The continued growth of virtualization, the private cloud, and big data has driven storage requirements to levels higher than ever before. IDC estimates that storage will continue to grow at a rate of 30 percent per year for at least the next four years. Managing that storage growth is a huge concern for SMBs and enterprises alike. The HP’s StoreEasy 5530 is plug-and-play storage appliance that is designed to answer the call for growing storage requirements for SMB, mid-market and small enterprise. It not only provides high performance file and SAN storage and it also provide built-in high availability with its cluster-in-box implementation.

The HP StoreEasy 5530 Appliance

The StoreEasy 5530 is the top of the line for HP’s StoreEasy family of products. It can function as a load-and-go NAS or iSCSI file server. HP’s StoreEasy storage server line up starts with the 1U StoreEasy 1000 series of product, scaling up to the high-end StoreEasy 5530 which can support up to 26,000 users. The HP StoreEasy 5530 is a cluster-in-a-box solution that offers built-in high availability along with high performance flexible storage by leveraging HP server blade technology and Windows Server 2012 Storage Server. The StoreEasy 5530 provides support for the Windows Server 2012 storage enhancements like Storage Space, Storage Pools, data deduplication and thin provisioning, SMB Direct, SMB Multichannel, SMB Transparent Failover, and SMB Scale Out.

The StoreEasy 5530 uses HP’s blade server technology to provide a two-node storage appliance that consists of a built-in active Windows Failover cluster for high availability. The StoreEasy 5530 comes in a 3U chassis and the unit that I tested had two BL460cG7 server blades in the chassis. Each server blade has an Intel Xeon quad-core E5620 processor running at 2.4 Ghz. Each BL460cG7 blade also comes with 24GB DDR3 Registered Error-Correcting Code (ECC) RAM for a total of 48 GB in the unit. The HP StoreEasy 5530 can support a maximum of 96GB of RAM per server. Both BL460cG7 blades are equipped with mirrored boot drives. The StoreEasy 5530 provides 10.8 TB of Raw Internal SAS storage, not counting the 2 SFF drives in each 5530 storage controller that are preloaded with the OS. Up to eight external disk storage enclosures are supported using SAS connections. All of the drives are hot swappable and easily accessed from the front of the unit. As you might expect for a storage device, the HP StoreEasy 5530 provides a lot of networking bandwidth. The unit I tested came with 15 total NICs. There are 2 two port 10GbE connections. There is 1 two port 1GB mezzanine connection and 2 four ports 1GbE connections. In addition, there is 1GB NIC used for iLO and Enclosure Management. The unit has two internal PCI slots that my test unit used for the additional NIC cards. In addition, there were two hot-swap power supplies. The power switch itself is positioned in the back of the unit, which is somewhat inconvenient, but in practice you don’t really have to use it much as the server has full out-of-band management via HP’s Integrated Lights Out (iLO) technology. You can see a picture of the front of the HP StoreEasy 5530 in Figure 1 and back of the unit in Figure 2.

The HP StoreEasy 5530 unit that I tested was delivered with Windows Storage Server 2012 Standard Edition x64, preinstalled and activated on both the HP BL460cG7 blade nodes. The OS was not configured. I’ll cover the initial configuration steps in the HP StoreEasy 5530 Setup section later in this article. The HP StoreEasy 5530 supports both file and block access, allowing it to function both as a NAS device and as an iSCSI SAN. It supports the Common Internet File System (CIFS), Server Message Block (SMB), NFS, iSCSI, HTTP, FTP, and WWW Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) protocols. The HP StoreEasy 5530 can be delivered with multiple operating systems include Windows Server, Windows Storage Server, Linux, UNIX and VMware.

HP StoreEasy 5530 Setup

One thing that was readily apparent with the HP StoreEasy 5530 is that this is one heavyweight appliance, and I mean that both literally and figuratively. Weighing in at about 190 pounds, putting the HP StoreEasy into your rack is definitely a two man job. Connections for the server were a bit different from a standard rack-mount server. The power button is in the back and there is no keyboard, mouse, VGA, or any USB ports on the back of the unit. Likewise, the unit doesn't have a built-in DVD drive, which can be somewhat inconvenient when you’re attempting to load software or drivers that might be on optical media. Instead, each blade provides a multifunction port that has two 9-pin VGA connectors (one male and one female) and two USB ports. To connect a monitor and keyboard to the unit, you use the provided multi-strand adapters to connect to the multifunction port. Using the adapters are a bit awkward, but the HP StoreEasy 5530 is really designed for out-of-band management using iLO. iLO provides a remote power management, server monitoring and remote display capability. You can connect the unit for tasks like power management even when the unit is powered off. Of course, iLO can be used while the server is running, as well. You can see the HP 5530’s out-of-band iLO management screen in Figure 3.

Figure 3: HP iLO Management

I performed the initial setup of the HP StoreEasy 5530 using the iLO connection. As soon as the unit powered up, the fan noise was quite noticeable. This is definitely a unit you'll want to run in a rack in a server room, away from your end users. Each blade node needs to be powered up using the iLO console. I then connected to one of the nodes with the iLO remote console, where I used the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard to perform the system’s setup and configuration. You can see the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Initial Configuration Tasks Wizard

You don’t need any DVDs or any other external media in order to perform the system’s initial configuration. The Initial Configuration Tasks wizard guides you though all of the required configuration steps. You can run the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard on either of the two blade nodes. The HP StoreEasy 5530’s internal network connects the two nodes and the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard configures all of the required settings on both nodes.  The first step on the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard is to connect to the second node. You don’t need to do anything special to connect the second node as the HP 5530 provides an internal network connection between the two server blades. Next, you configure the network adapters for both nodes for any external networks that that you want to connect to. Then you generate an Enclosure Manager Key, set the time zone, provide a cluster and domain name and finally you can optionally enable Windows Error Reporting and the Customer Experience Improvement Program.

After the basic system setup steps, the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard prompts you to deploy cluster. In this stage, you create a witness disk and then validate and create the cluster. The cluster uses each of the BL460cG7 blade servers as cluster nodes. After the cluster is created, you can use the Initial Configuration Tasks to create and deploy highly available file servers. To create a highly available file server, the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard runs the Create File Server Wizard, which guides you as you create file server services on your cluster. If you create a highly available file server, the data on that file server service is protected from server failure and unplanned downtime. If a cluster node fails, the file server service will be started automatically on the remaining node. The Create File Server Wizard prompts you for a Client Access Point name and an IP address. Subsequent wizard screens allow you to select the storage and the owner for the file server service and then finally to create a file share for the file server service. You can see the Create File Server Wizard Client Access Point configuration screen in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Creating a Highly Available File Server

You can rerun the Deploy Files Servers task from the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard multiple times to create multiple file servers services. Overall, setup was straightforward and logical—even easy, considering that I was configuring a two-node cluster that contained highly available file servers. I was familiar with the process and the initial configuration took about an hour from power up to file-serving availability.

Up and Running

I tested the system both as an NAS device (file access) and as an iSCSI target (block access). The system functioned flawlessly for both types of roles. I initially used the HP StoreEasy System Manager to reconfigure the storage. The unit was shipped with all of the drives configured as a single LUN. I reconfigured the unit, splitting part of the drives in a RAID 5 array for file serving and keeping two remaining drives to use as RAID 1 for iSCSI block access.

As an NAS device, it fit right in with my existing Windows infrastructure. The Initial Configuration Tasks wizard made it easy to create highly available file shares. Clients were able to connect seamlessly to the file service Client Access Point configured in the wizard, and the file shares were all highly available and protected by the built-in Windows Storage Server failover clustering. The HP StoreEasy 5530’s file serving forte was immediately evident as the file server performance was noticeable faster than the other DAS-based Windows Server 2012 servers in my lab. The file deduplication capabilities worked as advertised. Up level clients like Windows 8 and above were able to take advantage of the SMB 3.0 enhancements in Windows Server 2012. All of the available NIC ports made, this the ideal unit to use with NIC teaming.

While the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard makes it very easy to set the HP StoreEasy up as a highly available NAS server, you have to do a bit more work to use the unit as an iSCSI target. The HP StoreEasy 5530 came with the iSCSI Target feature already installed, but there were no links in the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard to create an iSCSI Target.  To setup the HP StorEasy 5530 to act as an iSCSI target, I needed to add the iSCSI Target role to the Windows Failover Cluster manager. This, of course, assumes that you have previously created a cluster. To add the new Failover Cluster Role, I opened up the Failover Cluster Manager, right clicked Roles and then selected Configure Role, followed by iSCSI Target Server. I used the Failover Cluster Manager’s High Availability Wizard to supply a Client Access Point name for the iSCSI server, the target IP address for the iSCSI Server Role, and I selected the storage I had previously configured with the StoreEasy System Manager. My networked systems connected to the iSCSI target with no issues, and I ran several Hyper-V VMs from the iSCSI storage.

To test the availability of the HP StoreEasy 5530, I used the Failover Cluster Manager to set the ownership of the highly available file service and the iSCSI roles to node number one in my cluster. Then I started our file serving benchmark script and pulled the blade for node one out of the server chassis.  There was a brief interruption as the file server services were restarted on the second node but after about 10-15 seconds the end user access to the file server was restored.

The Bottom Line

The HP StoreEasy 5530 is good solution for the SMB, department, or remote office that needs high performance, highly available storage. The system was easy to setup and provided high availability right out of the box. Its support for Windows Server 2012 high performance SMB networking enhancements makes it great choice for consolidating multiple storage workloads, applications, and IT services on a single platform. Its built-in wizard for creating highly available file shares made it particularly well-suited as a highly available NAS deployment. The HP StoreEasy storage family is an excellent platform for supporting business critical applications on SMB file shares as well as supporting your enterprise file serving needs. You can find out more about HP storage solutions at HP StoreEasy Storage.