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Server Virtualization Brings Fresh Life to DAS

By Paul Shread (Send Email)
Posted Nov 21, 2008


Server virtualization is creating a new market for an old storage technology.

Server virtualization is creating a new market for an old storage technology, as evidenced by HP's latest products.

HP this week unveiled a direct-attached storage (DAS) product that works with its server BladeSystem to give smaller businesses a storage solution to match their virtual server environments.

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Long relegated to second-class status as storage networks gained in popularity, DAS is making a comeback as a way for smaller businesses to move to a more efficient storage environment to keep pace with their virtual server deployments, only the new generation of direct-attached storage solutions from the likes of IBM and Dell use SAS connections and other technologies to make storage more flexible and efficient.

HP's new direct connect SAS storage pushes the technology further, with storage devices that can expand to 192TB and serve as many as 32 blade servers.

Part of a package of server virtualization announcements this week, the direct connect storage for the HP BladeSystem includes the new HP StorageWorks 3Gb/s BL SAS Switch, the P700m Smart Array Controller and the HP StorageWorks MSA2000sa.

Lee Johns, HP's director of marketing for Entry Storage and Storage Blades, said the new offerings combine "the simplicity and cost of DAS with the flexibility and resource utilization of a SAN."

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"Server virtualization forces you to think about shared storage," he said. The new DAS offerings, he said, offer "more effective storage for sever people who haven't quite moved to a SAN."

The offerings come a week after HP closed its acquisition of iSCSI vendor LeftHand Networks. HP, like Dell, sees iSCSI gaining traction as a storage networking technology for server virtualization environments.

Johns said HP's direct connect storage can also be used as building blocks for an iSCSI storage network if users find they outgrow their shared storage DAS environments.

"It's great to see DAS, and particularly SAS-based DAS ... get some of the respect that they deserve as a key storage building block component," said Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO group.

SAS is driving the resurgence of interest in DAS, Schulz said, "breaking the myth that all storage needs to be networked with iSCSI, Fibre Channel, InfiniBand or NAS."

Schulz said the new generation of DAS is not only useful for small environments coping with server virtualization, but also for "the proliferation of clustered storage solutions, grid, cloud and other new or repackaged storage approaches, those solutions that often rely upon general purpose servers or blade systems also leverage SAS DAS and in some cases, while the solution may in fact be a NAS or other networked storage service, the physical storage itself is increasingly being SAS-based DAS."

HP's shared storage DAS model makes for more efficient storage by directly connecting storage devices such as switches, disk arrays and rack enclosures to make better use of resources. The MSA2000sa connects directly to the 3Gb/s SAS switch installed in the BladeSystem enclosure, and each BladeSystem server has a P700m Smart Array Controller that connects to redundant 3Gb/s BL SAS switches. The solution can also eliminate local BladeSystem server drives to improve the efficiency and maintenance of image management by centralizing boot images onto shared storage.

A bundle of redundant HP StorageWorks 3Gb/s SAS BL Switches and the HP StorageWorks MSA2000sa storage array will be available next month at a list price of $9,999.

This article was originally published on Enterprise Storage Forum.

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