By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2006-07-31 Print this article Print

Bell Microproducts Hammer Z-Box pushes Zeteras SOIP technology into the small and midsize business market.

Priced starting at $1,299, the Hammer Z-Box competes with workgroup-class NAS (network-attached storage) products in terms of pricing, but it also offers high performance for SMB-class customers. However, its management interface needs work, and it lacks the data protection features found in higher-end devices.

Zetera is attempting to challenge standard storage networking technologies, such as Fibre Channel and iSCSI, with its proprietary storage-over-IP technology. Indeed, the low price of Zetera-based storage appliances (less than $5,000) makes the devices appealing in a market that has been largely ignored by larger players such as EMC.

eWEEK Labs can see a fit for the Hammer Z-Box even in an enterprise setting, where it would be a good storage solution for feeding disk-to-disk backup implementations and for applications that do not require high-performance storage.

Bell Microproducts joins forces with other vendors to construct a massive storage array to aid MIT speech research. Click here to read more. Our Hammer Z-Box came loaded with four 250GB hard drives, providing roughly 1TB of raw storage capacity. A single Gigabit Ethernet port at the back of the chassis provided the networking connectivity for our unit.

Once plugged into our network, the Hammer Z-Box automatically sought out our DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server and requested IP addresses. Zeteras SOIP is quite liberal in its use of IP addresses, so we highly recommend that IT managers set aside a large section of addresses for Zetera-based devices.

Right off the bat, our Hammer Z-Box requested four IP addresses, which it assigned to the four hard drives in its chassis. Later in our testing, the Hammer Z-Box also requested and assigned IP addresses to each partition we created on each of our disks.

The Hammer Z-Box is managed and configured using Zeteras PSM (Personal Storage Manager) software, which we installed on several Windows Server 2003-based systems.

We found PSM a bit immature. When we created volumes, for example, the PSM interface locked up and flashed to indicate that work was being done. As a result, we had to create each of our volumes one at a time, which was mildly annoying. In addition, the PSM interface gave us no indication of the progress of the operation, which forced us to sit around and wait while operations were initiated. It wasnt too bad for initial volume creation, but when we created mirrors of larger volumes—400GB to 500GB—we spent a fair amount of time waiting around for the operation to finish.

PSM gave us the option of creating our volumes with either an NTFS (NT File System) or the Z-FS (Zetera-File System). The primary benefit to using Z-FS is that it allows multiple servers to write to the same volume, which will be useful in cluster and supercomputing-type environments.

Using an NTFS on a 10GB volume striped onto two hard drives, the Hammer Z-Box was able to sequentially write data at a rate of 77MB per second in tests running the open-source Iometer tool with a 512KB request size. We ran the tests again with data striped across four drives and found that performance was slightly slower, at 75.87MB per second.

Zeteras SOIP technology allows IT managers to add additional Hammer Z-Box appliances into the SOIP SAN (storage area network) quickly and easily, and PSM can create volumes that are mirrored or spanned across multiple appliances, which should allow IT managers to maximize utilization of their storage resources.

As you would expect in an SMB-class product, the Hammer Z-Box lacks redundant power supplies. It also lacks the kind of data-protection capabilities you would find on higher-end platforms. But, given the Hammer Z-Boxs low price, IT managers could buy multiple units and use Zeteras mirroring capabilities to protect their data.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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