So you think you can't SAN? Think again

Storage is better when it's shared. A new NAS/SAN breaks the price-performance barrier for small business

A few weeks ago, I expressed my desire to see completely diskless servers hit the general market. It was obviously aimed at the medium-to-large enterprise space, but several readers chastised me for espousing something that would break their budget. Yes, it's true: Enterprise-grade SANs are expensive, especially the Fibre-Channel stuff. Even iSCSI arrays cost a pretty penny if you're a small business.

But times are changing. This week I reviewed a great little NAS/SAN box from Synology, the DS1010+. I've been running various incarnations of Synology products in the lab for several years, and while they've always been reliable and functional, I've found their over-the-wire performance somewhat anemic. Fine for a supergeek home setup home or a really small business file server, but with 30MB/s writes, a little slow for anything more. That's not the case with the DS1010+, which consistently pushed 90-100MB/s streaming writes and 105MB/s reads over NFS, CIFS, and iSCSI. That's solid performance. The price? 5TB raw storage across five spindles for $1,750. That fits any budget.

[ Here's the full review of the Synology DS1010+. | Looking to revise your storage strategy? See InfoWorld's iGuide on the Enterprise Data Explosion. ]

The only knock on the DS1010+ from an enterprise perspective is the lack of redundant power supplies and possibly redundant links to the expansion chassis. But this little array costs a fraction of what larger fully-redundant SAN/NAS arrays do, and offers similar performance. Heck, at $1,750 you can buy two and use the built-in replication functions to maintain a consistent backup to another unit, and back that one up to tape. It's also expandable with the DX510 expansion unit that adds another five spindles connected via eSATA. With 2TB disks, that's up to 20TB raw storage, which should be far more than any small business needs.

The upshot is that you probably can afford a iSCSI SAN these days. With proper backups, the Synology DS1010+ could easily work in a virtualization environment (in fact, forum posts on Synology's community site show that many people are doing this). And it can certainly support full-on CIFS and NFS file serving for a sizable number of users.

There are other products in this space that can do the same, but the performance I saw in the lab with the DS1010+ really stood out. Just a few years ago, that level of performance started with a $15k minimum price tag and had offered very few of the features.

It makes me wonder if Synology is planning on heading upstream. The company offers a rackmount unit in the RS409+, but it supports only four hard drives (eight with an expansion unit) and doesn't have the performance of the DS1010+. Maybe they'll refresh that unit with something beefier. If they could come up with, say, a 10- or 12-spindle rackmount unit with redundant power supplies for under $5,000, it could fit in anywhere.

Let's face it: In the SMB world, you have to make some sacrifices to meet the needs of the organization while maintaining a reasonable budget. Products like the DS1010+ are aimed directly at that market, yet somehow also offer performance and features well above their pay grade. So if you think you can't SAN, you might want to look again.

This story, "So you think you can't SAN? Think again," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's Deep End blog and follow the latest developments in storage at InfoWorld.com.

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