By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2004-05-24 Print this article Print

Adaptec Inc.s Adaptec iSA 1500 Storage Array features unique automation capabilities that make this workgroup-class storage unit worth a look. And with a base price of $10,000, the iSCSI-based Adaptec iSA 1500 Storage Array should be even more appealing for small and midsize offices.

In eWEEK Labs tests, we found that the iSA 1500 Storage Array, which shipped last month, was relatively easy to set up and implement in our network.

The iSA 1500 holds approximately 1 terabyte of storage and uses four hot-swappable Serial ATA disk drives. The unit comes with 1GB of system memory and has a pair of Gigabit Ethernet data ports along with a single 10/100G-bps Ethernet port for management.

The Adaptec iSA 1500 Storage Array employs Internet SCSI for connectivity, so IT administrators have to add only initiator software to their servers to access the unit over standard IP networks. The iSA 1500 does not require a SAN (storage area network) and all the equipment that goes with it, so IT administrators at smaller companies can deploy this unit without breaking the bank.

In tests running the open-source Iometer benchmark on sequential read and write tests with 512KB-size requests, the iSA 1500 could sustain as much as 84MB per second of throughput on the read test and roughly 50MB per second on writes from a single server. This performance is somewhat slower than Fibre Channel and SCSI-attached RAID units, but it should be sufficient to satisfy department-level e-mail and database servers.

The iSA 1500s management software is powerful and useful, and it enables automation—a rare capability for arrays in this price class. Using the management software, we quickly automated storage allocation and file- system-creation tasks.

In Windows environments, after carving up a storage array and allotting storage to servers, IT staff members usually have to go to each server and use Microsoft Corp.s Disk Manager to create storage volumes that these servers can use.

However, when we used the iSA 1500s management software, all we had to do was choose which storage we wanted to use, and the software automatically set up the volumes on our test servers and assigned them drive letters.

That degree of automation was useful in our tests, but it would be even better if Adaptec added auto-provisioning capabilities to automatically add storage space when servers run out.

Using the Adaptec storage management software, we easily created RAID sets (levels 0, 1, 5 and 10 are supported) and managed server access to our storage units. The iSA 1500 also has snapshot capabilities to take point-in-time images of a volume. After a snapshot is taken, an IT manager can easily roll back the volume to a previous state, which is a valuable capability in the event that data become corrupted.

The Adaptec management software is Web-based, but unlike other devices we have seen (where the Web server runs on the device itself), the management software adds a Web server to the management station. Although this saves resources on the iSA 1500, the addition of a Web server to a management node could become a security problem.

iSCSI is still a relatively new technology, and we saw signs of its growing pains in the iSA 1500. For example, the management software worked well with Microsofts iSCSI Software Initiator Version 1.03 software but not with Version 1.04.

The growing use of iSCSI has opened up storage devices to IP networks, prompting concerns about data security. Click here for the full story. Microsoft made a slight change in the initiator software that caused incompatibility, and this problem should be fixed fairly quickly, according to Adaptec officials.

While the Adaptec iSA 1500 can serve virtually any machine with iSCSI initiator software, the management console currently supports only Windows NT and Windows 2000 and 2003.

The Adaptec iSA 1500 Storage Arrays optional enhanced snapshot feature allows as many as 256 point-in-time snapshots. (The standard version allows a maximum of 64.) In addition, Adaptec provides synchronous volume mirroring as an option for added data protection.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms Storage Center at http://storage.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and business storage hardware and software.

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