By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2004-11-01 Print this article Print

With storage consolidation becoming a critical assignment for IT managers, DiskSites Inc.s namesake storage solution offers IT managers a way to establish serverless branch offices throughout corporate networks.

The DiskSites solution, which shipped in October, is sold as a software package or as appliances. The data center software costs $10,000, and branch office software costs $5,000 per license. Hardware is priced at $14,000 for the FilePort appliance (which goes in the data center) and $7,000 to 10,000 for the FileCache appliance, which goes in branch offices.

eWEEK Labs tests of the FilePort and FileCache appliances show DiskSites will let enterprises centralize data in their data centers while giving workers in branch offices access to that data.

DiskSites differs from other solutions we have seen because it provides a range of services, including print services, DNS (Domain Name System), DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) and BDC (Backup Domain Controller) capabilities. This breadth of features allows IT managers to administer services to users without having to implement additional servers.

The DiskSites solution is designed to extend both CIFS (Common Internet File System) and NFS (Network File System) file services over WAN links because both of these protocols are chatty and inefficient over long distances. Currently, this solution does not optimize access to database servers and e-mail servers over the WAN, so IT managers who need to extend these services, in addition to file services, over WANs should look into solutions from vendors such as Riverbed Technology Inc. Riverbed, however, doesnt provide other network services such as DNS and DHCP, so there is a functionality trade-off with this choice.

Click here to read Labs review of Riverbeds Steelhead 500 appliance. In tests, the DiskSites appliances were fairly easy to get up and running. To implement the DiskSites solution, we set up a FilePort appliance at the data center and a FileCache appliance at a branch office. DiskSites appliances can talk with multiple data centers, which is convenient for companies with numerous offices.

We used a NIST NET Linux-based IP router emulator to simulate a T-1 WAN link between our data center and branch office network segments. As expected, a direct CIFS connection was slow and painful between a Hewlett-Packard Co. Armada laptop running Windows 2000 Professional at our virtual branch office, and an HP ProLiant running Windows Server 2003.

Switching over to the DiskSites-optimized link, we found file access was much quicker and stable, eliminating the normal WAN latency timeout errors.

The secondary benefit of DiskSites WAN optimization (which saves money by making WAN links more productive) is the storage consolidation that this allows. File servers can be eliminated from branch offices, freeing IT managers from the burden of remote storage management. As a result, IT managers can concentrate on strengthening their backup and storage management implementations at the data center, instead of implementing small tape drives and autoloaders in all their branch offices.

The network services provided by the DiskSites FileCache appliance allow IT managers to use the appliance to manage network services remotely.

Using the Web-based management interface, we could easily remotely configure services and monitor appliances.

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

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