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The HP XP7 Storage Virtual Array Capability Marks the Beginning of the End of the Pain of Data Consolidations and Migrations

Delivering always-on application availability accompanied by the highest levels of capacity, management and performance are the features that historically distinguish high end storage arrays from other storage arrays available on the market. But even these arrays struggle to easily deliver on a fundamental data center task: migrating data from one physical array to another. The introduction of the storage virtual array feature into the new HP XP7 dramatically eases this typically complex task as it facilitates data consolidations and migrations by migrating entire storage virtual arrays from one physical array frame to another while simplifying array management in the process.

Data Consolidations and Migrations Create High End Pain

Organizations with business and mission critical applications find high end storage arrays highly desirable for multiple reasons. They are highly available. They scale to hold up to petabytes of storage capacity. They deliver performance in the millions of IOs per second (IOPS.) They can handle mixed application workloads. Their operating systems are mature, stable and well documented. These represent the standards against which all other storage arrays are measured.

Despite these advantages, the pain of non-disruptively and seamlessly migrating data from one high end physical array frame to another persists. Like any other array, high end arrays still have capacity and performance limitations. Further, as their technology ages or warranties expire, their application data must be migrated to a new storage array. Here is where the challenges surface.

While all high end storage arrays provide software to facilitate the migration of data from one array to another or the consolidation of data on a single array, these tasks are both complex and laborious. Planning and then executing upon them to avoid applications downtime and/or disruptions in performance may take weeks, months or even years to complete.

Organizations typically first document the placement of the application data on their existing high end storage array(s) before beginning any type of data consolidation or migration. Once documented, organizations must then determine where they want to place that data on the new array. At this point zoning and LUN masking on the new storage array is done so application servers may concurrently access capacity on both the old and new storage arrays. Only once those activities are complete may data on a LUN-by-LUN basis be migrated from an existing to a new array so the cutover to the new array may occur.

Even assuming all of these manual processes are accomplished flawlessly, there is still no guarantee the data consolidation or migration will go exactly as planned. Administrators over different applications need to learn to share array resources as well as schedule and resolve the change control requirements of their respective applications. Firmware on the servers’ host bus adapters (HBAs) or converged network adapters (CNAs) may be out-of-date and not recognize the LUNs presented by the new storage array. The volume manager and/or operating system on the physical or virtual machines may experience similar issues. Should any of these challenges arise, organizations may need to fail back to the old array.

In a worst case scenario, a data consolidation migration only partially succeeds. Should this occur, both the old and new storage arrays must remain in use as some applications run on the new array while the rest remain on the older storage array. In this situation an organization may need to keep using the older storage array for an indeterminate amount of time until the data migration is complete.

The Storage Virtual Array Impact

The introduction of the storage virtual array capability into the Next Gen HP XP7 removes these persisting complexities associated with data consolidations and migrations. To create a storage virtual array, organizations must first identify storage capacity resources such as hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) within the frame of a physical HP XP arrays and then mark them for inclusion in a specific storage virtual array.

This feature reduces the current complexities and risks of migrating data as well as improves the manageability of the storage infrastructure in the following ways:

  • Granular management through the creation of multiple storage virtual arrays. Organizations often consolidate the data of multiple applications and departments onto a single high end storage array to reduce costs and improve availability. The downside is that multiple individuals may need to access and manage the array. By creating up to eight (8) storage virtual arrays  and placing each application’s and/or department’s data in its own one, administrators may then securely access and migrate only the data for which they are responsible.
  • Simplified migrations by moving entire storage virtual arrays.  Migrating LUNs from one physical XP array to another on a LUN-by-LUN basis is, at best, complex to setup and time-consuming to execute upon. Using the storage virtual array capability, organizations may migrate an entire virtual storage array from one physical XP array to another. Each storage virtual array has its own “personality” – array model, administrative privileges, LUN masking, etc. – so all of these characteristics are included with the storage virtual array as it is migrated. This reduces the setup time and simplifies the task of migration.XP7 Data Migration
Source: HP
  • Reduced data migration risk through transparent data mobility. Leveraging the HP XP7’s existing data management and replication software, the storage virtual array may non-disruptively and transparently migrate a storage virtual array from one physical XP array to another. The physical and/or virtual hosts may then access the storage virtual array on the new XP array in the same way that they did on the old physical XP array once they are zoned to access the new XP array. Further, since the storage virtual array can continue to present to the hosts the same model number as the prior host, it reduces the chances of incompatibilities between the hosts’ CNA, HBA and/or volume manager software and the storage virtual array residing on the new physical XP .
  • Access to additional resources. Organizations invariably find themselves in a position where application servers need more storage capability, performance or both over time. The XP7 addresses both of these ongoing organizations requirements by offering up performance improvements of up to 300 percent or more versus the HP XP P9500. It also gives organizations the flexibility to put more HDDs and SSDs into an XP7 as well as a wider range of each media type.
  • Lays the groundwork for a seamless disaster recovery solution. Most organizations envision a day where their applications and data are always available regardless of the circumstances. Storage virtual arrays that may be non-disruptively migrated across physical XP arrays bring that vision closer to a reality.

HP XP7 Storage Virtual Array Marks the Beginning of a New Reality without the Pain of Data Consolidations and Migrations

Organizations want the pain associated with data consolidations and migrations to end. The introduction of the storage virtual array capability into the Next Gen HP XP7 serves as a point of demarcation as to when companies can start to expect the pain associated with these tasks to stop. While organizations will need to utilize professional services to initially adopt and implement this technology on the HP XP7, once that investment is made, they can look forward to the storage virtual array feature facilitating the easy and secure sharing of XP resources while making data consolidations and migrations a much simpler task to plan and execute upon going forward.

Jerome M. Wendt

About Jerome M. Wendt

President & Lead Analyst of DCIG, Inc. Jerome Wendt is the President and Lead Analyst of DCIG Inc., an independent storage analyst and consulting firm. Mr. Wendt founded the company in September 2006.

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