Executive Summary:
The HP LeftHand P4300 4.8TB SAS Starter SAN Solution couples HP's storage hardware with LeftHand Networks' SAN/iQ management software. The result is a feature rich, highly scalable, highly available storage platform for medium and large businesses.

The HP LeftHand P4300 4.8TB SAS Starter SAN Solution is a feature rich, highly scalable, highly available storage platform for medium and large businesses. Well known for its entry-level SAN products, LeftHand Networks was acquired by HP in February 2009. This SAN solution couples HP's storage hardware with LeftHand Networks' SAN/iQ management software.

The HP LeftHand SAN Solution that I tested was delivered as two 2U nodes. These units were equipped with 5.4TB rather than 4.8TB, but otherwise they were exactly like the units you'd receive. Each node came configured with a dozen 450GB 15K Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) drives, two front USB ports, two rear USB ports, dual hot-swap power supplies, dual 1GB network adapters, one 1GB NIC management port, PS/2-style mouse and keyboard ports, a VGA port, a serial port, and a rear-mounted DVD drive.

Setting Up and Configuring the SAN Solution
Setting up the units couldn't have been easier. I racked each 2U node, then attached my keyboard, mouse, and monitor to the ports on the back of each unit. When each node powered up, it presented a simple character-based display that let me enter the basic networking information for each network port.

After configuring the networking information, I installed the SAN/iQ management software on a network workstation and connected it to the SAN. The SAN/iQ software really sets this product in a class by itself and is the easiest SAN management software I've ever used. You don't need to be a storage expert or have to look up confusing storage terms like LUN Masking to configure the SAN. Instead, you use a series of easy-to-use wizards to perform the initial setup and configuration. You can rerun the wizards at any time.

Managing the SAN Solution
After the basic configuration hierarchy has been created, you can manage the SAN directly using the LeftHand Networks Centralized Management Console, which Figure 1 shows.


Figure 1: Using the LeftHand Networks Centralized Management Console to manage SANs (click to enlarge)


You navigate through the nodes in the console's left pane and set the properties in the right pane. If you're a storage expert, the Advanced tab on the Edit Volume window lets you work with the SAN at a more detailed level. The console is easy to use and does great job of simplifying the SAN management experience.

Ease of administration is only half the story behind the SAN/iQ software. Its built-in scaling and availability capabilities are equally important. Creating a highly available implementation is as easy as cabling and powering up additional nodes, then running a wizard to add them to your storage group. You can add up to 30 nodes. The Virtual IP Load Balancing feature allows the data to be automatically distributed across all storage modules in the cluster. The SAN/iQ software aggregates all the available capacity and presents it to the clients via a single virtual IP address.

For data protection, you can use the Network Raid feature to control the degree of data redundancy. The default level is two, which means two copies of the data will be kept for each volume. Volumes can have different Network Raid levels. Network Raid distributes the data to all nodes so that the system is always load balanced. Other notable features include SmartClone Volumes (which significantly reduce data storage for cloned volumes), local and remote snapshots, multisite replication, and Remote Copy (which provides centralized backup and recovery).

The Bottom Line
I tested the SAN solution with a regular Windows file share, with a Windows failover cluster, and with Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) for Hyper-V Live Migration. The setup was easy and the SAN worked flawlessly for each tested scenario. I was able to monitor all aspects of the SAN's performance, including CPU, network and storage utilization, total throughput, I/O operations per second (IOPS), and average I/O size. The only problem I ran into was that occasionally the console wouldn't start and I needed to terminate the javaw.exe process in Task Manager before restarting the console.

The HP LeftHand SAN Solution starts at $35,000, putting it out of reach for most small businesses. However, this price makes it very competitive with other storage offerings for medium and large businesses. I found this SAN solution to be very easy to manage. Its ability to add capacity by stacking up to 30 nodes makes it highly scalable. Plus, it includes all of the advanced SAN/iQ features right out of the box, with nothing extra to buy.


HP LeftHand P4300 4.8TB SAS Starter SAN Solution
PROS: Excellent scalability, availability, and manageability
CONS: Expensive for a small business
RATING: 5 out of 5
PRICE: Starts at $35,000
RECOMMENDATION: If you're in the market for a midrange SAN with enterprise scalability, this SAN solution should go straight to the top of your list.

CONTACT: HP • www.hp.com