Speaking of customer support, XioTech is so confident in its hardware design and the quality of subsystems that every unit includes a five-year warranty on parts and service.
One of the features I was most interested in testing is Virtual View, an add-on to ICON Manager that dramatically simplifies the task of-and decreases the management overhead of-creating, replicating, moving, and resizing virtual disk or VMDK (virtual machine disk format) files.
At eWEEK Labs, we work with a lot of VMware virtual machines for testing. Provisioning and maintaining those virtual machines is a lot of work. Many enterprises are discovering the same thing, namely that now that a "server" is really just a file on a disk, there are a whole new set of challenges to manage that server.
The use of Web services-based integration between various IT infrastructure hardware and software for management purposes is a growing trend. Many of the software big boys, such as Oracle, Microsoft and VMware, can utilize Web services-based requests for server, network and storage resources directly. In many cases, this means that as an admin, you don't need to dive into three different interfaces to provision a new virtual machine.
In the case of Xiotech's Virtual View, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could reduce the usual 16 steps of provisioning a new VMware VMDK to a right-click. After filling in the volume's name, assigning it to a server, and setting the size, it was done.
Equally significant is that I was able to resize a VMDK instantly directly from the Virtual View interface. In an environment where you spend a lot of time building, backing up, moving, and resizing virtual machines as VMDK or rdm files, then Virtual View will simplify those tasks so much that you might even get to leave the office before dinner. XioTech will add support for Microsoft's HyperV and Citrix's XEN virtualization offerings in the future.
I didn't assess performance in any meaningful way, although I can provide some information. I ran Iometer 2006.07.27 from one of the Dell servers and eventually cranked performance up to 8,500 I/O per second, but that's not a particularly relevant way of testing a device of this caliber. As evidence that this is an atypical load, when I created a new volume and snapshotted it on the Emprise 7000 while running Iometer, I/Os per second were cut in half. I can say that from my experience with enterprise storage, the GUI is responsive and actions such as creating a volume and snapshotting take place rapidly.
According to Xiotech, the Emprise 5000 is the current record holder in price/performance on the SPC-1 and SPC-2 benchmarks: A single ISE churned out 5,892 I/Os per second for $20,800, for a net price/performance figure of $3.52 per I/Os per second, less than 25 percent of the cost of conventional arrays.
The Xiotech Emprise 7000 is a high-availability SAN solution that will serve you well if you can take advantage of it. In a mission-critical environment with a high-volume of storage service requests, the combination of extremely fault-tolerant hardware design and the easy-to-use ICON manager will be well worth the price.
Matthew D. Sarrel is executive director of Sarrel Group, an IT test lab, editorial services, and consulting firm in New York City.