HP DL380P / P420i Best SSD Configuration

Hello Folks,

I am setting up an HP DL380P / P420i server for ESXI and want to know if anyone has had any experience using 3rd party SSD's in this machine. I need 1TB of storage for 6VM's so was thinking of using 8 of either the Samsung 840 Pro SSD's or 8 of the Intel DC S3700 drives in RAID 10 to get maximum IOPs. Two of the VM's run databases so I want the best performance possible. I would go with genuine HP SSD's but it would cost me 10K just for the drives which is not in the budget. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)Connect With a Mentor VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
We've experimented with Samsung 840 Pro SSDs (MZ-7TD250) and Intel DC S3700, consumer drives (we've also experimented with OCZ and Kingston, Corsair) in our labs with ProLiant Servers and different Smart Array controllers and we have had mixed results...when used in RAID sets, single drives appear to work fine. BUT, when RAIDed...

1. single SSDs do not respond, appear disconnected from the SATA BUS, and then requires a RAID rebuild.

2. RAID requires rebuild after server restarts.

So for production systems, we use Fusion-IO products, which are OEMed to HP.



We use the Fusion-IO Duo Drives, which are PCI-Express cards for Datastores, supported by HP, and also on the VMware HCL for datastores.

FusionIO IO-DriveDuo 640GB
(~200,000 IOPS and >800MB/s throughput per card)

We then install ESXi onto USB flash drives or SD cards, to save the SSD storage for VM usage only.

Here is the VMware KB on installing 5.x on USB/SD:

This will give you the maximum number of IOPS available to the VM, but do you really need all this speed for your database?

How many IOPS do you need for your database?

Just be aware, sometimes the bottleneck can be the virtual environment, not the datastore, and a physical server with ZERO hypervisor can be best, and give you the best performance for an SQL database.

e.g. Best Performance = NO Hypervisor!

Do not get me wrong here, I've been doing virtualisation for a while now and I'm a big fan, and thank the industry for it, check my profile, BUT databases are tricky servers and applications to virtualise, and if you truly are seeking Best Performance possible, do not virtualise it, unless there are other reasons, to want to virtualise, e.g. DR, Backup, Restore, Support, Server Consolidation, but all these are a compromise when seeking performance.

One of the common *unanswered* (as far as the user is concerened!) questions on EE, is why is my SQL server performance poor on Hypervisor X!

and, most move it back to a phsyical server.
HP are a bit behind on releasing the option to disable the RAID engine on Smart Array controllers to us plebs, it's easy enough to set them into non-RAID mode on Itanium based Integrity machines but on Xeon based ProLiants it's not possible and to use generic SSDs that would be the best option. The RAID intelligence of the controller just gets in the way with SSDs. There may be an option to use a JBOD controller in a slot and skip past HP's controller on boot by having nothing connected to it.
JohnnyD74Author Commented:
Dear Andrew,

Thank you so much for your very informative and detailed post! A few questions:

1. What is the rough cost of the FusionIO IO-DriveDuo 640GB card?
2. Is the idea that I use the card INSTEAD of drives or in addition to?
3. Would it be overkill to run the SQL server on a separate host AND use the card?

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JohnnyD74Author Commented:
Andrew....one more question. What about a dedicated DL380P SQL server running 2 SSD's in Raid1? Do you think RAID1 would give the same SSD issues you mentioned in your post?
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
1. $15k, smaller units are available, and also OCZ now also produce similar cards, although not sure if these have hit the VMware HCL as yet.

2. there is no requirement to use any disks for storage as the PCI-E card, is 640GB of Flash Storage, for use a a  VMFS datastore for all your VMs. But you could use standard disks and create a datastore, and split the OS Drive and Database drive for DB and Logs on Flash. We actually use the entire flash datastore for VMs.

3. If you want even better performance, a physical host and Fusion-IO card will give even more performance.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
We have yet to find a successful combination using consumer SSDs and HP Smart Array controllers, and HP Support are little help in our labs, which we would consider stable for customer and production usage.

We've had some success using non-HP storage controllers (LSI), but the RAID storage controller BIOS clash with the HP Smart Array controller BIOS, so we are not able to configure RAID types.

You would need to test your combination of consumer SSD and Smart Array controller, and as HP seem to be closing the gap shortly on firmware updates, support seems to be getting more difficult on using non-HP parts in HP Servers! (which I suppose is to be expected, why would you want to use a desktop SSD in a server in the datacentre?)
JohnnyD74Author Commented:
Thanks!!! That is good to know. Given my budget, I think I will simply go with 4 15K drives in RAID 10 and a dedicated DL380P host for the SQL machine. Do you think that will give me decent performance? I will only have 4-6 users connecting to the machine but want it do respond to queries as fast as possible.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
I think that will give you ample performance.
JohnnyD74Author Commented:
Thank you for your clear feedback, Andrew!
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
No problems, and Happy New Year 2014!
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