SAN recommendation for VSPhere Essentials Plus

I got quotes for new server hardware (2 hosts and 1 SAN array for VSphere Essentials Plus) and I would like to get some opinion on the SAN’s I am being quoted as price wise they are all very close to each other (each quote is based on the results of a Dell DPACK analysis). The main requirement that everyone got was that our ERP system requires a separate RAID 10 array with at least 15k drives.

1.      HP MSA 2040 (iSCSI) with 16x600GB 10K drives 4x200GB SSD drives. One thing to note here is that the vendor is ordering the array without disks. They are ordering Western Digital SAS and Samsung SSD Disks so the HP warranty/support will not cover those.
2.      EMC VNXe3200 (iSCSI) with 24x300GB 15k drives. They are not guaranteeing that our switches (Dell Powerconnect 5548) will work.
3.      Dell PowerVault MD3420 (SAS Connected) with 16x600GB 10k drives, 4x300GB 15k drives and 1x800GB SSD for cache.

The performance on all 3 should be more than enough as we currently run everything (except our ERP) on a NAS with 7.2k drives.
So far I prefer the Dell Quote as it has the SSD Cache and uses a SAS connection so I don’t have to worry about our switches supporting the SAN.

Thanks in advance for any feedback.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
1. Personally I would not do anything with Vendor hardware which is *NOT* supported by the vendor, if this is for Production an environment and not a Lab!

2. I'm not sure what the issues with your switches are?

3. If you want the best performance of the three you have highlighted SAS connected....

Also easiest to setup, for two servers, are you going to expand at all beyond two servers ?
bsip828Author Commented:
1. That's how I feel about it, it is a production environment
2. Currently there are no issues but we are also not using iSCSI right now. Dell said that their iSCSI array's do not support the 5548's, that's why they quoted the SAS connection.

Currently I do not see a need to expand beyond the 2 servers, but with HA configured I can have to up 4 connected to the MD3420. Currently we have 3 hosts with quad-core cpu's and 48GB of Ram each with no issues, the new hosts that Dell quoted have dual 6 core cpu's and 96GB of memory each.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
No reasons to purchase a SAN then!
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Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
Do not buy not supported HP drives, HP drives have HP specific firmware and you'll only have issues, not sure why any vendor would purchase a solution that can cause possible instability.  If you need shared storage purchase a SAN, otherwise let it run on local hosts.  The HP model is not bad but both all 3 snapshot technology is not efficient, (although the VNXe supports NFS/CIFS) if you would still consider a SAN take a look at Netapp or Nimble for rapid Business Continuity options with their snapshot technology.
Just to qualify Andrew Hancock's "No reasons to purchase a SAN then!" most people call a SAS attached shared storage unit such as the MD3420 a SAN (I sometimes call it a SANlet because of the limited number of ports). Dell call it DAS but the thing that matters is that the RAID controllers are inside it rather than inside the servers and it costs about the same as the iSCSI or fibre channel versions and is shared storage.  Even NetApp who make it say it is for SAN storage environments -  (They are more precise because a SAN is really the fabric - the switches rather than the storage boxes). N.B. this is probably not the NetApp that paulsolov is referring to, he would mean NetApp Filer rather than the Engenio range that NetApp bought from LSI Logic.

The MSA2000 (made by Dot Hill) is also available SAS attached. Ditto the others I wouldn't use it with generic drives.
Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
I was referring to the filer (ontap 7 mode or c-dot) although the Engenio gear is pretty good as it was rebranded by Dell, IBM, etc before Netapp bought them for their block gear  if I remember.
Have you checked out Dell Compellent SAN. They are very good, cost effective SAN and works great with VMware
Just to throw in another thought...  did you consider possibly 3 hosts and a VMware VSAN solution  instead  of buying separate SAN hardware?

This may be a more ideal solution,  as  2  hosts running vSphere is somewhat frowned upon anyways,  as you will not be able to do  maintenance on your cluster or upgrade hosts without compromising your HA protection requirement!

One of the major advantages of using a vSphere solution, is you should be able to upgrade hosts  during the day  and minimize the usage of Weekend or Off-hours maintenance windows which are a serious drain on admin teams,   so from a redundancy perspective ----  your HA availability  requirements are supposed to be met even when one of your hosts is in maintenance mode.

Obviously, if you only have 2 hosts, this cannot be the case... you don't really have a maintainable redundant cluster ---- the moment you need to do any maintenance, HA is lost.

A vSphere Essentials license is for 3 hosts anyways, and if I recall correctly, there is an  addon option for  licensing vSAN as well;   you just have to make certain that your servers are suitable and adhere fully to the vSAN HCL  as well as the ESXi HCL.

Now,  I guess even with vSAN there may be an issue with just 3 hosts and not having a 4th host to act as witness  while one of the vSAN nodes is also in maintenance,  and I wonder if VMware has provided an answer to this for the extremely limited Essentials edition,  hmmm.

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Paul SolovyovskySenior IT AdvisorCommented:
For smaller environments we've actually worked with HP VSA virtual san solution, it is more stable than VMware VSAN (essentially Lefthand software) and is a bit  more economical from what we've seen.  Needs only 2 hosts with local storage or 3 for more capacity.  Snapshots are redirect on write so more efficient than most
bsip828Author Commented:
The Compellent SAN did not come up when I talked with Dell, we only looked at MD and EqualLogic. The Compellent looks like a more expensive solution though.

The VMware VSAN was actually my first plan but when I started talking with the Vendors it came up that 2 hosts and a san is actually cheaper.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
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