Tuesday, 15 May 2007

USP-V - bit of a let down?

It seems from the posts seen so far on the blogosphere that the USP release is causing a bit of a stir (10 points for stating the obvious I think). So, here’s my take on the announcements so far.

First of all, it’s called USP-V – presumably because of the “Massive 500-Percent Increase in Virtualized Storage Port Performance for External Storage”. I'm not sure what that means - possibly more on that later.

As previously pointed out, the USP-V doesn’t increase the number of disks it supports. It stays at 1152 and disappointingly the largest drive size is still 300GB and only 146GB for 15K drives. I assume HDS intends to suggest that customers should be using virtualisation to connect to lower cost, higher capacity storage. That’s a laudible suggestion and only works if the Universal Volume Manager licence is attractive to make it work. In my experience this is an expensive feature and unless you’re virtualising a shed-load of storage, then it probably isn’t cost effective.

There have been some capacity increases; the number of logical LUNs increases 4-fold. I think this has been needed for some time, especially if using virtualisation. 332TB with 16384 virtual LUNs meant an average of 20GB per LUN, obviously now it is only 4GB. Incidentally, the HDS website originally showed the wrong internal capacity here: http://www.hds.com/products/storage-systems/capacity.html, showing the USP-V figures the same as the base USP100. It’s now been corrected!

Front-end ports and back-end directors have been increased. For fibre-channel the increase is from 192 to 224 ports (presumably 12 to 14 boards) and back-end directors increase from a maximum of 4 to 8. I’m not sure why this is if the number of supportable drives hasn’t been increased (do HDS think 4 was insufficient or will be see a USP-V MKII with support for more drives?). Although these are theoretical maxima, the figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt. For example, the front-end ports are 16-port cards in the USP and there are 6 slots. This provides 96 ports, the next 96 are provided by stealing back-end directors (this is similar to DMX-3 – 64 ports maximum which can be increased to 80 by removing disk director cards). Surprisingly, throughput hasn’t been increased. Control bandwidth has, but not cache bandwidth. Does the control bandwidth increase provide the 500% increase in virtualisation throughput for external storage?

What about the “good stuff”? So, far, all I can see is Dynamic (thin) Provisioning and some enhancements to virtual partitions. The thin provisioning claims to create virtual LUNs and spread data across a wide number of array groups. I suspect this is simply an extension of the existing copy-on-write technology, which if it is, makes it hardly revolutionary.

I’d say the USP-V is an incremental change to the existing USP and not quite worthy of the fanfare and secrecy of the last 6 months. I’d like to see some more technical detail (HDS feel free to forward me whatever you like to contradict my opinion).

One other thought. I don’t think the DMX-3 was any less or more radical when it was released....


Nigel said...

Hi Chris,

I mentioned in post over at RM that I thought this was a good upgrade. But if I dreamt up the wider backend striping then that would take a lot of the gloss off it for me.

As for the 224 front end ports now supported. Im pretty sure that HP always supported 224 on the XP12K (with only a single ACP pair installed).

As for the increased number of ACP/DKA/BED pairs to 8. My understanding is that there are still only 64 paths on the back end and the same number of processors as on BEDs on the original USP. They have simply halved each PCB to make incrementing and maintenance simpler. So if you pull and ACP now you affect less drives.

But Im like you - lacking the technical documentation to know for sure.

Chris M Evans said...

Nigel, thanks for the comments - as you mention, the detail would be good.