HP Mixes Serial ATA And SCSI Drives In Entry-Level SAN Line

Pat McMullan, product manager for entry-level SANs at HP, introduced the new array to solution providers attending QLogic's channel summit, being held this week in Huntington Beach, Calif.

The MSA1500 uses the same RAID controller as the company's MSA1000. However, while the MSA1000 came packaged with the controller and a disk array as an integrated unit, the MSA1500's controller head, with one or two controllers, is separate from the disk enclosure, McMullan said.

The reason is simple, McMullan said. "We don't know what customers want, SATA or SCSI," he said.

In back of the MSA1500 are slots for four HP I/O modules. The modules can be connected to either one MSA30 disk enclosure or two MSA20 disk enclosures.

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The MSA30 is an Ultra320 SCSI-based JBOD (just a bunch of disks, or non-RAID) array currently shipping for use in expanding the capacity of the current MSA1000 with a maximum capacity of 2 Tbytes. The MSA20 is a new SATA-based JBOD designed for the MSA1500, which can be configured for up to 3 Tbytes of storage per enclosure.

When the MSA1500 initially ships, it can be used with one to four of the I/O modules for a maximum of 8 Tbytes of SCSI or 24 Tbytes of SATA capacity, McMullan said.

Sometime in the third quarter of this year, solution providers will be able to mix and match SCSI-attached and SATA-attached I/O modules within the same MSA1500 control head, McMullan said. Eventually, this will allow disk-to-disk backups from primary SCSI drives to secondary SATA drives to be done within a single unit, he said. "This gives lots of flexibility at a low price," he said.

One thing that is important to remember when acquiring disk arrays is that SATA drives are not aimed at 24x7 operation, McMullan said. "SATA drives are not enterprise drives," he said. "We have to get that message out. We say they can be used for near-on-line and disk-to-disk backups."

Carl Wolfston, director of Headlands Associates, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based HP solution provider, said the vendor has done a great job with the MSA1500.

The SAN is a big place to store a lot of data cheaply, Wolfston said. In fact, disk-to-disk backups to such arrays could put a dent in the move by many vendors to offer tape emulation on disk-based arrays, he said.

"Other vendors have tape emulation," he said. "But now I can back up to SATA drives. Why would I want to use tape emulation?"

According to Wolfston, the MSA1500 has only one drawback for an HP-only storage specialist like Headlands: It does not support connectivity to Sun Microsystems' Solaris-based servers.

The MSA1000 and MSA1500 operate under Windows, Linux, NetWare, OpenVMS and Tru64 environments, and the MSA1000 was qualified for HP-UX Unix last month, McMullan said.

Solaris, however, is a long-term project. "Is it being talked about? Yes, it is," he said. "But I don't want to mislead anybody."

The MSA1500 and MSA20 are both expected to be available for shipment within 45 days, McMullan said. The company is looking at the possibility of upgrading previously-installed MSA1000 arrays into MSA1500s, he said.