Dell and Tricord Power Up NAS Wares

 
 
By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2001-10-08
 
 
 

Dell and Tricord Power Up NAS Wares


Instead of buying new file servers, many small and midsize companies are turning to lower-cost NAS appliances to fulfill their storage needs. Until recently, however, this meant a trade-off: Most workgroup-class network-attached storage appliances cannot be scaled easily and lack the redundancy found in file servers.

Now, a pair of NAS products—Dell Computer Corp.s PowerVault 755N and Tricord Systems Inc.s Lunar Flare—break new ground in this area.

The PowerVault 755N, basically a Dell PowerEdge server running Microsoft Corp.s Server Appliance Kit 2.0, is the first NAS appliance eWeek Labs has seen that taps SAK 2.0s advanced features, previously available only in large-scale NAS offerings. The Lunar Flare offers impressive clustering capabilities, something we havent seen in other products in this class.

Our tests showed the PowerVault has a higher upfront cost but offers immediate performance gains and can scale to a higher capacity (7 terabytes) down the road. The Lunar Flare, on the other hand, costs less and offers more storage at the low end but quickly becomes expensive as it scales to accommodate growth.

In tests using Ziff Davis Media Inc.s NetBench 7.0 benchmark, which measures file server performance, the Lunar Flares performance scaled linearly, besting the PowerVault in performance—if not price—with a 16-node cluster. The PowerVault bested the Lunar Flare in smaller cluster performance.

PowerVault 755n


PowerVault 755n

Although not as easy to use as the Lunar Flare, the PowerVault 755N, running SAK 2.0, is more scalable—it topped out at 7 terabytes in tests vs. almost 2 terabytes maximum for the Lunar Flare. The PowerVault 755N combines powerful server hardware and redundancy with SAK 2.0, a stripped-down version of Windows 2000 Advance Server optimized for file serving that provides preconfigured network file-sharing services for FTP, HTTP, Mac OS, NetWare and Unix clients. The SAK server appliance has no client access license restrictions and provides remote administration via a Web-based console or Windows Terminal Service.

The unit we tested had dual 1GHz Pentium III processors, 1GB of synchronous dynamic RAM, two Ultra3 RAID controllers (embedded and PCI) and five internal hard drives. The system included a PowerVault 210S storage enclosure that held 12 9GB hard drives. It also had a Fibre Gigabit Ethernet PCI card and an embedded copper gigabit NIC. This system, with one enclosure holding 12 18GB drives, lists for $21,000. A 1.7-terabyte system that has two enclosures, with 12 73GB drives each, lists for $49,000. The PowerVault 755N does not have clustering capabilities yet, but Dell officials said clustering will be available later this fall.

Lunar Flare


Lunar Flare

the Lunar Flare NAS appliance provides small and midsize networks with a scalable, fault-tolerant storage system that is very easy to implement. The Lunar Flare runs on a Linux kernel optimized for file services, and up to 16 devices can be clustered using Tricords proprietary Illumina clustering software.

The cluster provides an aggregated storage pool that, like a RAID subsystem in a file server, can be allocated to network clients via shares. Also like a RAID array, all the data is copied across every node in the cluster to provide parity fault tolerance, and unused nodes can be designated as hot spares to automatically fail-over disabled devices. The cluster can be managed and scaled as a single system, providing a lower TCO (total cost of ownership).

Each Lunar Flare node in a cluster can be mapped to different clients, so the performance of the cluster scales linearly to the number of nodes in the cluster. In the NetBench 7.0 tests, the default two-node cluster delivered a throughput of 51M bps—on par with workgroup-class NAS boxes such as Snap Appliances Inc.s Snap Server 4100. The Lunar Flare scaled to almost 2 terabytes in tests.

The Lunar Flare costs $5,700 per node and has a raw storage capacity of 129GB in a 1U form factor. In tests, the basic two-node configuration provided about 116GB of usable storage due to the clustering software overhead. Each additional node joining the cluster adds about 117GB of usable storage.

Although the Lunar Flares clustering abilities are impressive, there are some issues that Tricord needs to address. Because it supports only the CIFS protocol, the Lunar Flare can be used only with Windows-based clients. Administration would be more efficient if the Lunar Flare allowed clients to map a network drive to a share under the cluster name, instead of requiring that clients map to each node. The Lunar Flare also cannot limit the amount of space each user or group can use, an important issue in larger networks.

Executive Summary


: PowerVault 755n">

PowerVault 755n

USABILITYB
CAPABILITYB
PERFORMANCEA
INTEROPERABILITYB
MANAGEABILITYB

The PowerVault 755N, based on Dells server hardware and running the latest SAK from Microsoft, provides a high-performance, scalable NAS system with advanced file management features. Its best suited for midsize and large companies.

SHORT-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // The 755N can be up and running out of the box fairly quickly, especially for users familiar with Windows 2000.

LONG-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // With its ability to scale to 7 terabytes of storage and the latest server hardware components, the PowerVault wont be outdated quickly, providing a good return on investment down the road.

Strong performance; advanced NAS features with SAK support; very scalable.

Lacks clustering capabilities.

Dell Computer Corp., Round Rock, Texas; (800) 915-3355; www.dell.com

Executive Summary


: Lunar Flare NAS">

Lunar Flare NAS

USABILITYB
CAPABILITYB
PERFORMANCEB
INTEROPERABILITYC
MANAGEABILITYB

The Lunar Flare stands out in the workgroup and departmental NAS market because of its built-in clustering capabilities. The Lunar Flares performance scales well when more nodes are added to the cluster, but the system can quickly become expensive.

SHORT-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // The Lunar Flare, with clustering software, is easy to roll out and has almost no impact on end users capabilities.

LONG-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // The Lunar Flare will provide a low TCO down the road because its very easy to scale, and its impressive clustering capabilities ensure fault tolerance.

Robust clustering capabilities; easy to set up and manage; scalable.

Supports only CIFS; lacks user storage quotas.

Tricord Systems Inc., Plymouth, Minn.; (800) 874-2673; www.tricord.com

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