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January 6, 2012


SANs: EMC VMAXe and HP 3PAR V400

If you’re in the market for a new enterprise-class storage array, both EMC and HP/3PAR have good options for you. Toward the end of 2011, we began evaluating solutions from these two vendors with whom we have history and solid relationships. On the EMC side, we’ve grown up through a CX300 in 2006 and into two CX3-40’s in 2008. At the end of 2008, we deployed a 3PAR T400 at our production site and brought back that CX3-40 to consolidate it with the one at our HQ. It’s been three years hence, and our needs call for new tech.

As is the nature of technology, storage has made leaps and bounds since 2008. What once was unique and elevating to 3PAR–wide striping and simplified provisioning from one big pool of disks–has become common place in arrays of all classes. We used to liken it to replacing the carpet in a room with furniture. It’s a real chore when you have to painstakingly push all the chairs and tables into a corner (or out of the room altogether!) when you want to improve or replace the carpet. With disk abstraction and data-shifting features, though, changes and optimizations can be made without the headaches.

Back to EMC & HP/3PAR… This time around, we are stepping up. The last array was architected for 15,000 IOPS. Now we’re looking at ~100,000 and tiered storage (near-line, fiberchannel, and solid-state). In particular, we are focusing on EMC’s VMAXe line, which is a more entry-level version of their VMAX (formerly Symmetrix), and HP’s 3PAR V400/800, which they also call the P10000. Let the bidding begin!

After several rounds of design calls and quoting (never take the first figures the vendors give), we honestly have two relatively equivalent solutions on most aspects. Both tier, both migrate hot and cold data up and down, respectively, and both provide five to six 9’s availability (99.999% = 7 minutes of unplanned downtime per year). Furthermore, from a sales perspective, both vendors wrestled their solutions to around $600,000, which is a far cry from the million+ that the original quotes carried.

Technically, it’s pretty even. Our differentiation comes in two, more relational qualities with which you may fully disagree, but we can only speak from our perspective. On the HP side, our staff individually and collectively have had terrible experiences with HP support (stemming as far back as 1995). Whether it was response times, attentiveness, or technical acuity, HP has consistently failed us. Thus, it was a sad day for us when HP acquired 3PAR, as we had a good history with 3PAR’s sales and support. After expressing this to the HP sales team, they assured us that things have changed, but it seems doubtful (we had a support call on our existing 3PAR array in November 2011, and the HP engineers had no clue how to address the issue–and they couldn’t even get through to a higher level support).

On the other hand, we have a 3PAR array on the floor that has been a delightful experience from the start. Provisioning is a cinch and it’s been reliable. Our EMC CX3-40 has been equally reliable, so this isn’t really an advantage, but rather a balancing out to the prior support downside.

The point? I recommend both. If the 3PAR V400 continues the legacy of the T-series we have, you’ll have low administrative overhead, good performance, and a solid asset (not factoring in support to which I can’t objectively speak). On the other hand, EMC has really made leaps and bounds in leveraging its relationship with VMware and integrating the various technologies that it has purchased over the past several years. It used to be a disparate jumble of offerings, but the team is coming together. And the VMAXe brings the enterprise-class into mid-range reach.

If you’re in the market for a SAN, we’d love to hear your evaluation experience as well as what you decide. And the cherry on the top is the implementation–how did it go? Let us know!


By Chris Gurley, MCSE, CCNA
Last updated: January 9, 2012

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. erich
    Jan 10 2012

    We recently went through the process of replacing a DMX800. We looked at everyone from EMC to Oracle to Xiotech. At the end of the process, we narrowed it down to HP (3PAR F400) and Compellent. I thought HP’s hardware was better but Compellent’s software was better. At the end of the day, it is about performance. That is what led us to HP. We have been an HP shop for ever, both for servers and storage.

    The DMX was unmanageable. We were able to replace 2 DMX800s with 2 F400s w/5 years support for the cost of the next 5 years maintenance on the DMXs. From a financial standpoint, it was a no-brainer. From a performance and capacity standpoint (6x more capacity across FC/NL), the decision was easy.

    Ahhh, HP support. Have been struggling with it for years. I was told the same thing as you about how it has changed……. So for shits and giggles, I opened a case, and true to form same old HP. On hold for 30 minutes, then was told I would get a call back within an hour. Only to get an email 2 hours later. They finally got back to me with an answer to my question 2 weeks later. I hate paying for support from companies like this. When I feel like I have to resort to google for better answers than I could get from support, changes need to be made. Unfortunately for a proprietary platform, what choice do you have?

  2. Chris
    Jan 10 2012

    Thanks for the feedback, erich. I guess we all have to pay in one way or another, whether that’s EMC’s crazy support costs or HP’s sluggish response times :). 3PAR’s old Anacomp service crew was fantastic…too bad they didn’t absorb them as well. Hopefully the EDS crew will get up to speed sooner than later.

    On the cost front, HP just sweetened up the deal on our end, so it’s leaning that way for us as well. We’ll see–it’ll be a fun project regardless (love new tech!).

  3. Eddie
    Jul 25 2012

    It’s interesting all the complaints about HP 3PAR support. We have had no issues except those caused by the shortage of Seagate drive for replacements.

  4. Chris
    Jul 25 2012

    Hey Eddie,

    I hear ya. The issue I mentioned was earlier in the acquisition of 3PAR by HP, so their staff weren’t qualified (but they’d still traded them in place of Anacomp, who had done excellent work pre-acquisition). That doesn’t really sway my general sentiments toward HP, but in the 3PAR realm, it *has* improved some since then. Hopefully we won’t have any issues for which to test the quality of it, but they’ll probably pull through just fine.


  5. Al
    Oct 17 2012

    Don’t get the VMAXe! I have been working with SAN systems for over10 years now and have managed or implimented just about everything that has been out there from the big vendors: HP, EMC, NETAPP, HDS, and IBM.

    As far as EMC goes I have never been a big fan. Reasons: Symmetrix/VMAX/VMAXe still run on a 1970’s mainframe colonial and it show in the fact you still can not create a lun larger than 240GB unless you bind multiple together. Expanding these bound meta lun’s is a minimum 5 hour ordeal (I won’t go into details. Plenty of info, just google it). Gui interface (SMC) is a joke compared to Unisphere for the VNX. The fact you need gatekeepers, 1 for each active path from the SAN to the server, is something that has been done away with long time ago, but for some reason they have held onto it.
    Then there is the 100 different add on’s that they offer which you get stung on licencing, but these are not intergrated into the SAN, no these are applications that need to sit on a windows box or linix appliance.
    Every person that I know that has purchased one, that has moved from another type of SAN including others from the EMC range have reported an increase in management by at least 250% some figures that have been given to me have been much higher.
    On a scale of 1 to 10 for day to day management, 1 being a Fisher Price EVA which I could teach my 3 year old to manage, the VMAXe is a 12!
    This is why EMC Symmetrix engineers are so pricey to hire compared with say…… an IBM storage engineer.
    Add up the extra time spent doing simple tasks, lincening, windows licencing for the add on’s, cost of running the Vm’s or physical machines for them.
    Add in the cost of training, and EMC instructor lead courses are not cheap!
    So what is the real cost of owership?

    The Clariion/VNX still run on a windows XP colonial. Enough said.

    I do not work for a storage vendor nor have I for over 7 years. I currently work for an intergrator and yes, we are an EMC partner among others.

    Don’t be lured in by the nice racks with blue leds, or the sales person that wines and dines you. Buy the best product you can afford, taking EVERYTHING into consideration.

    Me I would buy the 3PAR in a heart beat. HP tech support can be a pain in the ass at times but a good account manager will get you the support you require, if you insist on it.

    On a side note, Google is running 3PAR San’s in all there datacenters. Why because they are that much better than anything else on the market at the moment. Plus there data is deduplicated by the contorllers before it is written to disk, thus needing less disk compared with the equivilent San from another manufacture to hold the same amount of data. Plus the 3PAR being able to run 8 active controllers is a nice touch.

    A bit of history: Google had EMC San’s then went to NETAPP then to 3PAR. They go with what is the best at the time, in terms of preformance and reliability. They are Google, they are getting what ever support they want!

    I like HDS, and as far as auto storage teiring goes it is the only one that work some what decent, and I have never had a HDS San fail. Which is more than I can say for some other vendors.

    Sized correctly each manufacture has a San for your needs, don’t be fooled, and do your homework.

    I hope this has enlightened some.

    Cheers Al

    • John
      Sep 15 2014

      Google running HP 3Par. I know people at Google, and they have everything there. They have tons of VNX, HP, etc. So I would throw out the “Google is running 3 Par” in all their DataCenters. They are running about everything in all their datacenters.

  6. Chris
    Oct 20 2012

    While some of your data regarding VMAXe seems out of date, the points you mentioned are good for potential customers to broach with their sales reps. Ask the questions, folks, and if it’s an easy decision/dismissal, great. But be open to a surprise in case products and times have changed. Most of the big players have been the “right stuff” at some point in their history. The key is to catch them when they’ve found and find out if the honeymoon is over.



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