RAID Vendor comparisons.  EMC, Netapp, Stonefly, Nimble.

Posted on 2014-02-20
Last Modified: 2016-12-08
I'm looking into replacing or adding on to an existing EMC AX4 Clariion iSCSI with about 18 TB of raw storage in 36 SAS disks.  One tray was purchased about a year ago with 12 600GB 15k RPM disks, and the rest are 400 GB 10k rpm.   It's currently configured with the best practice setup of the time with only 11 TB of usable space for use with VMWare.  I was wondering what experiences people had with other RAID systems.

I've currently researched a few systems but have no real world experience with the newest RAID models.  How do the following compare?

EMC VNX and EMC VNXe - block based storage should be faster than AX4, but very expensive.  The VNXe is about half the price of the VNX and may be a better solution for this company.   VNX with a single tray of 12 600GB SAS disks is around $40k.  The VNXe should be half that price.  If I go this route, I can't replace the system all at once.

NetApp - file based RAID may not be best for VMWare because of Vranger backup in use?  I Haven't checked yet on their iSCSI models, if they have them.

Stonefly - they seem to be much cheaper for the space, but I have no idea about them.  How do these compare to EMC?  Are they any good?  $15k for 32 TB.  It's unclear from their marketing material whether the 32 TB is SATA, but that would be my guess.

Nimble.  These supposedly could be much faster than anything out there, short of an expensive full SSD RAID.  They use an arrangement of 12 cheap SATAs and 4 640 GB SSDs as cache.  They seem expensive for the cheap SATA.  36 TB for ~$66k.   24 TB for $60k.  12 TB for ~$40k.  This seems to be most cost effective with 36 TB Raw storage, since 3 TB SATA drives are not much more than 2 TB or 1 TB Sata drives.

The marketing demos I've seen do look good, but they aren't quite enough to show real world operation.  It would be great if anyone with experience in any of the above could tell me how they perform in comparison to the AX4 and/or each other.  If there are any other RAID systems that people have used with Vmware, and had good experiences with, I'd like to know too.  Should I follow in the footsteps of the previous admin and continue with EMC, or change course for something that might be possibly better?
Question by:serialband
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LVL 121
ID: 39873243
Why are you considering changing, or upgrading, support, additional storage, take advantage of new technologies, faster SSDs?
LVL 13

Assisted Solution

SagiEDoc earned 150 total points
ID: 39873273
I have run VMware on Dell MD3000's, EMC CX3, CX4 and IBM storage. Last year I replaced my CX3's with a VNX and I am very happy. The VNX is spec'ed with SAS disk and SAS Flash disk, so performance wise it would always be faster than anything I had used before. At the end of the day I am a EMC fanboy, and I suppose I always will be. One thing to keep in mind is EMC is a big company, they will have a longer support life on their equipment. If you go with a smaller vendor and they go out of business, you can land up in a situation where you have no support. It hardly happens but it does happen.

That said I have only heard glowing reports about running VMware on Dell Equilogics though I have never done so myself.
LVL 30

Author Comment

ID: 39873569
I mainly need more space for all the VMs that they're running.  The faster speed would be nice, but it's not an absolute necessity.  I certainly don't want anything slower.

That's true about EMC, but the small company I'm working with isn't willing to spend too much on hardware right now.  I'm looking because they've already said no to the single tray, 7.2 TB Raw, VNX.  NetApp's been around and I'm familiar with their older products at another place, but haven't seen their new stuff.  I'm unsure of the others so that's why I'm asking.  Thanks for the tip on the Dell Equilogics.  I'll have to do some research on that.

Ideally, I would like to replace the whole thing with something newer, that has more space and is also faster.  The budget may be a problem, so it may be that I'll have to buy an add-on and keep the AX4 and have them pay $6-$8k for the annual EMC maintenance.
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LVL 121

Accepted Solution

Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 350 total points
ID: 39873612
Something you may want to consider, is looking at a product where you insert SSDs in the Hypervisor, close to the CPU to avoid latency, and the read and writes and written to SSD, and trickled back to your SAN, it's completely SAN agnostic, e.g. does not matter which SAN you have, and you can enable on a per VM basis, to gain HIGH IOPS, without adding lots of spindles!

see here PernixData FVP - it's the best of ALL Flash products for the Hypervisor!
LVL 30

Author Comment

ID: 39874556
Thanks.  That may be a cheaper solution to the Nimble Storage Hybrid for a small company if I combine it with a cheaper RAID like Stonefly's.  I'm hoping someone with experience with either of those could chime in.
LVL 121
ID: 39874942
The PernixData FVP solution does not matter, what Storage solution you pick, because it sits between Host and VMFS.
LVL 30

Author Comment

ID: 39875013
Yes, that's good.  It allows me to go pick a cheaper, or even slower, solution.  Hopefully the PernixData FVP isn't too expensive.
LVL 121
ID: 39875031
It's priced per host server (not based on VMs), free trials are available, even using the SAN you are currently using. (just purchase an SSD/flash card off the HCL).
LVL 30

Author Closing Comment

ID: 39897549
Thanks.  I didn't exactly get any definitive answers.  I was hoping for more input on the systems I've asked about, but now I've got an additional alternative to look into on my own.  I guess I'm on my own.  I'm still waiting for Vendor responses.

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