By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2006-04-24 Print this article Print

Hewlett-Packards StorageWorks RISS 1.4 appliance uses a grid architecture to deliver compliance-class archiving capabilities along with high-speed search.

With both data retention and search optimization becoming core storage management goals for IT managers, CAS (content-addressed storage) solutions like the HP StorageWorks Reference Information Storage System 1.4 have been added to the shopping lists of many enterprises.

More than just a dumb box of disks, the RISS 1.4 appliance is a formidable archive solution that packages management tools with powerful e-mail, application and file server archiving capabilities in modular appliance hardware.

HP revamps its StorageWorks portfolio. Click here to read more. However, while the RISS 1.4 device may excel at storing messages and documents, it is a poor choice for storing files such as medical images and digital media because they will not take advantage of the RISS 1.4s indexing capabilities. Also, the RISS 1.4 is expensive in terms of per-gigabyte metrics. (Pricing starts at $112,000 for a 1.7TB unit.)

The RISS 1.4 scales using modular appliances called SmartCells, which are basically HP ProLiant-class servers. SmartCells incrementally boost the storage capacity and processing power of a RISS grid. For redundancy, SmartCells are added to the grid in pairs, increasing storage capacity 850GB (of usable space) at a time. Storage for each SmartCell comes in the form of on-board Ultra SCSI hard drives and a RAID controller.

The RISS 1.4 can scale with as many as 250 SmartCells in a single grid, which will eventually translate to petabyte-size grids. One drawback, however, is that storage can be added only in the SmartCell format, so IT managers cant add cheaper storage to the RISS grid.

HP officials said SmartCells will increase to 1.4TB each with Version 1.4 of the RISS appliance, which is slated to become available this summer. IT managers will have the ability to use both 850GB and 1.4TB SmartCell pairs within a grid, which will allow the newer and more powerful SmartCells to be added to a grid without getting rid of legacy SmartCells.

An 850GB SmartCell also could be paired with a 1.4TB SmartCell, but youd be sacrificing the added capacity of the new cell because of mirroring.

The search is on from a hardware perspective, the RISS grid is really not much more than a big stack of servers hooked together with standard IP networking gear. The real innovation comes from the RISS software, which maintains all the content indexes within a single database and spreads searches across multiple SmartCell nodes.

The RISS 1.4 has the ability to archive a wide range of content, including e-mail messages and documents. As information is added to the archive, a unique file ID is created for the content using SHA (Secure Hash Algorithm)-1 to create a hash. The e-mail archive capabilities of the RISS 1.4 system that eWeek Labs tested were comparable to the basic functionality we have seen in solutions like Enterprise Vault from Symantec.

E-mail archiving solutions tend to cater to Microsoft Exchange implementations, and the RISS 1.4 is no exception. Exchange e-mail is moved into the RISS archive using the MAPI (Messaging API) protocol.

IBM Lotus Domino is also supported, and messages stored on Domino e-mail servers are sucked up by a Domino gateway appliance that feeds the content into the RISS system for indexing and storage. (We did not perform tests using Domino.)

RISS does a pretty good job of integrating with Microsoft Outlook. An MSI (Microsoft Windows Installer) file needs to be pushed out to clients; this file adds a search bar, tombstones (graphical markers labeling archived content) and offline caching functions to Outlook.

The RISS 1.4 appliances archive functions blend in pretty well with Outlook, so only minimal retraining should be required for users. The offline cache allows mobile users to access messages in the RISS archive when they are on the go.

For sites drowning in a sea of .pst (Personal Storage Table) files, RISS offers import capabilities for reeling this content back into the corporate fold and off laptops and desktops.

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