HP Puts Transformative Application Performance Improvement Within Reach of Small and Midsize Enterprises

Flash memory technology can deliver transformative application performance improvements that lead to results that matter to business—like faster decisions and the ability to serve more customers more quickly. But the cost of flash memory arrays and the technical know-how required to integrate them into the data center have thus far put them out of reach of many small and midsize enterprises (SMEs).

Hybrid storage arrays utilize dynamic data placement in a storage pool that combines flash memory and HDDs to deliver the exponential improvements in storage performance associated with flash memory arrays at a cost that makes sense to a broader range of organizations. Now HP has introduced a preconfigured hybrid storage appliance specifically designed for SMEs–the HP StoreVirtual 4335–that enables smaller IT departments to deliver the performance boost businesses want while also giving lean IT departments what they need–affordable technology that just works.

Flash Performance Overcoming Storage Fears

Although storage professionals are traditionally cautious about adopting new technologies, a recent survey indicates that hybrid storage adoption is real and growing with more than one-third of the respondents (37%) to this survey indicating they had already deployed a hybrid storage array. Hybrid storage arrays are garnering this kind of attention from organizations because they deliver previously unheard of storage performance at a cost per GB that makes sense.

Evidence that the dramatic performance improvements from implementing flash memory storage has been quantified. Wikibon reported flash improved workload performance by an average of 7.2X (720%). HP’s own internal testing of the StoreVirtual 4335 Storage appliance demonstrated improvements of 10x and beyond, even for challenging highly-random workloads associated with virtual infrastructures.

The challenge for SMEs is the cost and management associated with flash. A large enterprise with applications that generate millions of IOPS with applications, need ultra-low latencies and have IT staff to support can typically justify the investment in all-flash storage arrays. However, the applications that most SMEs depend upon may not need that much performance—though they will take it if they can get it – and their IT staff does not have time to tinker with it. As such, a storage system that is reasonably priced, easy to manage and also delivers improved performance will almost certainly get the nod over those that do not.

Affordable Hybrid Storage through Adaptive Optimization

The HP StoreVirtual 4335 Storage appliance is just such a solution. It leverages the strengths of HP ProLiant Gen8 server hardware and the dynamic sub-volume auto-tiering capabilities of LeftHand OS 11.0 to create an affordable hybrid storage appliance. The StoreVirtual 4335’s auto-tiering technology, referred to as “Adaptive Optimization,” distinguishes itself from the auto-tiering feature on other storage systems in the following ways:

  • Application sensitive. It always services and prioritizes application IO over auto-tiering requests. This approach ensures auto-tiering does not interfere with application performance. The auto-tiering algorithm also includes a pre-defined threshold to prevent unnecessary data movement.
  • Dynamic. Rather than periodic after-the-fact tiering, it evaluates data placement every time it accesses data. Further, as it accesses each page, the 4335 maintains and updates its “heat map” of access counts for individual data pages. This “heat map” includes an aging mechanism that prioritizes the most recent accesses so they carry a heavier weight than earlier accesses.
  • Granular. It bases data tiering on the standard LeftHand OS data page block of 256K. This level of granularity is a natural fit for the LeftHand architecture, and is a practical compromise between the 4K of some flash appliances which can create too much auto-tiering overhead and the multi-megabyte chunks of some other storage systems which may be insufficiently granular to place the right blocks on the right tier of storage.

Thoughtfully Tuned to SME Requirements

In addition to the HP StoreVirtual 4335 delivering the dramatic performance improvements that SMEs desire, it also takes into consideration other requirements that SMEs possess. Consider:

  • Autonomic. Employing a “flash first” philosophy, when the system is initially deployed it immediately stores all new data in flash memory. Then over time, it uses pre-defined settings for the fully-automated and transparent movement of the least used data to HDD–maximizing the percentage of IOs fulfilled from flash memory on an ongoing, self-regulating basis. This eliminates the need for IT staff to constantly monitor performance and tweak settings.
  • Performance Monitoring Built In. Although data tiering is autonomic, troubleshooting application performance issues sometimes requires IT staff to see what is happening inside a storage system. HP provides this visibility through the Performance Monitor feature within the HP StoreVirtual management console. This integrated tool provides real-time performance monitoring of StoreVirtual storage clusters. Key statistics that are readily available including utilization rates, IOPS and latency per-tier on a per-system and per-volume basis.
  • Pre-integrated. Each HP StoreVirtual 4335 ships with three 400GB solid state drives (SSDs) and seven 900GB 10K SAS HDDs pre-installed to deliver 7.5TB of raw capacity in a 1U rack mountable appliance. Of that raw capacity, 1.2TB (16 percent) is Tier 0 flash memory storage.  The LeftHand OS 11.0 is pre-installed and ships with Adaptive Optimization fully configured and enabled.
  • Single SKU. HP bundles all of the hardware, software and three years of support into a single SKU. This simplifies the purchase decision and makes the 4335 easy to order and support.
  • Virtualization ready. The storage appliance integrates with Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vCenter management tools. This integration aligns with the needs of smaller IT shops where one person may be responsible for managing both storage and servers and needs a central console from which to manage them.

Minimum Pain with Maximum Gain

As a member of the StoreVirtual storage family, the HP StoreVirtual 4335 Storage offers all of the LeftHand OS capabilities to include Network RAID and thin provisioning. Current StoreVirtual customers may use LeftHand OS’s Peer Motion technology to migrate active volumes from existing StoreVirtual storage systems to the new high performance 4335 without incurring the downtime normally associated with such storage migrations.

In the StoreVirtual 4335 Storage, HP again leverages the strengths of the industry’s leading server platform and LeftHand OS software into a pre-configured hybrid storage appliance that embodies the pre-integrated appliance-based “set it and forget it” approach to IT infrastructure. This approach reduces implementation risk and the amount of time required to implement the solution. The fact that the 4335 is also affordably priced means that many more SMEs can finally stop envying the performance that enterprises are getting and instead start experiencing them in their environment while staying within their budget.

Ken Clipperton

About Ken Clipperton

Ken Clipperton is a Managing Analyst at DCIG, a group of analysts with IT industry expertise who provide informed, insightful, third party analysis and commentary on IT hardware, software and services. Within the data center, DCIG has a special focus on the enterprise data storage and electronically stored information (ESI) industries.

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