By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2006-04-10 Print this article Print

BlueArcs Titan 2000 storage appliance uses innovative hardware to bring extraordinary performance and scalability to the world of NAS.

With network-attached storage units and file servers spreading throughout corporate networks like wildfire, powerful solutions like the Titan 2000 can help IT managers with consolidation. Pricing for the Titan 2000, which began shipping in February, starts at $100,000 with 8TB of storage.

BlueArcs engineers spared no expense when designing this unique brand of storage appliance. An examination of the chassis reveals that the hardware has more in common with an enterprise-class switch than with a standard NAS box.

Just five years ago, the Titan 2000s design would have been considered excessive and impractical for any organization outside of the research and movie industries, but, with NAS and file service consolidation becoming such distinct pain points for enterprise IT managers, the Titan 2000 deserves wider consideration.

Unlike most NAS solutions, which use commodity Intel or Advanced Micro Devices CPUs to provide processing horsepower, the Titan 2000 uses specially programmed FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) to handle networking and storage protocols.

A single Titan 2000 has 36GB of total memory distributed throughout the system. The FPGAs have their own independent memory, to avoid shared-memory bottlenecks and to keep the architecture parallel. All the Titan 2000s core functions are performed in the FPGAs; these functions in virtually all other NAS solutions, in contrast, are performed in a standard operating system, such as Linux or Windows Storage Server 2003.

TCP/IP operations are handled by the FPGAs on the network module, which holds a whopping 2.75GB of memory in its cache buffer. The network module has six Gigabit Ethernet SFP (small form-factor pluggable) ports that can be used for either optical or copper interconnects, as well as four Fast Ethernet ports for out-of-band management.

A single Titan 2000 unit can handle up to 800MB per second of throughput, and two appliances can be clustered using 10G-bps Ethernet links. The storage connectivity module comes with four 4G-bps Fibre Channel ports to hook up storage units.

Storage manager

In terms of functionality, the Titan 2000 is really a NAS gateway device that sits in front of Fibre Channel storage arrays and manages their storage. The Titan 2000 can be used in conjunction with arrays from Engenio Information Technologies, Sun Microsystems StorageTek, Nexsan Technologies and Xyratex.

Basic RAID to deal with hard drive faults is controlled by the external storage system. On top of that level of RAID, the Titan 2000 uses parallel RAID striping to distribute storage loads across multiple shelves and to maximize spindle utilization for added performance.

During eWEEK Labs tests, it was easy to introduce a new storage unit to the Titan 2000 and add it to the shared storage pool. Once a storage unit was added, we could use the Titan 2000s management console to monitor the storage units for problems.

BlueArcs virtual server capability is an interesting option that should make it easier for IT managers to consolidate NAS servers. (BlueArc officials declined to provide pricing for options.) Using virtual servers, IT managers can split up the storage resources of a Titan 2000 appliance among different groups. Each virtual server has its own dedicated IP address and manages independent CIFS (Common Internet File System) and NFS (Network File System) shares.

Read more here about the Titan 2000s virtualization. As many as eight virtual servers can be hosted on a single Titan 2000 head for consolidation chores. In a two-node cluster, the limit is still eight virtual servers, but IT managers can quickly move a virtual server from one node to another if one of the Titan 2000 heads gets oversubscribed.

Another useful option is BlueArcs data migration utility, which can migrate data to different storage tiers. In fact, with its ability to manage Fibre Channel and SATA (Serial ATA) storage systems, IT managers can actually create a tiered storage environment using a single BlueArc system. The Titan 2000 management console allowed us to set up file migration rules to move older files off expensive Fibre Channel spindles and onto inexpensive SATA disk shelves, essentially providing basic ILM (information lifecycle management) functions.

BlueArc also has recently added WORM functionality as an option, which will make the Titan 2000 platform more attractive to IT managers who need to retain data for compliance reasons.

Click here to read more about WORM systems and compliance. For IT managers who support NFS and CIFS file sharing in their environments, BlueArc has an interesting Mixed Mode security mode to allow CIFS clients to reach NFS shares and vice versa. In Mixed Mode, the Titan 2000 management console has an interesting rights-mapping utility to link up user accounts and group accounts between NFS and CIFS.

The Titan 2000 also has the ability to support iSCSI, which will be useful for IT managers who need to provide block-level storage access to transaction-sensitive applications such as Microsoft Exchange.

The Titan 2000s 4U (7-inch) chassis has four module bay openings that can be populated with storage connectivity, networking and protocol modules. The chassis uses a passive backplane and has the ability to handle up to 40GB per second of total throughput.

As you would expect in a high-end storage product, the Titan 2000 chassis has dual redundant hot-plug power supplies for maximum uptime. And, thanks to the Titan 2000 chassiss modular design, IT managers can upgrade the modules in their systems for added performance and to support new technologies in the future.

Next Page: Evaluation shortlist.


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