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A low-cost NAS and IP SAN appliance with huge expansion potential and excellent performance

Dave Mitchell 25 Jun 2009  |  

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IP SANs are traditionally a far more cost-effective alternative to fibre channel for SMBs. The CyberStore takes this a stage further, as it brings together NAS and iSCSI and adds optional support for FC SANs, allowing it to offer a truly unified storage solution. The price includes iSCSI failover and support for optional 10-Gigabit adapters. As our lab is 10-Gigabit equipped, we took the opportunity to run tests over this as well.

The 3U Supermicro chassis is home to an X7DVL-E motherboard. There are 16 hot-swap drive bays up for grabs, and the price includes a full set of 1TB Seagate SAS drives looked after by LSI's 8888ELP RAID controller. This comes with two SAS SFF8087 internal connectors, plus a pair of SAS SFF8088 external ports.

The LSI card supports a maximum of two active connectors with the internal port capable of servicing all 16 drive bays using the chassis' integrated SAS expander. This means the external port can be used to daisy-chain up to five of Broadberry's DAS arrays, so storage can be expanded to 256TB. And it's possible to add more RAID cards and expand up to 25 external DAS arrays, making petabytes a possibility.

At the CyberStore's heart lies the Open-E Data Storage Server (DSS) software, preinstalled on an internal USB DiskOnModule. To install, remotely access the appliance's well-designed web interface and create RAID arrays (RAID6, in our case). If performance isn't a concern the controller can be dispensed with, as Open-E can manage software arrays itself and also supports RAID6.

Next, you create volumes and volume groups on selected arrays and decide whether they should be NAS shares or iSCSI targets. Existing volumes can be expanded into spare space and snapshots set up on selected volumes. Replication allows volumes to be mirrored to other Open-E appliances, and you can even designate volumes as WORM drives. For NAS shares you select a volume, choose a name and decide on access controls that extend from local users and groups to NT domain or AD authentication. You can control FTP and HTTP access on a per-share basis.

Backup and restore functions are provided for securing data on selected volumes to a locally attached tape drive or a dedicated network share. Embedded agents are also available for integration with Retrospect, Backup Exec and ARCserve. Antivirus scanning comes courtesy of ClamAV, which can be set to scan all shares, quarantine infected files, and regularly download updates.

For iSCSI configuration, you simply create a target and assign an existing volume to it. You can designate the target as read-only, enable CHAP authentication, and use lists of blocked IP addresses to restrict access. We tested the 316S with a Boston server powered by dual 2.5GHz L5420 Xeons plus 8GB of memory, running Windows Server 2003 R2 x64. IP SAN speeds were good, with Iometer reporting a raw read rate of 110MB/sec for a single target.

We then added a second dual Xeon server and connected it to the same volume, this time using the appliance's second Gigabit port on a separate subnet. With both systems running Iometer we saw a high cumulative raw read rate of 213MB/sec, showing no contention for resources.

Real-world IP SAN speeds were also good: copying a 2.52GB video clip saw read and write rates of around 72MB/sec. The same copy over CIFS returned average speeds of 66MB/sec.

For 10GbE testing, we used an Intel server sporting dual X5560 "Nehalem" Xeons, 12GB of DDR3 memory and an Intel dual-port 10GBaseSX adapter. We popped another Intel 10GbE card in the appliance, where it was accepted without any problems. With the systems linked together, Iometer returned a whopping 315MB/sec raw read rate. RAID write caching had a positive effect on speeds, with Iometer reporting an even higher 361MB/sec for write performance. NAS also saw significant benefits, as copying the same test file over 10GbE returned top read speeds of 117MB/sec.

Businesses need to keep up with demand for storage, but in the current climate many will also focus on reducing costs. The CyberStore 316S DSS offers a remarkable range of storage features for the price, and supports these with plenty of backup facilities and integral iSCSI failover. It delivers very good performance over Gigabit and 10-Gigabit, and its expansion potential makes it a solid long-term investment.

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