Review: StoneFly Storage Concentrator i3000

 
 
By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2003-12-08
 
 
 

StoneFly Networks Inc.s Storage Concentrator i3000 allows enterprises to extend SANs using iSCSI links and features new mirroring capabilities.

As iSCSI becomes more prominent, appliances such as the Storage Concentrator i3000 can be used to hook smaller servers to storage area networks. The Storage Concentrator i3000, which resides between iSCSI clients and Fibre Channel and SCSI storage devices, also has virtualization capabilities that will help IT managers carve out storage resources and offer them to servers.

The Storage Concentrator i3000 with mirroring began shipping early last month; the appliance costs $13,995 for a single unit and $19,995 for a clustered pair. These prices are relatively low compared with what companies would have to pay to add Fibre Channel host bus adapters ($600 to $1,000 per server) or switches (which cost several thousand dollars each) to connect smaller servers to a Fibre Channel SAN.

eWEEK Labs found during tests at StoneFlys San Diego offices that the new release of the Storage Concentrator improves the products flexibility and functionality. For example, the i3000 has flexible port configurations that allow both SCSI and Fibre Channel connectivity on a single box. With older versions of the appliance, connectivity was an either-or proposition.

For additional IP connectivity, the Storage Concentrator i3000 can be equipped with two Gigabit Ethernet iSCSI ports, with active load balancing for increased throughput. (Older versions of the appliance had only one port.) However, the Storage Concentrator i3000 would be more useful if it had more Fibre Channel ports.

The processor in the Storage Concentrator i3000 has been upgraded to an Intel Corp. 3GHz Xeon processor, which should boost performance significantly.

The appliances mirroring features allowed us to set up synchronous and asynchronous mirroring over iSCSI, which will be useful for disaster recovery protection.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Storage Concentrator i3000

The StoneFly Storage Concentrator i3000—with its flexible port configuration and mirroring capabilities—is a useful appliance for extending SANs to low-end servers using iSCSI. The concentrator costs a relatively low $13,995 for a single unit and $19,995 for a clustered pair.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
USABILITY GOOD
CAPABILITY GOOD
PERFORMANCE GOOD
INTEROPERABILITY GOOD
MANAGEABILITY GOOD
SCALABILITY FAIR
SECURITY GOOD
  • PRO: Includes built-in virtualization and mirroring capabilities; simple but effective management tools.

  • CON: Mirroring is performed via a driver that must be installed on all protected servers; has a relatively small number of ports.
  • EVALUATION SHORT LIST
    Cisco Storage Router SN5428

    StoneFlys mirroring uses a filter driver that mirrors write transactions and sends them to primary and secondary storage devices over iSCSI. The downside to using a driver instead of performing the mirroring in the appliance is that you have to install the driver on all protected servers.

    We highly recommend that the Storage Concentrator i3000 be deployed in a clustered configuration; without this level of redundancy, a single appliance outage could knock out several servers.

    Like its predecessors, the Storage Concentrator i3000 has built-in storage virtualization capabilities that make the appliances fairly easy to manage and deploy.

    During tests, we appreciated the Storage Concentrator i3000s management capabilities, which allowed us to easily carve up Fibre Channel SAN devices for use by iSCSI clients.

    StoneFlys Web-based management tool allowed us to control and keep track of volume access, which is extremely important because unauthorized access can easily lead to corrupted data volumes.

    The i3000s virtualization sets the device apart from competitors such as Cisco Systems Inc.s SN5400 Series Storage Router; these products have LUN (logical unit number) masking capabilities but cannot carve LUNs into volumes.

    Ciscos solution also lacks SCSI ports for connecting older SCSI arrays. However, because the Cisco SN5400 has an integrated, eight-port Fibre Channel switch, it is probably a better choice for customers that already have a lot of Fibre Channel storage.

    Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.

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