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Home built VSA SAN

Respected Contributor

Home built VSA SAN

Testament to the flexibility of the VSA.

At home I use Microsoft Windows 7 Media Center as my DVR and a way to centrally store movies (check out the free MyMovies plugin for Mediacenter), music, pictures etc. Also it is handy to have a home lab for testing when I'm working from the home office. How handy would it be if I could just build a SAN for home? Okay, I know that last sentence drips of “geekiness”… but I digress:

I simply gathered one of my older (retired) desktops, and sifted through the parts drawer. Here's the ingredient list:
Tower Chassis (plenty of room for several drives, and space in between them)
Enermax 460W Powersupply
AMD 3200+ (2.0Ghz)CPU
512GB (x4) DDR 533 RAM
PCIe Dell PERC 5i SAS/SATA RAID controller
(from a retired server)
Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM SATA 3.0 (x4)
160GB SATA drive (onboard SATA controller)
onboard nVidia NForce Network Controller (GbE)

All the parts I already had except the 1TB drives ($90 ea from newegg)

Created RAID 5 with the PERC/5i, Created 2 logical disks, 1372GB each
Installed ESXi 4.0 using the 160GB SATA on the onboard controller. (You could even get away with using the ESXi on a USB stick method)

I was very pleasantly surprised. VMware ESXi 4.0 was able to install on my old AMD 3200+
Even more surprising, it supported the onboard nVidia SATA and GB Ethernet controller.

This now serves (running a dedicated HP/Lefthand VSA 8.1) up over 2.5TB of SAN to host my recorded media (TV, DVDs, MP3s, Pictures) for my TV. Since I'm using the VSA, all the volumes are thin provisioned, so I can also use this to carve out a quick iSCSI volume for a test machine,
or if I bring a customer server home to work on. (Yes, I've got the luxury of wired CAT5e throughout the house).

While this is certainly not the spec of hardware to use for any kind of production use, it is a very affordable way to build out a test bench, or home use SAN.
Regular Advisor

Re: Home built VSA SAN

Guess your answers come from your experience with running an unlicensed (but not illegal) VSA at home? ;)

Thanks for sharing!
Respected Contributor

Re: Home built VSA SAN

Actually I've had great experiences with the fully licensed VSA product (both standalone, and bundled with the Virtualization SAN modules).
Our customers have been very excited to see some extended life, and value of extending the usefulness of existing direct attach storage by converting it to VSA and integrating it with their P4xxx lefthand modules for use as DR, testing/development. I've found this to be a big differentiator between the HP/Lefthand offering and other vendors.

We used the VSA (part of the remote office solution pack) with a customer to breathe life into an older end-of-life fibre channel SAN product, and allowed them to re-use that in combination with their newy acquired P4500 SANs.

That being said, we also have had some customers that simply didn't have budget (imaging that, in 2009.. heh) currently to acquire the full P4xxx series product, and to introduce some basic SAN functionality or create a proof of concept (read "virtualization pilots") the VSA has been a great product. (Plus it gives them a painless migration if they choose to fully license, or acquire the P4xxx SANs in the future). The VSA can be managed together, and if actively licensed be used to remote snapshots with the physical appliances.
The previous post is basically an extension of experimentation. I think the SAN/iQ is the most compelling product HP has added to their storage suite recently. I was amazed to see this fully functioning on the parts I scrounged in my basement!

Perhaps I didn't stress enough in the post, that this kind of implementation is certainly for experimental (educational) use only (I wouldn't consider a customer with this kind of hardware, nor the lack of a supportable infrastructure), but more than anything it demonstrates where the technology can go with a product like the VSA.