SAN decisions from scratch

I know this has been asked a thousand times already and I have been reading through many of the answers on EE and elsewhere but still asking for myself. I am planning to implement a SAN in my company. This is the first SAN -nothing in place already. We have several HP servers that will be connected to it and running VMWare.  There are a million vendors and product lines out there and deciding has been tough but in a nutshell these are my priorities:

Reliability and redundancy. - Failure is not an option. There must be no single points of failure anywhere.
Future proof. - Both in capacity and performance. There is a limit to how fast we will grow but I estimate about 5TB per year. Currently sitting on around 40TB
Performance. -So currently using local storage and getting noisy neighbour syndrome. There should be no performance bottlenecks now.

I think I have whittled the field down to two vendors and products I really like. Similar pricing. Similar capacity. Similar performance. Very different execution.

HP 3Par 8200 vs Nimble CS300

I am really torn between the 2 systems to the point I was just asking the sales people for their battlecards. Someone with knowledge please help...

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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
If you are starting out, and thinking about purchasing a SAN for the first time, you should really consider VMware vSAN, now in version 6.01 stable, supports all SSD and Flash cards, nothing will be as fast in terms of performance, or resilience, as it's clustered and objects are replicated through the vSAN.

I wonder why you have not considered vSAN ?

You can turn this local storage into vSAN, and everytime, you add a host, that will add to the vSAN storage cluster.

If you are only thinking vendors, you really need to look at the new players in the market, Tintri, Pure Storage, Tegile Systems..... vendors that can offer Hybrid or Flash Storage, they design there SANs around new generation SSDs, and not vendors trying to catch up, they have offered us spinning rust for years!
space_timeAuthor Commented:
Bit confused. I am sure vSAN is good but we are trying to move away from local storage and get something shared. Have also been looking at grid-clustered type storage that uses copper but decided to get serious speed so going for the fibre.  Also there is a plan to re-use the current local storage disks. They will be pulled and put in a high density chassis to be shipped to our DR site.
RantCanSr. Systems AdministratorCommented:
Agree with Andrew. The future is hyperconverged compute. VMware selling EMC to Dell illustrates that they are backing software defined storage, such as that within VSAN. If you are deadset on heading down the path of conventional storage placement, please address your switching infrastructure and plan out the engineering of this to the letter. HBAs, VLAN, backbone, the works. This will ensure that you can build on a solidly engineered foundation.

VMware has some great entry level VSAN options in 6.x that are not bound by the requirements of previous iterations of VSAN, such as two-node config aimed at the ROBO market.

If you want some design input, we are all a great resource at EE.
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
You really need to look at local storage, local storage is faster than any network attached, SAN/NAS based storage, which is connected to the local bus, close to the processor, and therefore has extremely low latency, couple with traditional SSDs or Local PCIe flash cards, you can create very fast storage, couple with VMware Hypervisors, which currently has the vSAN engine integrated into the hypervisor, this storage is then clustered across all your hosts, and replicate in realtime across a 10GBe network, to provide, a highly scalable, resilient storage solution, and when you add existing ESXi nodes, they can all take advantage of the storage, or add to the storage.

Why shared and slow, when you can have ultra-fast and local?

Compare vSAN and it's costs, also look at the vSphere vSAN assessment tool now, and compare costs against traditional SAN.

It will calculate all the IOPS of existing VMs (which is good to know), and then create a plan and costing versus a traditional SAN.
space_timeAuthor Commented:
I have been looking at the fabric certainly. We will be using 2 fibre channel switches for HA. Each server will get dual port HBAs. I know the gbics, cables and quantity I will need. I also know the licensing needed. -We are mostly procurve here and I am familiar with that so will probably stick to HP for fabric.  The whole thing will live in a datacentre with power and connectivity diversity and backup. The servers will also be getting RAM upgrades so we can move to n+1 from that side of things as well.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
and what happens when the SAN fails ? - this is the single point of failure - what will you do then ?

We've seen it occur, when the backplane was faulty, and the SAN was down and unavailable for 3 days, and engineers ran around changing components, until they swapped out the backplane.
space_timeAuthor Commented:
Buy another back plane to keep as a cold spare?  Get same-day support contract from vendor?

The system is also backed up by Appassure. Appassure replicates to another site. Worse case scenario I figure we would be down for a few hours and the risk of data loss will be miniscule to none.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
vSAN - no downtime! as it's a Clustered SAN.

(yes, our client has 1 hour support contract, and it took them 3 days to diagnose the fault!)

Maybe have a think "outside of the traditional box!"
space_timeAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the vSAN idea. Putting that aside though for now and making a clear distinction between tiered and cached. Has anyone got experience of both Nimble and 3par?
Naomi GoldbergCommented:
You might find some of the user reviews on IT Central Station to be helpful in making your decision. This user wrote: We were looking at Nimble Storage which was pretty close. I think the big differentiator there was the features set is pretty similar but I really like the approach of HP and I like the big name brand because the rest of my infrastructure is HP as well. We’re primarily an HP shop so given that I have such a lean team I only have myself, a system administrator, a network administrator, I can’t afford to have a lot of complexity in the way that my storage arrays are configured.  You can read the full review here:
You can see all the players in the Enterprise Flash market here, with real user reviews
I hope you find it helpful.

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space_timeAuthor Commented:
Why the last comment was removed?
RantCanSr. Systems AdministratorCommented:
@space_time I think it was spam?

Anyway, I went through the nimble academy in a pre-sales environment when I was putting different storage solutions through the paces. I liked them, but ultimately it came to price and our reseller and NetApp beat Nimble significantly. I tried to get my management to  approve spending cash on reclaiming my on-board disk by letting me build out a VSAN, for all the reasons that Andrew mentioned, but they kiboshed it. However, I am building out a two-node VSAN cluster as I mentioned, using VMWAREs ROBO offering. If I was greenfielding a new environment? VSAN all the way. My only HP was with Lefthand at one client, but they migrated to a VNX solution.
space_timeAuthor Commented:
With VSAN, I dont have the servers and disk capacity I would need so would still be buying hardware and that would also have a cost -maybe less than a SAN but nonetheless necessary.  I have spoken to some CTO's and IT Managers anyway about HP, Nimble, EMC and Compellant.  Everyone seems to be raving about Nimble at the moment.  They are highly regarded for their support but ultimately that is very subjective. Here is the link that was deleted yesterday: - It was quite useful, and wasn't spam.
space_timeAuthor Commented:
I've requested that this question be deleted for the following reason:

While certain members of EE participated, the answers were neither useful or objective. The single helpful answer was deleted by a moderator. If this had not been deleted, some points would likely be awarded to that contributor.  There is no value in keeping this question open.
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
I think this has value, for those seeking to implement a SAN for the first time, and VMware vSAN, if you want to implement a solution from the dark ages, that's up to you.

VMware vSAN is clustered storage, which does not provide a single point of failure, and uses existing server and hardware.

In the future, VMware VSAN. They will be adding SMB3/NFS/iSCSI connectivity VERY soon.....currently under NDA!
space_timeAuthor Commented:
I take your comments on board and think they would lay the groundwork for an interesting article -one that I would read eagerly if I had reached the conclusion that hyper converged storage was the way to go in my infrastructure.  I do not think it was an answer to the question that was asked however.  Thank you very much for your contribution.
Naomi GoldbergCommented:
I would love to know which solution you went with.
space_timeAuthor Commented:
Went for an iSCSI SAN in the end.  Should be delivered next week!
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
which iSCSI SAN ? that's quite generic.
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