Rocket Storage Monthly: Thoughts on HP 3PAR
At Rocket, we use a variety of storage hardware from some well-known vendors such as EMC and HDS. Lately, however, I have had the opportunity to work with something a bit different: an HP 3PAR. Relatively speaking, HP 3PAR is a fairly new player in this market segment. HP completed the acquisition of 3PAR only five years ago, and now we’re starting to see the result of this acquisition with their new HP 3PAR StoreServ models. But how do they compare to products from other vendors?
The Price Advantage
One of the primary selling points for the 3PAR lineup is the cost of the arrays versus the competition. Their entry level StoreServ 7000, for example, bills itself as “Tier-1 storage with midrange affordability.” HP does scale the 3PAR up to the high end too, where the StoreServ 10000 has specifications that seem similar to the EMC VMAX 10K.
In our case, one 3PAR model chosen ended up being closer in price to an EMC VNX than to a VMAX, despite it being positioned closer to the VMAX in terms of features and performance. It’s interesting to note that like HDS, HP is using ASIC processors as compared to the Intel Xeon processors used within some EMC machines. In some designs, ASICs can be used to extract high performance but HP may also be using these as a way to remain price competitive.
Most features that I have come to expect from modern storage arrays are here. To name a few:
- Thin provisioning: Having been one of the early adopters of this technology, thin provisioning is central to the 3PAR.
- Redirect-on-write snapshots: Dubbed Virtual Copy, these snapshots are analogous to HDS’s Thin Image or EMC’s TimeFinder Snap.
- Tiered Storage Groups: Common Provisioning Groups allow data to be migrated from high speed to high capacity storage (or vice versa) automatically.
- Thin De-duplication: De-duplication on thin-provisioned volumes is great for maximizing flash storage.
- Full copy cloning: As always, for situations in which pointer-based snapshots are not well suited.
There is however one thing that separates the HP 3PAR from VMAX or VSP, which is the lack of mainframe support. This won’t be a problem for those focused on virtualization or open systems, but mainframe owners will need to look elsewhere.
Consistency is a strong point for the 3PAR. In terms of features, what you see on the entry model is largely what you will find on the high end one. Since the 7000, 10000 and models in between all run the same OS with many features in common, working in an environment with several different 3PARs becomes much simpler. So while HP states that their entry model is Tier 1 storage with a midrange price, they could very well market the rest of the 3PAR lineup as being simple and coherent from the mid to high end. The benefit of consistency is also enhanced by a simple and sensible CLI that makes scripting and interaction with 3PAR easy.
The acquisition of 3PAR by HP was only five years ago, and this makes me interested to see if the benefits of 3PAR mentioned above will hold true in another five years. Will the price, consistency, and feature set lead to major success for HP in five years time? And on the topic of consistency, I wonder what role HP’s other storage arrays will play in the future. It is my hope that HP will use 3PAR as a base from which they can pioneer new storage technologies.