HPE 3PAR Flash Storage Review

Chunklet technology has allowed us to spread our load across all our drives

What is our primary use case?

We run a High Performance Computing grid for Nuance and run GPFS on top of 3PAR. We are using SAS-based 3PAR for data and the 8450s, all SSD, for the metadata.

It has been performing great. We have had SSD based 3PARs since 2013 and we have only lost about four drives so far.

How has it helped my organization?

We are an R&D group, so it does not change the function. However, it improves the performance for our grids. 

It allows us to buy less capacity for performance. We would buy spindles just for the IOPs, so we were wasting space for the performance. Now, we don't have to.

What is most valuable?

The performance is the most valuable. We had the spindle problem that most places have. With the chunklet technology, it allowed us to spread our load across all our drives, unlike traditional raid groups that can leave some disks idle while other take the load.

What needs improvement?

It is more specific to High Performance Computing, but I would like to see a faster Ethernet connection. Right now, it is 10G. If they could do multiple hundred gigs to speed up the transfer from the array to the servers, that would be good. We are trying to get away from Fibre Channel.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

When we went to 3PAR, it has the Call-Home function. Now, I do not have to do a whole lot for monitoring and problems. The sales engineer (SE) will show up with a drive, and say "You've got a drive down." Therefore, we don't even monitor it.

This makes our job so much easier.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We typically max them out. When we buy an array, we buy a SAS-based array with 480 drives. We use a clustered file system on it that prefills the LUNs, so it looks likes it's full the day that we get it. We receive sales calls asking, "You are beyond 95 percent full, do you want to buy another one?" However, we have not even started yet! 

When we want to scale, we buy another one. We spread the filesystem horizontally across arrays.

How is customer service and technical support?

We used the technical support early on for tuning and configuration. We went pretty deep with tech support onsite to get the most out of the arrays.

Which solutions did we use previously?

We had the MSA P2000 series previously. We had 120 of them in one data center. Therefore, we went from the MSAs to the 3PAR, and the decision-making was based on the performance. Our issues was neither a throughput nor an IOP problem, but more of a file open issue. We have billions of files where you need a lot of different spindles with different heads moving around independently of each other. 3PAR provided this for us.

How was the initial setup?

We first started with the 3PAR V400 series, which is two racks that had to be wired together to provide 600TB of storage.  With the 15TB SSD based arrays we replace 6 racks of V400's with 8U of 8450's. 

What was our ROI?

In R&D, it is hard to put an ROI on time. We are a worldwide company with Ph.D.'s working on the system 24/7. We don't want them waiting around so everything we do to speed up their process helps.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

You can find cheaper storage but you pay for performance.  3PARs performance has been consistent.  I have seen other arrays slow down as the load increases due to controller saturation.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We had been an HPE customer before, and when we first started with the MSAs, we had an issue where HPE got a batch of drives in from one of their vendors that had a bad firmware on it. Basically, we had to replace 960 drives with the system online.  HPE recognized replacing 750G drives with 500G drives was less capacity than what we purchased so they gave us three more arrays just so they could match the space. That was a huge turning point for us going to HPE. We have had vendors say, "It's your problem. Deal with it." We have had vendors walk away from us. For HPE to actually come up and do this, that was a big deal.

We benchmark vendor solutions ourselves, and knowing the internal technology that makes it work is important.

We had a project where we did get somebody else's storage. It got to the point where we could not keep it performing enough to keep up with the load. We ended up just getting rid of it after a year of problems.

What other advice do I have?

With our 3PARs, we have never lost data.

I would really push the chunklet technology. That is the main benefit out of 3PAR. The way it subdivides a disk into 1GB chunks. 

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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