Xiotech Aims for 24/7 Operation

By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2005-12-05

Xiotech Aims for 24/7 Operation

Xiotech Corp.s Magnitude 3D 3000s array is a flexible Fibre Channel SAN device designed for midsize and large businesses with hefty storage appetites.

Click here to read the full review of Xiotechs Magnitude 3D 3000s.


Xiotech Corp.s Magnitude 3D 3000s array is a flexible Fibre Channel SAN device designed for midsize and large businesses with hefty storage appetites.

Click here for eWEEK Labs storage array sample RFP.

The midrange storage market is saturated with products from vendors large and small, and this competition has forced vendors to deliver products with solid scalability and manageability. eWEEK Labs tests of the Magnitude 3D 3000s array, which is available now, show that Xiotech has risen admirably to this challenge.

With its ability to scale up to 76.8TB in a single system (using 224 hard drives), the Magnitude 3D 3000s storage system we tested should deliver more than enough capacity for most midsize companies.

However, Xiotechs storage systems are not designed for penny-pinching companies. IT managers on shoestring budgets should instead look to lower-end Fibre Channel arrays, such as Hewlett-Packard Co.s StorageWorks Modular Smart Array 1000 , which can be acquired at a fraction of the price but lack Xiotechs manageability and resilience.

The Magnitude 3D 3000s is priced at $94,000 when equipped with 4.8TB of Fibre Channel storage. The Magnitude 3D 3000s devices look expensive when compared with other arrays of this caliber, but its important to keep in mind that a big part of the price difference is due to the Magnitude 3D 3000s dual-controller configuration.

In addition to dual controllers, all Magnitude 3D 3000s units come with a separate server dedicated to management of the controllers. The management server works independently of the controllers, and it can be rebooted or shut down without affecting transactions.

Xiotech also offers a slightly smaller solution, the Magnitude 3D 3000e, which maxes out at 19.2TB (on 64 hard drives) and costs $44,000 with 3.2TB of SATA (Serial ATA) storage. But even at this lower price point, the Magnitude 3D 3000e is clearly not a bargain buy.

In tests, we were impressed with the Magnitude 3D 3000s performance and sensible design. In terms of architecture, the device is built with a keen eye toward reliability and fault tolerance. All Magnitude 3D 3000 models (even the 3000e) come with redundant controllers and redundant fabric loops that eliminate single points of failure. Controllers can be software-upgraded on the fly without creating maintenance downtime.

The controllers are designed to automatically fail over without disrupting applications, and each controller has a battery-backed cache to protect data in the event of a power outage. The Magnitude 3D 3000s cache is 2GB. (The 3000es cache is only 512MB.)

Our test unit came with Xiotechs new Fibre Bay II disk shelves, which became available in June and feature SBOD (Switched Bunch of Disks) technology. In the SBOD scheme, a switch built into the array controls links to individual disks. In older Magnitude systems, which used JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) disk shelves, a disk failure could create problems within a disk shelfs internal loop, which would reduce the systems overall reliability and performance.

The path management built into the Magnitude 3D 3000s provides servers with multipath redundancy without requiring that IT staffers add more software on each server.

The Magnitude 3D 3000s can run both inexpensive SATA and high-performance Fibre Channel drive trays, although drives cannot be mixed and matched within a tray—which makes it similar to Compellents Storage Center.

With the ability to use two types of drives, IT managers can set up multiple storage tiers within their Magnitude 3D 3000s arrays. These arrays also allow for practical storage management: We could easily migrate older data volumes from our expensive disks (Fibre Channel in RAID 10) to a less expensive set of disks (SATA in RAID 5), without causing downtime.

The Magnitude 3D 3000s management interface is not as intuitive as the tools provided by competitors such as EqualLogic Inc. and Compellent. We strongly recommend that IT managers take some time to skim through the manual before attempting to configure a Magnitude 3D 3000s.

Xiotechs DataScale Copy software, which came installed in our test system (and is sold separately for $10,000), enabled us to make point-in-time copies of our data volumes.

Using this copy-and-mount functionality, which other companies call cloning, we could mount the copies of our data volumes separately, which is useful for companies that want to run data mining processes without affecting the performance of their production applications.

Xiotechs DataScale Geo-Replication tool allows IT managers to easily replicate data volumes over WAN links. DataScale Geo-Replication is sold separately and costs $27,000 for each source server.

We believe the Copy and Geo-Replication options are worth the extra cost because of the added functionality they provide.

We configured our test servers to boot off the SAN, which allowed them to function completely without disks. This configuration would be useful for IT managers in busy environments where servers that are down must be replaced immediately.

Support for SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification) 1.1 is now available for the Magnitude 3D 3000s, which will allow IT managers with SMI-S-compliant SAN management software to manage Magnitude arrays.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

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Evaluation Shortlist

Compellents Storage Center Flexible storage array that offers both Fibre Channel and iSCSI connectivity (www.compellent.com)

Dell Inc./EMC Corp.s iSCSI AX100i Designed by EMC and sold by Dell, this inexpensive iSCSI unit uses SATA drives (www.dell.com)

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

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