HP MSA 1040 Storage review

Price when reviewed

If you work in a small-to-medium-sized business and your ears are burning, we know why: HP’s latest storage device has been designed with you in mind. Its MSA 1040 disk array comes in at such a low price it’s effectively offering two RAID controllers for the price of one, while packing in fine performance and great expansion potential.

Both controllers support IP or FC SANs, with dual 10GbE, Gigabit and 8Gbits/sec FC ports attached to each. The controllers run in active/active mode so all ports are available for use. Both include 4GB of cache memory and use a super-capacitor and CompactFlash card to protect contents in the event of a blackout.

If the 24-SFF-bay model on review doesn’t appeal, consider the 2U chassis with 12 LFF hot-swap bays. There’s a choice selection of hard disks, too, including 6Gbits/sec SAS 2 and SSDs plus midline SAS drives.

HP MSA 1040 Storage

Want hardware redundancy with that? Well, you’re in luck: the array sports two hotplug PSUs with integral (and noisy) cooling fans. Each controller has its own management port and IP address, so if you lose one you can still manage the array from the other.

Each controller has a 6Gbits/sec SAS interconnect port, so capacity can be easily expanded. The MSA 1040 supports up to three MSA 2040 12-bay LFF shelves or three D2700 24-bay SFF shelves; via the latter it can handle up to 99 drives.

Fault tolerance is extended to the expansion shelves by linking them to the SAS ports on both controllers. When you need more speed and expansion you can upgrade the controllers; the 1040 accepts those from the faster HP MSA 2040 Storage.

HP MSA 1040 Storage

You also get plenty of features for your money. Along with support for all the usual RAID suspects, the base price includes a 64-volume snapshot licence that can be upgraded to 512. We’re also pleased to see that volume copying comes as standard.

Installation was swift: on pointing a web browser at the primary controller’s management address, we were greeted with a tidy and intuitive interface. It’s easy to keep track of everything with the graphical view of all array hardware on the console.

Storage provisioning is also a cinch. You create vdisks (virtual disks) by selecting drives, choosing a RAID type and adding hot-spares if you wish. If a vdisk becomes full, you can expand it into spare drives across multiple shelves; you can’t migrate to a different type of array, however.

HP MSA 1040 Storage

Volumes are created within vdisks; you can enable snapshots during this phase and apply a policy. The volume is then mapped to a LUN with read or read/write access, while host mapping is simply a case of ticking the boxes next to the relevant ports on the graphic below. If you need to restrict access to specific hosts, use explicit mappings so that only these hosts can see the LUN.

So to the big question: how fast? For testing, we used a Broadberry rack server with dual 2.6GHz E5-2670 Xeons, 48GB of DDR3 RAM, Windows Server 2012 R2 and a dual-port 10GbE adapter. We created a RAID5 vdisk from six 1.2TB 10K SAS 2 drives and mapped a 750GB volume to the server over a direct fibre connection.

The end result was a nifty turn of pace. Iometer configured with 256KB transfer requests returned sequential read and write speeds of 1,030MB/sec and 677MB/sec; switching to 8KB transfer requests for sequential read operations, we saw around 8,500 IOPS. Real-world speeds are nothing to sniff at either: drag-and-drop copies of the 50GB Iometer test file returned sustained read and write speeds of 363MB/sec and 298MB/sec.

HP MSA 1040 Storage

Volume snapshots can be run manually or to a schedule as frequently as every minute, with the snapshots stored in a separate pool on the array. Rollback is a simple process: select the volume and desired snapshot, then leave the appliance to restore the data.

Copying or cloning volumes is just as easy. Choose your volume, select Copy from the menu, then run them on demand or at regular intervals. Copies can be presented with a LUN as required to selected host systems, so they’ll be handy for backup and recovery or testing and development.

SMBs with big storage plans but a limited budget should take a close look at HP’s MSA 1040 Storage array. It combines strong performance with high capacity potential, all the while offering dual controller redundancy at a price competing vendors can’t currently match.


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