HP looks ahead to blade future

Two trends clearly emerged from Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Americas StorageWorks Conference last month in Las Vegas: HP’s going green, and the future is in blades.

The company introduced a new line of StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Arrays, the EVA 4100, 6100 and 8100, and Linear Tape Open (LTO 4) tape drives for the company’s BladeSystem c-Class enclosures.

HP is promising energy savings of up to one half with the EVAs. The new line is more performance-efficient as well, said HP’s Mark Gonzales, vice-president of sales for the enterprise servers and storage group.

Once an array is carved up into logical unit numbers (LUNs), the allotted space is used up whether there’s data in it or not. But on the new EVAs, administrators can resize the LUNs on the fly, Gonzales said, reclaiming that space. “What’s the most expensive storage you can buy? The storage you have to buy today,” Gonzales said. With storage costs dropping continually, being able to put off the investment in storage capacity will save money in the long run, he said.

The arrays also offer what he called a “true space-efficient copy for data backup. Snapshot backups make a complete copy of the data each backup, creating a clone. The EVAs add incrementally to the backup, saving space.

Worth Davis, director of IT for Suez Energy North America Inc. in Houston, called the ability to dynamically change LUN size important. “It’s doable now,” without the new technology, but it’s painful and time-consuming. It often comes into play when a number of mid-sized servers are sharing the same array and management becomes a little ad hoc.

Suez is currently running two EVA 5000s and two EVA 8000s. Davis is looking into the purchase of two or three of the new EVA 6100s for a new data centre the company has broken ground on.

Increasing utilization and improving allocation are two of the value pillars of storage, said John Sloan, senior research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group, based in London, Ont. While dynamically changing the size of the LUNs addresses, Sloan said through thin provisioning offered by vendors including 3Par, it’s not necessary to change the LUNs.

“I’m not aware of too many situations where that’s being done,” Sloan said.

Thin provisioning allows users to set up a storage volume for a server, for example 20GB, but only use the actual storage it needs.

As far as the server is concerned, it has 20GB of capacity. This allows administrators to overprovision — they can allocate more storage to applications than they physically have.

Improving allocation and increasing utilization are metrics that sometimes don’t resonate with decision-makers, Sloan said. But it comes down to fewer spinning disks, and fewer spinning disks mean less power consumption.

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