By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2006-03-13 Print this article Print

LeftHand networks storage area network solution combines powerful clustering capabilities with the ease of use and cost efficiency of iSCSI. With its rich feature set and impressive scalability and redundancy, the LeftHand SAN is a solid choice for midsize businesses.

The LeftHand SAN, a complete system including hardware and software, will provide reliable storage to department-class e-mail and database servers. And, because it will run on standard Gigabit Ethernet networks, IT managers can save a considerable amount of money on implementation costs.

Interoperability also is a LeftHand SAN strong point: The solution is compatible with Windows, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX and AIX iSCSI clients.

Click here to read eWEEK Labs take on the emerging iSCSI market. On the hardware side, IT managers can choose either LeftHand Networks appliances or the Hewlett-Packard ProLiant DL380 servers eWEEK Labs used in tests. In either case, the platform is basically generic server-class hardware, with all the interesting functionality coming from LeftHand Networks SAN/iQ software.

We configured a LeftHand SAN with three cluster nodes, each of which was an HP ProLiant DL380 server with 1GB of RAM and a single Intel Xeon 3.2GHz processor. Each cluster node had six 15,000-rpm Ultra320 SCSI hard drives, with a capacity of 72GB for each drive. The devices were protected by RAID 5 using the RAID controller in the HP ProLiant DL380s.

The price of the LeftHand SAN as tested—$39,000 for hardware and software—is reasonable when you take into account the functionality, redundancy and performance capabilities of the solution.

Even in this cluster configuration, the LeftHand SAN solution was surprisingly easy to configure. We installed the LeftHand Networks management software on a Windows workstation and used it to easily assign IP addresses to each of the cluster nodes.

The SAN/iQ software supports Gigabit Ethernet adapter bonding for enhanced bandwidth and redundancy in each cluster node.

After initializing each of the nodes, the LeftHand Networks management software allowed us to pool the resources of the nodes into a cluster. (Our test cluster had a little less than a terabyte of usable space.) IT managers can quickly add more storage capacity to a cluster by installing additional cluster nodes, a nice capability that will allow IT managers to grow their iSCSI SAN along with their application needs. Using the management tool, we also could configure the auto-grow parameters to automatically increase the size of a data volume when capacity thresholds were reached.

Redundancy allows the cluster to continue to function even if a node dies, and basic host security is built into the management tool for controlling access to the storage volumes. The LeftHand SAN also includes snapshot capabilities that will allow IT managers to take point-in-time volume snapshots for quick recovery from corruptions and worms.

We ran Microsofts LoadSim 2003 Exchange benchmarking tool to test the performance of the LeftHand SAN.

The LeftHand SAN cluster performed well in tests, with 325-millisecond transaction latency when fielding a load of 1,000 users. In contrast, a Dell/EMC AX100i iSCSI array had transaction latency of 572 ms when fielding the same user load.

When we increased the load to 1,500 clients, the LeftHand SAN cluster continued to score well, with 503-ms latency.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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