2004 reviews: Storage

More vendors caught the iSCSI and SATA waves this year, and the result was a flood of more capable storage solutions at lower prices. This year's high-water mark in delivering enterprise-oriented features at small business pricing was the Dell/EMC AX100, which, in the configuration we tested, combines 3TB of SATA storage, FC (Fibre Channel) connectivity, and EMC Corp.'s excellent management software at a price that comes in south of $20,000.

However, EMC wasn't the only enterprise storage vendor to turn its attention down-market, with Network Appliance wowing us with the very flexible, modularly scalable FAS270C NAS-SAN hybrid priced at less than $30,000.

The tide didn't ebb on innovation, either, especially in storage networking. Array and switch vendors alike offered creative solutions to ease the transition from direct-attached storage to IP SANs (StoneFly), to bridge IP and Fibre Channel (Brocade), and to build easier-to-manage (nStor) and more scalable (Qlogic) FC SANs.

Finally, we also saw a variety of approaches to soothing backup headaches from vendors as diverse as Maxxan Systems Inc., Network Appliance Inc., Overland Storage Inc., and Spectra Logic Corp., all of which turned out backup solutions that earned high marks.

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Backup solutions

Fujitsu Softek Replicator 2.1

Softek Storage Solutions Inc.

Excellent, 8.9

Cost: Starts at $2,300

Bottom line: The Replicator 2.1 solution provides simple, effective data replication across TCP/IP networks. It's compatible with almost all OSes, file systems, and storage devices.

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LiveVault Online Backup and Recovery Service

LiveVault Corp.

Very Good, 8.5

Cost: Starts at $199 per month for a single server with 5GB of storage

Bottom line: Targeting small data centers and companies with distributed computing facilities, LiveVault offers an easy-to-use, cost-effective data protection service that automatically copies data from company servers to a remote location via the Web.

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Maxxan SVT200

Maxxan Systems

Very Good, 8.4

Cost: SVT200 blade, $34,000; stand-alone appliance, $39,000

Bottom line: Maxxan's VTL (virtual tape library) solutions, offered as an add-on to the MXV320 switch or as stand-alone appliance, can significantly reduce the time spent replacing slow tape devices with faster disk drives as primary backup targets, while introducing minimal changes to existing operating procedures.

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Network Appliance NearStore R150

Network Appliance

Very Good, 7.4

Cost: As tested, $258,048

Bottom line: This server backup solution is complex to set up but easy to use, and it contains ample disk space. The innovative SnapLock software makes backups tamper-proof for regulated industries or permanent record-keeping.

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Overland Storage REO Series RA2000

Overland Storage

Excellent, 8.7

Cost: Fully configured, $17,500

Bottom Line: The RA2000 appliance can significantly reduce the app server dead time associated with replacing slow tape library operations with faster, disk-based backups and restores. It performs well and is easy to share across different servers.

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Sony SAIT e1300

Sony Corp.

Excellent, 8.7

Cost: As tested, $12,600; FC model, $14,600; standard cartridges start at $245 each; WORM cartridges start at $275 each

Bottom line: The Sony SAIT e1300 hides its unrivaled large capacity with a surprisingly slim, carefully engineered external box that offers choice between FC and SCSI host connectivity. With an easy firmware transplant and special cartridges, the drive acquires compliance-friendly WORM capability.

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Spectra Logic Spectra 2K

Spectra Logic

Excellent, 8.6

Cost: As tested, $15,700

Bottom line:The Spectra 2K is an inexpensive, adaptable library with enough capacity, speed, and configuration flexibility to satisfy most companies' requirements. The recently added iSCSI connectivity opens the option of SAN deployments on IP networks.

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NAS and SAN

Adaptec iSA1500 Storage Array

Adaptec Inc.

Very Good, 8.4

Cost: As tested, $10,000

Bottom line: Having just four drives puts this SATA array seemingly at a performance and capacity disadvantage, but it compensates with a remarkable transfer rate, a streamlined 1U profile, and excellent management software that can be updated to include mirroring and additional snapshots.

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AMCC 3ware 9500S

Applied Micro Circuts Corp. (AMCC)

Very Good, 8.5

Cost: Four-port, $399; eight-port, $599; 12-port, $899 includes three-year warranty

Bottom line: With a wide range of models, the 3ware SATA RAID card has a large potential market. With improved management software, good performance, and its moderate cost, the 9500S appeals to both OEMs and end-users.

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Apple Xserve RAID

Apple Computer Inc.

Excellent, 8.9

Cost: 1TB, $5,999; 1.75TB, $7,499; 3.5TB, $10,999

Bottom line: The simple-to-set-up, easy-to-manage Xserve RAID just got better. The most noticeable change: bigger drives. Plus, the top-end model gets you an extra terabyte of space. When Xsan comes out, Apple will have an affordable, best-of-breed storage package.

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Brocade SilkWorm Multiprotocol Router

Brocade Communications Systems Inc.

Excellent, 8.6

Cost: Depending on configuration, options, and OEM, $30,000 to $60,000

Bottom line: If your main worry when consolidating Brocade-centered SANs is separating administration and minimizing business activity disturbances, the SilkWorm Multiprotocol Router is the unrivaled leader. The price isn't trivial, but it is offset by savings from improved storage-device utilization and simplified management.

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Dell/EMC AX100

Dell Inc.

Excellent, 8.8

Cost: As tested, $16,019, including eight drives, FC switch, UPS, two HBAs, cabling, and one-year on-site maintenance

Bottom line: With more than 3TB of capacity, the AX100 should satisfy most SAN debuts. Aside from relatively limited scalability, the AX100 has little to envy compared with its larger siblings. And it offers good performance, simplified setup, ease-of-use, and carefree resilience. You'll find great value for the money, and support for the most common OSes is icing on the cake.

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Finisar Xgig Analyzer 1.5

Finisar Corp.

Excellent, 8.6

Cost: As tested, $68,000; entry-level configuration, $23,000

Bottom line: Version 1.5 of Finisar's flagship analysis product adds support for IP-based SANs. Xgig evens out a slightly complicated setup with flexible configuration options, comprehensive protocol support, and first-class storage-protocol analysis software.

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Network Appliance NetApp FAS270C

Network Appliance

Excellent, 9.2

Cost: Single enclosure with 14 drives, starts at $27,500; additional CIFS protocol support, $13,900

Bottom line: The NetApp FAS270C is a well-rounded and robust storage array that challenges competitors with unrivaled flexibility, scalability, and resilience. Combining support for most popular applications, great management software, and FC and iSCSI connectivity, this storage appliance deserves the attention of many small and midsize companies.

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nStor 4700F

nStor Corp.

Excellent, 8.6

Cost: $7,995

Bottom line: With 12 SATA drives in a 2U enclosure and an easy-to-swap controller module, the nStor 4700F can be personalized to meet various connectivity, capacity, and performance targets. Its comprehensive management software is a great bundled asset that facilitates centralized administration and softens the rigors of FC networks for a novice.

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Promise Technology Vtrak 15200 RAID Storage System

Promise Technology Inc.

Very Good, 8.4

Cost: Base unit, $5,999; as tested with 15 WD740 drives, $9,734

Bottom line: Fast and easy to install and manage, the Vtrak 15200 is a budget-friendly choice for SMBs seeking easy-to-deploy SANs. It compensates for a rather unsophisticated management GUI and nonredundant controller with a three-year warranty and a modular structure that simplifies component replacement.

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Qlogic SANbox 5200

Qlogic Corp.

Excellent, 8.7

Cost: Eight ports, $5,795; as tested fully configured with 20 ports, $10,795

Bottom line: Priced to kill, this 2Gbit FC switch from Qlogic combines intuitive, powerful management tools with an easy-to-scale architecture that stretches from eight ports to 64 ports by stacking four units. It is the first FC unit to offer dedicated 10Gbit ports for interswitch connectivity.

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RLX System 600ex Chassis, ServerBlade 2800i, Fibre Attached Storage Solution

RLX Technologies Inc.

Good, 6.9

Cost: 600ex Chassis, $4,497; dual-processor 2.8-GHz server blade with 1GB RAM and one 60GB hard drive, $3,399 without KVM or $3,599 with KVM; Control Tower XT on a 1U server, $2,999; FC disk array chassis, $17,999; FC switch, $20,999

Bottom line: As a server-blade system, the 600ex enclosure and dual-processor servers remain excellent and very well-managed. But as a complete system with storage included, the rebranded storage hardware offers little beyond RLX's excellent hardware, due to limited management software integration.

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Softek Storage Manager 2.5.1

Softek

Excellent, 9.0

Cost:Starts at $24,995; Performance Tuner module starts at $3,995; SANView 5.5 module starts at $12,595

Bottom line: Storage Manager allows solid cross-platform management of storage on almost all server platforms, with support for a wide variety of FC storage devices, switches, and HBAs. Admins have fine-grained control of storage resources, including reporting, data migration, backups and replication.

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StoneFly Networks i3000 Storage Concentrator

StoneFly Networks Inc.

Excellent, 8.6

Cost: Single unit, $13,995; fail-over cluster pair, $19,995; additional Replicator license, $2,495

Bottom line: i3000 storage routers offer a safe, easy path from a hard-to-manage storage configuration with server-attached arrays to networked storage. The StoneFly solution compensates for somewhat complex management with the freedom to choose storage devices and excellent Replicator mirroring software.

This story, "2004 reviews: Storage" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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