MaxAttach Is Built for Capacity, Not Speed

Maxtor Corp.'s latest NAS appliance, the MaxAttach 6000, boasts impressive storage capacity, competitive price and ease of use, making it a good offering for sites that need affordable, high-capacity network data storage.

Maxtor Corp.s latest NAS appliance, the MaxAttach 6000, boasts impressive storage capacity, competitive price and ease of use, making it a good offering for sites that need affordable, high-capacity network data storage.

However, although it achieved decent performance in eWeek Labs tests, as an IDE-based network-attached storage device, the MaxAttach 6000 will be a hard sell in an enterprise space thats dominated by SCSI and Fibre Channel NAS schemes. The MaxAttach 6000 also faces diminished prospects in an arena where performance takes priority over capacity.

The $30,000 model 6000, which was released last year, has the highest storage capacity in the MaxAttach line of NAS appliances. The 7-inch, rack-mountable base unit has a raw capacity of 1.9 terabytes and can be scaled with two MaxAttach EXP6000 expansion units (available separately at $25,000 for 1.9 terabytes each), for a maximum capacity of 5.7 terabytes in 21 inches of rack space.

The MaxAttach 6000 would be a good fit for cost-conscious sites that want to consolidate storage in heterogeneous networks or need a high-capacity system for disk-to-disk backup and data archiving. The MaxAttach 6000 will also integrate well with Windows 2000 networks with native support for Active Directory. SCSI systems may still have the edge in NAS performance, but IDE systems are catching up. Furthermore, IDE systems offer a better price per gigabyte, and IT managers should therefore consider them for non-mission-critical applications.

The MaxAttach 6000s base price works out to about $16 per gigabyte, comparable to other high-capacity workgroup NAS devices, such as Quantum Corp.s Snap Server 12000. (For eWeek Labs Dec. 10, 2001, review of the Snap Server 12000, go to The base price includes two copper gigabit NICs. The box we tested had one copper and one fiber NIC and was slightly more expensive. A base unit with dual fiber NICs will cost $32,500.

The MaxAttach is ready for the enterprise world in terms of hardware redundancy. Hot-swappable redundant power supplies and hard drives are easily accessible in the front, and the system has two Gigabit Ethernet adapters to ensure uninterrupted data access.

The MaxAttach 6000 uses Maxtors new DiamondMax 160GB ATA-133 hard drives to achieve its high storage density. In contrast, the biggest SCSI drives in the market currently support 73GB and are more expensive.

For the storage it offers, the MaxAttach 6000 is less expensive than many SCSI-based devices, including Dell Computer Corp.s Dell PowerVault 755N.

The MaxAttach 6000 has dual 866MHz Pentium III processors, 1GB of error-correcting code synchronous dynamic RAM, two Gigabit Ethernet controllers and 12 ATA-133 160GB hot-swappable drives. The model 6000s SCSI- to-ATA bridge accommodates a Mylex ExtremeRAID 2000 controller to drive the 12 IDE hard drives, improving I/O performance. The ExtremeRAID 2000 provides 64MB of cache. The MaxAttach 6000 also has a separate Ultra160 SCSI external adapter for sites that want to directly attach tape backup devices.

In tests using Ziff Davis Media Inc.s NetBench 7.0 benchmark to measure file server throughput, the MaxAttach 6000 delivered more than 180M bps—decent performance but not quite up to par with Dells PowerVault 755N, which achieved more than 230M bps.

The PowerVault 755N has faster processors (dual 1GHz Pentium IIIs). However, because file sharing applications are not processor-intensive, the performance difference is due to I/O components.

Maxtor embeds Microsoft Corp.s Windows 2000 SAK (Server Appliance Kit) operating system in its NAS boxes. The SAK uses an optimized version of Windows 2000 Advance Server operating system and includes a Java-based Web user interface for management.

The SAK Web interfaces easy-to-use menus and icons simplify administration tasks, but the operations can be sluggish. We often had to wait several seconds before the appliance acknowledged our commands.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at [email protected].