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HP Updates Small Business Storage for Virtualization

HP this week is updating is storage solutions targeted at small and midsized businesses (SMBs). The new storage updates to the HP P2000 G3 Modular Smart Array (MSA) serve to expand the total storage capacity as well providing new virtualization capabilities.

As part of the update, the P2000 G3 MSA now supports 3 TB SAS midline drives, which provides users with 50 percent more capacity with the same number of slots in existing deployments. The maximum capacity of a P2000 G3 MSA is now 288 TB.

According to HP, the P2000 G3 MSA update reduces virtual machine deployment by 73 percent by leveraging VMware APIs.

"The VMware API for Array Integration (VAAI) is the key to doing some offload technology so the storage array can do things that are common to a VMware administrators day-to-day activities," Britt Terry, Worldwide Marketing Manager (P2000) at HP Storage told InternetNews.com. "

Terry explained that as you setup, launch, delete, change and deploy VMware instances there are a number of commands that are constantly repeated that take a long time that are CPU intensive on a VMware ESX server.

"One of those commands is called 'Block Zero' that comes after you initialize a virtual disk for a virtual machine application," Terry said. "Basically you write zeros to the whole disk space you just allocated."

Terry noted that before VAAI, the process of writing zeros involved a VMware ESX server writing continuous commands that have no data other than zeros, just to get the vdisks initialized. He added that the process could take up to 15 minutes to complete depending on the size of the storage.

"With VAAI, the ESX server tells the storage array to zero out a block of storage," Terry said. "So now behind the scenes at the controller level we now at zeros, which offloads all the back and forth computing."

The other commonly used storage command is called, full copy. Terry said that full copy can be thought off as a golden copy of basic images that you might have in a VMware environment. He added that after you get the disk space initialized, the first thing you do is copy the golden copy of the virtual machine disk (VMDK).

"Before VAAI, you read the copy off an array into the ESX server and than pushed it back onto the same array," Terry said. "So you suck it up through the SAN and it takes a lot of CPU cycle sto get into ESX and then it takes the same amount of cycles to push back to the storage array."

With VAAI, the ESX offloads that full copy activity to the storage array. According to Terry, there is a 64 percent reduction in the time needed to complete the full copy, as result of implementing VAAI.

There is also a hardware assisted locking command that VAAI support. Terry noted that previous to VAAI when you locked down a virtual disk you locked the whole disk at once.

"With VAAI now it goes down to the block level, so you can lock by blocks rather than the full disk," Terry said.

Overall, Terry noted that VAAI has been supported on high-end disk arrays and now it's coming to the SMB marketplace.

"This demonstrates HP's commitment to SMB customers that are moving to virtual environments more and more every day," Terry said. "They are getting the high-end functionality in the P2000."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.