NAS device goes beyond typical applications and use cases.
Network-attached storage devices
have to do more than ever before. It used to be that presenting an Network File
System (NFS) target was enough, but today,
it's hard to find a network-attached storage (NAS) unit that doesn't support a
vast array of network and storage protocols, and it's expected that a NAS
device intended for the "prosumer" or small and midsize business (SMB) markets
will include a variety of applications as well. Iomega's StorCenter PX line of
devices has everything one needs in this class of NAS and more.
The StorCenter PX comes in one
of three basic forms: two desktop models and one high availability rackmount
unit. On the desktop side are the px4-300d (which I reviewed), a four-disk
desktop unit that also has a 12TB capacity, and the px6-300d, which supports up
to six disks and 18TB. Iomega's PX series storage devices are offered with
solid-state and conventional drives. Zero-drive configurations are also available.
In the case of the px4-300d, pricing ranges from the diskless option's
suggested retail price of $799, up to the 12TB HDD
configuration at $2,299.
Iomega also offers the px4-300r,
a four-disk 1U array that supports up to 12TB of raw storage. This model
includes redundant power supplies and other features from the company's top-end
storage array, the StorCenter ix12-300r.
The basic features of the StorCenter
PX series devices are what has become the customary inventory for these
devices: dual Gigabit Ethernet adapters, an Intel processor (in this case, a
dual core Atom CPU) running a Linux-derived operating system, offering various
levels of RAID support and a JBOD configuration as well. The PX devices' exact
degree of RAID support depends on the number of physical drives; RAID 0, 1, 5,
5+1 and 10 are possible and in all RAID levels, the devices implement hot swap
and automatic rebuild in the event of a drive failure.
Of course, a proper NAS device
has to support a wide range of communications, management and storage protocols.
The StorCenter PX series works with Apple (AFP
and Bonjour) and Windows (CIFS/SMB, DFS and
Rally) discovery and storage protocols, as well as FTP and TFTP, HTTP and
HTTPS, and NFS. Management through SNMP is
also possible. The PX series devices also provide iSCSI block-level storage and
support the persistent reservations feature of SCSI-3.
The StorCenter PX series is
certified on a wide range of platforms, including Citrix XenServer 5.6, VMware
vSphere 4.1 (with 5.0 certification presumably pending) and Windows Server
2003, 2008 and 2008 R2. The devices also
support advanced Windows Server features such as Active Directory Trusted
Domains, Microsoft Cluster Server and Hyper-V Live Migration.
of the increasingly popular uses for this class of storage devices is as a
dedicated backup server for systems running Apple's Mac OS X-with one catch. Although the
PX devices present themselves as a Time Machine target, devices already in the
field will need a firmware touchup to support machines running Mac OS X "Lion."
Iomega expected to release updated firmware for the PX series in September, but
by my mid-September deadline, that code had not been made available. (For my
follow-up testing, featuring Mac OS X Lion and VMware vSphere 5.0, keep an eye
on the eWEEK Labs' blog.
I tested the px4-300d with a mix
of Mac OS X and Windows clients. Except for some issues during Time Machine
setup, first involving an unworkable name for the backup file and the
already-noted Lion support issue-due to changes Apple made in the
authentication scheme of AFP-I had no
noteworthy problems using the device as a storage target in a number of
I did, however, run into one
interesting setup issue when configuring the px4-300d to use the NTP server running
on the network in eWEEK's San
Francisco test facility. An ambiguously worded dialog
box led me to enter the IP address of the time server, as a sort of lowest-common
denominator. Unfortunately, the device's NTP client wouldn't work with such a
primitive form of direction, but pointing it at the time server's fully
qualified name from DNS solved the problem. (I think I've convinced Iomega to
fix this in a forthcoming software update.)
Most of the management of PX
series devices takes place through a Web-based front end. Also available for
use is the Iomega Storage Manager, a utility that presents a graphic view of
networked Iomega devices. The Storage Manager is available for Linux, Mac OS X
and Windows clients.
One application on the px4-300d
that caught my eye was the Iomega Personal Cloud, which allows devices to be
presented as secure Internet-accessible storage, without the costs associated
with using someone else's cloud. This is easy to set up and manage. Perhaps it's
too easy to sit well with anyone in IT security whose responsibility includes
preventing data leaks, but central management and logging features on the
device should tattle in the event an unauthorized cloud is instantiated.
Iomega's px4-300d is a good
choice for many users and workgroups who are looking for a flexible yet
reasonably priced NAS device. Its features support a broad range of use cases,
from serving as a home media center to filling out a storage pool in a stack of
virtual machines. Although my experience saw the px4-300d as anything but
idiot-proof, it's nevertheless as good as anything I've seen to date in its
P. J. Connolly began writing for IT publications in 1997 and has a lengthy track record in both news and reviews. Since then, he's built two test labs from scratch and earned a reputation as the nicest skeptic you'll ever meet. Before taking up journalism, P. J. was an IT manager and consultant in San Francisco with a knack for networking the Apple Macintosh, and his love for technology is exceeded only by his contempt for the flavor of the month. Speaking of which, you can follow P. J. on Twitter at pjc415, or drop him an email at email@example.com.