: 26142075
If your really on a budget, take a peak at a QNAP TS-809, they make it as a desktop version and a rack mount version. (2grand), the drives are extra.

It comes loaded with a linux kernal and can do iScsi targeting perfectly. Performance wise it is as good or better than other solutions that involve and windows OS, and is rock solid, have been using one under heavy load for months.

make sure you update to the latest firmware, toss in 8 2tb drives, and do a RAID 6, you have 11 tb useable space, setup an iScsi target Lun, and point your windows box to the LUN. Its very easy. You caneven setup the LUN to be a "thin provision" so that later on you can swap out your drives with larger ones and the LUN grows with it. Windows will even see the LUN as the larger size than you really have.

Lastly- it does have dual gig nics in it- so you can setup load balancing, failover etc, but better yet, if your sql box is near it, simply run a cable directly from the sql box to the QNAP and set the iscsi initiator to only use that nic port- a solid 1gig connection to your data.
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by:Paul Solovyovsky
ID: 26142286
The QNAPs are good units and work well, the issue with the QNAP is the IOPS and failover. With a SAN (not NAS) you can do a lot more on the enterprise level when dealing with SQL and other enterprise level environment the IOPS on large SATA drives is much less vs smaller SATA and SAS drives.  The MSA2000 can fit up to 12 drives and add additional chasis and dual controllers.  

The second reason I would stay away from small NAS units is support.  With HP, Netapp, EMC, etc.. you get top tier support with optional 4 hour responce for hardware.  We have many small customers but the hardware needs to be supported as much as the larger customers.

I have QNAP and Iomega NAS (supports iSCSI and NFS and is on the VMware HCL) units in the lab but when dealing with production I would not recommend.

My $.02
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by:Chatfield_Public_Schools
ID: 26142585
Another cheaper optiion would be to go with a proliant dl 180 or dl185. you can get a 12 drive rack or an 8 drive rack, toss in an adaptec card that supports 2tb hard drives and have a 20tb raid 6 setup. You just add the software.
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by:Paul Solovyovsky
ID: 26142655
Hopefully the DL180/185 G6s are better than the G5s which had a 30% failure rate within a month (we're a HP reseller and we had 3 out of 8 fail a raid controller, drive cage, etc.. within a month.  Running something like Openfiler  will work  but paid support is so so.  When trying to get support from VMware they've stated that they'll help but since it's not on the HCL they can put the onus back on the customer.

The MSA2000 chasis is about the same price and the drives are the same.  What I normally recommend to customers is to put SAS drives for I/O intensive VMs and SATA shelf for generic VMs if more space is needed
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by:jetli87
ID: 26142786
Hi All,

Thanks for the advice, but now I'm more confused on what I should get...Originally, I was aimming at the Proliant DL180 G6 with OpenFiler since I heard it was a great option for a SAN Starter.

Then after getting advice from paulsolov, I thought the MSA2012i would be a great fit plus it's on VMware's HCL with a good price point, but wasn't sure about the SAN Software included.

Then I found a Netapp FAS2020 w/ 12x 144GB SAS drives, Dual controllers, w/ 1 year support for under $4500.

So now I'm stuck and not sure what direction i should take.

With those options, what seems to be the best fit?
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by:Paul Solovyovsky
ID: 26142809
If you can afford it the NetApp is a great option, it is fast and allows you to grow.  It is recommended to run NFS for NetApp (optoin) it is faster than iSCSI and take less space on the LUNs since it's thin provisioned and you can then use thin on thin provisioning for VMs not IO intensive and save space.  

You can also use the NetApp instead of a file server because it supports CIFS, it will act as a domain member server and will allow you to consolidate all your file server and allow users for self restores with snapping of volumes

Once you have budget you can get snapmanager for SQL, snap manager for vmware, exchange, etc..

The licensing is ala carte so if it comes with it alread great, if not you can purchase it down the road.  You will lose some space due to partiy and backup parity drives but you'll use less space with NFS and CIFS filer because of dedupe and single instance.  $4500 is a steal with the SAS drives we were selling these for around $20K last year
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by:jetli87
ID: 26142818
with NFS, will I still be able to do exchange/sql clustering via Vmware?  I was told iSCSI was the preferred protocol for virtualizing MS clustering.  Could I do a hybrid between the 2 protocols?


Here are the exact specs:

NetApp FAS2020c Filer system with (12) internal 144GB 15,000 RPM SAS X286A Hard Drives.

Includes:

      
12 x286a 144GB 15K SAS Disk Drives

      
Dual FAS2020 Controllers

      
Dual Power Supplies

      
Rail Kit

      
1 Year Overnight Parts Replacement Warranty
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by:Paul Solovyovsky
ID: 26142835
The way this works with the Netapp is that you would have the VMs on the NFS volume and create a separate iSCSI LUN on the NetApp for your quorum.  You can then connect to the iSCSI LUN from the nodes using physical RDM from the VM level or you can connect using Microsoft iSCSI initiator from within the guest OS.  

Hope this helps
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by:jetli87
ID: 26142840
yes it does...

Last question, between Netapp SAN software and Openfiler, is the considerable difference between the two?  Pros/cons?
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by:Chatfield_Public_Schools
ID: 26142858
The netapp is the way to go, but like Paulsolov said-  the software licensing can get you in the end. Your specs dont indicate if it includes any or not, so I suspect not.

Another option would be to get a dl320S, a little higher end than the dl1 series, maybe less failure? paulsolov might know better on that. I have a dl180g6 and have had 0 issues, with the p800 controller.

Personally, I wouldnt be afraid of the dl180 G6. I can buy the dual proc, 8gb ram, 12 drive tray and 4 hour suppport for 3 years at a cost of about 2300$. Cant beat that with a stick if you can get academic pricing yourself. Add in some drives and OS and if there is issues, itll be fixed in 4 hours.
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Paul Solovyovsky earned 2000 total points
ID: 26142859
NetApp is enterprise level with support and many more features that integrate into vmware/sql/exchange.  NetApp also acts as a filer with single instance and dedupe and offers superior support.  The NetApp is a SAN vs NAS.

Openfiler works great in a non production environment (running 2 DL360 G5 and a DL320G5 with Openfiler for one of my labs) and is not on the VMware HCL.  

I've had calls with both to vmware for customers and they were able to pinpoint some issues directly with the Netapp because they have had experience with it.  

It's basically comes down to how much you value your job.  Openfiler works well but if things go awry it's not the type of application that I would bet the farm on when hell breaks loose at 3AM and you have to rebuld or restore a volume/lun.

With the Netapp if you ever upgrade you can use your existing chasis as an addon chasis on another Netapp or add more shelves.  
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by:Paul Solovyovsky
ID: 26142888
The DL300s are much more stable from experience, they have the normal HP ILO port and the normal P400/800 controllers.  The issue is software, if you're running Exchange and SQL on Openfiler it will owrk but the cost is about the same since the chasis is a little over $2K but SATA drives will cost you a bit.  The Netapp with SAS drives should have higher IOPS than the SATA drives at about the same cost

I would check which licenses come with the NetApp, if it has ISCSI that's all you'll need but NFS, CIFS are great if it comes in a package.  NetApp is offering some pretty good deals at the end of the year.

Is the system new or used?
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by:jetli87
ID: 26142908
I believe the system is a refrub...As for software, the reseller said they'll load whatever I want to my specs, but didn't mention if there's a cost.  I have call with their tech tomorrow to get more info...So I'll make my decision in 48 hours and assign points accordingly...I'll get to everyone tomorrow.

Thanks again your professional advice.
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Expert Comment

by:Paul Solovyovsky
ID: 26142943
The one thing to note that you'll get about 60% of capacity on any SAN in general. The savings comes in from using it as a filer and saving 50-60% on dedupe and SIS.  We also run dedupe jobs on our VMs during non peak hours and with thin provisioning on the Netapp with NFS and thin provisioning on the vSPhere side we get about 70% of raw.  A part of this is because you need several drives per controller (you may want to use a single controller and one on standby because may lose a few drives and also due to marketing some additional space (1000MB=1GB maketing vs 1024MB really =1GB)

Download netapp capacity calculator

http://krypted.com/network-infrastructure/netapp-capacity-calculator/
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