Intransa Inc.s IP5000 is one of the first native iSCSI storage devices to enter the market, and it shows that IP-based SANs may be just around the corner.
There are a number of iSCSI storage router devices that present SCSI and Fibre Channel storage devices to servers and clients; these routers include StoneFly Networks Inc.s i3000 and Cisco Systems Inc.s SN5400 Series Storage Router. However, the IP5000 is the first storage device that can be plugged directly into an IP network and used immediately without a storage router.
From an architectural standpoint, the IP5000 is a unique IP-based storage device because it not only uses iSCSI to connect to clients but also uses IP on the back end to connect hard drive enclosures to its controllers.
The IP5000, which became available this summer, leverages the inexpensive, widely used Gigabit Ethernet protocol to gain scalability. Instead of using SCSI or Fibre Channel to hook disk enclosures to storage controllers, Intransa employs a special block-level IP protocol that encapsulates hard drive communication so that it can travel over Gigabit Ethernet.
During tests, we could hook the IP5000 to a SAN (storage area network) using an inexpensive Gigabit Ethernet switch and standard Category 5 cabling. As storage needs increase, IT managers can easily add more controllers and storage on the fly by plugging them into the Gigabit Ethernet network.
Intransas IP5000 storage system is an iSCSI-based array that may be a sign of things to come, allowing IT managers to create IP SANs without legacy SCSI and Fibre Channel hardware. The IP5000s cost—$62,500 in its base configuration—includes solid management capabilities, as well as virtualization, volume mirroring and snapshot capabilities that usually cost extra.
EVALUATION SHORT LIST
The IP5000 will meet most organizations performance needs. However, it will not be able to replace Fibre Channel for performance-sensitive applications such as enterprise resource planning and online transaction processing.
In tests at eWEEK Labs using two servers to drive the load, we were able to squeeze up to 137.5MB per second out of an array doing high-throughput, large-request-size (256KB) tests for sequential write transactions using the Iometer benchmark. Performance tests using more realistic workloads generated slower but still usable workloads, in the range of 30MB to 50MB per second per server, depending on workload.
During tests, we did not use a jumbo frame configuration going from servers to the IP5000, but we did use jumbo frames between the disk array and the controllers. Intransa officials believe our results would have been faster with jumbo frames on both sides, but we wanted to see performance using standard Ethernet frame sizes.
By using ATA drives, the IP5000 can deliver a large amount of raw storage capacity (3.2 terabytes) at a relatively low price of $62,500 for the base configuration. The cost benefit is a bit misleading, however: Of the 3.2 terabytes of raw space available, only about 1.6 terabytes is usable because of RAID limitations.
In its current configuration, the only RAID levels offered are mirroring and striped mirrors (RAID 10), which means that organizations will need to double storage capacity for redundancy. We would like to see RAID 5 available because it would provide storage redundancy with far less overhead. Company officials said they are considering this option.
Despite this limitation, the IP5000 is a bargain. Its included StorControl software provides virtualization, snapshot and volume mirroring capabilities, all of which are available as costly add-ons from other vendors.
The IP5000s graphical management utilities were easy to use in tests, and most IT managers should be able to use them right away. Basic array configuration using the graphical management tool was a bit rigid, however; during tests, to do advanced configuration (such as setting up customized disk layouts), we had to use the command-line interface.
Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_ firstname.lastname@example.org.