Powered for Workgroups

By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2002-08-12 Print this article Print

Powered for Workgroups

From a performance viewpoint, the Cisco SN 5428 has enough pep to run most workgroup-class applications, but we would not recommend using it to replace a 2G-bps Fibre Channel switch for high-performance applications. In tests, the Cisco SN 5428 proved functional when used with e-mail servers and file servers, but our test environment did not max out the servers capabilities.

To ensure that the storage system was never the bottleneck in our tests, we used Imperial Datas superfast SANaccelerator solid-state disk unit as our storage target.

Because we wanted to be sure that the Cisco SN 5428 was causing the latency in performance tests, we used Finisar Inc.s SANQOS analysis tool to gauge the response times of the Fibre Channel and iSCSI networks.

We got the performance numbers by running Intel Corp.s Iometer storage benchmark with a variety of test suites to find the maximum throughput per second and I/Os per second possible with each network. (Click here to see how iSCSI speed meets midrange needs.)

Running a sequential read test with a relatively large (512KB) request size, we found that we could push up to 82MB per second of throughput to a single server going through the Cisco SN 5428.

In contrast, running the same test on a 2G-bps Fibre Channel SAN, we found that a single server could hit 164MB per second of throughput.

Although the 2G-bps Fibre Channel solution is far and away the winner here, the Cisco SN 5428s performance is impressive.

On the server side, the installation of Ciscos iSCSI driver was relatively painless. Once the driver was installed, we were able to log in to the iSCSI network and use storage resources. We used both Gigabit and Fast Ethernet cards, and we found that both worked reasonably well.

The Cisco SN 5428 doesnt have any Fibre Channel zoning capabilities, but the management and security of LUNs (logical unit numbers) is controlled by ACLs (access control lists) managed by the storage router.

Because Fibre Channel zoning wont be available in the near future, IT managers who want to install the Cisco SN 5428 in an existing SAN should be sure to implement Fibre Channel management tools that will ensure that LUNs reserved for the iSCSI SAN arent accidentally written over by Fibre Channel hosts.

The ACLs identify LUNs by their worldwide names and hosts by IP addresses. After creating profiles for each of our test servers, it was relatively easy to assign storage to them.

When using the Cisco SN 5428 for long-range data mirroring over public data lines, virtual private networks should be used to maintain the security of the data transferred. In tests, we could set up functional SAN links even in older, Fast Ethernet environments. Of course, performance was nowhere near as usable as on the Gigabit Ethernet side.

To ensure maximum performance, we recommend creating separate virtual LANs for iSCSI traffic and implementing quality-of-service tools to ensure that mission-critical servers are not starved for storage resources.

We were able to manage the Cisco SN 5428 using either the command-line interface or a Web-based management tool. Both methods were fairly straightforward.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar is at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.


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