HP StoreVirtual VSA: Should I stay or should I go?

During my career, I have been using LeftHand/StoreVirtual hardware very often and really liked the stability and flexibility of the product line. I would like to share my experiences with the virtual version of this iSCSI SAN solution as it can prove to be a valuable tool during your IT operations.

First of all an introduction to StoreVirtual VSA (Virtual Storage Appliance), which I will call VSA from now on.

The VSA can run on either Hyper-V or VMware vSphere ESXi.
While running this appliance on a hypervisor by choice, you can use storage of local disks in your hypervisor machine to shared storage by creating a virtual disk and attaching this to the VSA. This also means you can run the VSA next to your running VMs and use free space in your datastore without the need to move VMs.

For each hypervisor that you want to use to provide shared storage with attached local disks you need to deploy a VSA. See the image below for an example when using three ESXi hosts with a VSA deployed.

As the VSA isn’t free for use (with the exception of a trial ofcourse), you need to acquire licenses. The type of licenses you need depends on the amount of VSA appliances you would like to run and the total capacity you need. For specific licensing questions I would suggest you to contact your reseller or HP to be sure your calculation is correct. From what I could tell from this document, the following licensing options are available:

4TB per VSA
3 VSA licenses
Maximum of 3 VSA’s in a cluster
No adaptive optimization

10TB per VSA
1 VSA license
No cluster limit
Adaptive optimization included

10TB per VSA
500 VSA licenses
No cluster limit
Adaptive optimization included

50TB per VSA
1 VSA license
No cluster limit
Adaptive optimization included

50TB per VSA
300 VSA licenses
No cluster limit
Adaptive optimization included

Each VSA can be configured to provide up to 50TB of storage capacity. Some licenses includes Adaptive Optimization, which enables tiering inside your node, placing ‘hot’ data on fast disks (SSD) and ‘cold’ data on slower disks (spinning disks).

The VSA is a certified iSCSI storage solution for both VMware and Hyper-V and supports a vSphere Metro Storage Cluster (vMSC) configuration, which enables you to stretch both compute and storage over multiple sites. Besides this, the VSA can integrate with existing HP StoreVirtual or HP LeftHand storage nodes, providing you with the ability to extend your physical storage environment with virtual nodes.

When using multiple nodes (both physical and virtual), you have the ability to enable Network-Raid for LUNs. With this method, blocks will be striped across multiple nodes and will ensure availability whenever one of your nodes might fail or become unreachable.

My use cases:

The VSA is as intelligent as the physical editions and can provide you with extreme flexibility in cases of migration, troubleshooting or just a way to simply provide shared storage without buying expensive hardware that consumes physical network ports, power and rack space.

I have been using the VSA as permanent SAN for production VMs as described in this article, but also as backup storage and as a staging piece of storage while migrating from local storage to shared storage, while waiting for the definitive piece of hardware. Another use case could be a POC with pieces of software like backup or implementing a metro cluster. A trial lets you run VSA for 60 days, which can help you in certain times where you need extra capacity of shared storage. Try it some time!

The software can be downloaded from this URL.

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