HP freezes out SAN fabric
Directly attaches 3PAR to blades
HP is removing the need for a Fibre Channel fabric linking its 3PAR arrays and BladeSystem servers with a quasi direct-attach supplied though its Virtual Connect technology.
The technology, announced today HP's Discover event in Las Vegas today, forms part of HP's Converged Infrastructure product set.
Virtual Connect Direct-Attach Fibre Channel for 3PAR is, of course, proprietary, although still using the Fibre Channel protocol, and exists within the HP environment only.
The benefits of giving up some SAN fabric openness are, HP says, a 55 per cent cut in storage access latency, a 50 per cut reduction of storage costs, 250 per cent faster provisioning compared with competitor arrays and faster virtual machine I/O.
Also there is less kit between the arrays and BladeSystem servers.Customers also need fewer multi-vendor licenses and management tools. HP says you can get rid of the intermediate DSAN infrastructure and deploy elsewhere the knowledgable personnel needed to install, operate, manage and fix it.
According to Alex Kramer, HP Senior Virtual Connect engineer and architect, we can envisage connecting from 1 to 1500 HP blade servers to a 3PAR array without having to put a traditional SAN fabric in place between them, with its HBAs, edge and core switches.
He says it can mean millions of dollars of savings and thousands of components fewer in the data centre. Deployment complexity is also significantly reduced. The VCE organisation's Vblocks still use an intermediate SAN infrastructure and are therefore less dense, more complex and costlier, he claims.
Kramer said HP will look at extending Virtual Connect to other storage arrays - think P4000 perhaps, maybe EVA and VSP - and to backup devices like Store Once and "other flagship HP products".
Virtual Connect can be placed in the general trend for converged systems that's slowly gathering pace, among the Vblocks and VSPEXs, the FlexPods, and the like.
Fibre Channel switch and host bus adapter (HBA) suppliers such as Cisco, Emulex and QLogic may be a little anxious when they learn about this. In HP accounts, their Fibre Channel fabric kit sales could be threatened with HP's converged infrastructure getting rid of the traditional SAN fabric.
Will Dell and IBM follow HP in cutting out the Fibre Channel fabric gear suppliers too? It seems likely. In that case the longer term future for Brocade, Emulex and QLogic should factor in that SAN fabric sales downer factored.
This converged system movement benefits server system vendors and storage array vendors that are lucky enough to work with them - e.g. NetApp and Cisco - or who can set up their own converged system initiatives, such as Nexenta and Nutanix.
Cisco should be safe enough because of its general networking business and its UCS servers giving it an entree into the Vblock, VSPEX and FlexPod initiatives. It could even come up with its own Virtual Connect-alike technology.
Other storage array vendors will find it harder to make sales in customer accounts that adopt a converged systems mindset. Get your fur coats fellas; the temperature's dropping out there in the cold.
HP Virtual Connect Direct-Attach Fibre Channel for HP 3PAR Storage is currently available in limited quantities to early-adopter clients and will be available worldwide later this year at no additional charge as part of a BladeSystem Virtual Connect FlexFabric Module. ®
SAN is integrated, not eliminated
I heard the way this works under the sheets is to simply enable a traditional FC Switch inside the FlexFabric module that's already there but simply running in NPIV mode.
I believe that switch ASIC is made by Qlogic in the current model.
So in essence, you are not eliminating the SAN Switch but rather than having a large central pair of SAN Switches, you are moving the switch out to the edge. Then you use Virtual Connect's own GUI to manage the Zoning by simply attaching a "Fabric" to the Server Profile like you already do today.
And as far as other storage vendors eventually being supported:
One of the things that makes this possible is the fact that even a moderate 3PAR T400 supports up to 64 Host Ports (the port facing the SAN as opposed to Disk Shelves).
Maxing out the FlexFabric module with FC, that would be only 8 connections per Enclosure.
Which means you can hang a minimum of 8 enclosures from a single T400.
NetApp and EMC have generally less than 16 host ports and would then only enable what, maybe 2 enclosures? The EMC VMAX 20K can grow up to 128 Host Ports but only does 16 ports per 20K Engine. So that could work in this design perhaps but would also cost an arm and a leg.
So its not just a vendor lock in by design, but simply comparing the architecture of the competitors shows they probably wouldn't work well in this design.
You heard it here
First step, or maybe fifth step, in replacing the menagerie of DAS, DEC EVA, Lefthand, etc with 3PAR. They will eventually ditch XP at the high end as well as get to 3PAR across the board. SKU consolidation, as Whitman would say....
Re: SANs...when did it become a 4 letter word?
For certain disk i/o sensitive applications (IMHE ones thst are heavily/exclusively random) we still use direct attached storage because of latency. It's not always a problem, and for some applications it never is, but in those exceptionally sensitive situations going SAN can mean 2 or 3 servers instead of 1 for what we need it to do. Maybe this will help some but after years of visits from SAN salesmen and failed attempts to move these problem apps to SAN I am skeptical. From what I recall, the SAN fabric was pretty fast - it was the SAN itself that was (for us, and our highly sensitive random i/o) slow.