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HPE Modular Storage Array (MSA) – Product Brief

Last updated December 4th, 2018 for general updates. Concise 7-page overview of the HPE MSA. Product Brief includes EvaluScale Reviewing Methodology. Download the free Product Brief now!

Overview

The HPE MSA is a block storage system aimed at the entry market with multiple protocol connectivity.  The HPE MSA family has several models, including the 1050 and the 2050 or 2052, with the older 2040 model still available. The system can be configured with Fibre Channel, SAS, and iSCSI connectivity with dual controllers and a single controller option on the entry 1040 model.  HPE’s MSA is an entry-level system that supports many advanced features such as VMware integration, remote replication and support for all SSD configurations often found only in higher end systems.

The entry level model of the MSA family is the MSA 1050, which supports fewer host ports per controller, less cache, less capacity, a slower processor and fewer supported features.  The MSA 2052 is physically identical to the 2050 model, but includes SSD drives, support for 512 snapshots, remote replication and a license for performance tiering.

HPE sells the MSA systems packaged with servers as a part of many solution offerings.  There are a number of configuration and capacity scaling options and a wide range of disk drives supported.  HPE Insight Control may be used to complement the MSA’s web based GUI for management.

Usage

The HPE MSA is used in both direct attach and SAN environments for scale-out storage designs, remote enterprise locations or for small and mid-size businesses.  The storage system is used as part of solution offerings such as Exchange servers and other specific applications.

  • Characteristics
    • Performance – The MSA in general and the 2052 model in particular has good performance characteristics due to its efficient controllers combined with support for a large number of disks and solid-state devices. Additionally, VMware VAAI support can enhance performance in some environments.
    • SSD Tiering / Caching – Firmware supports SSD as a read cache, and auto-tiering between pools. The 2052 supports both performance tiering and archive tiering, moving data between an SSD pool, an mid-tier HDD pool and archive HDD pool along with using SSD as a read cache.
    • Availability – Dual controller systems provide HA features through failover capability, combined with hot swap features on all critical components. The transportable cache enables the hot swapping of a controller without loss of any cached data.
    • Replication for BC/DR – Asynchronous remote replication is available.
  • Applications
    • The MSA is targeted at applications that use block I/O in the entry-level space.
    • The MSA’s snapshots, VSS, VAAI and remote replication provide a large degree of application and OS integration to enable application consistency. The performance and features allow applications to be deployed in a high availability environment.
    • Applications that demand high sustained throughput are a good fit for the MSA 2040 due to the large cache and the number and speed of host I/O ports
    • Transaction based applications generating a high I/O rate should perform well with configuration utilizing a high number of drives combined with SSD’s
  • System environments
    • The MSA is a block storage system family with wide connectivity for both direct and SAN attachment using SAS, FC, and iSCSI.
    • The entry level MSA 1050 has similar features, with reduced connectivity, performance, capacity and without some features.
  • Deployment and Administration
    • As an entry-level storage system, MSA systems are intended to be installed and managed by IT generalists with basic knowledge of storage.
    • HPE Insight Manager and a Web GUI are supported administration tools

Evaluator Group EvaluScale: HPE MSA – SAN Storage

Evaluator Group product review methodology “EvaluScale” assesses each product within a specific technology area.  The definitions of the criteria and explanations of how products are reviewed can be found in the  Evaluator Series Evaluation Guide. Download the product brief now to view the Evaluscale for this product.

Evaluator Group Opinion: Differentiating elements for HPE MSA

The HPE MSA has a long history as an entry-level storage system, primarily sold with Proliant servers.  The current 2050 (and 2052) generation has evolved significantly with many advanced features and very high performance for a system targeted at a low-price entry system.  The addition of more ports, faster FC connectivity, faster controllers with larger cache along with support for SSDs all help maintain the MSA 2052s strong heritage for performance, reliability and ease of use in the entry level marketplace.

With continuing the 1050 at nearly the same entry price with fewer features, less performance and less capacity leads to some confusion for customers.  There is also some overlap with the HPE Nimble systems.  The MSA is sold as an independent storage system but is more often seen packaged with a server sale.

Despite overlaps and the fact that the MSA is a different architecture with different embedded software from other HPE systems, Evaluator Group believes the MSA will continue to be enhanced and offered as the lowest cost HPE storage system.


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