RLX blade-and-storage combo falls short
One-stop-shopping is nice, but RLX's SAN storage solution lacks Control Tower XT integration magicFollow @infoworld
Control Tower XT also includes excellent provisioning software, ActivConfig, which allows full server images to be built and stored on the management server and then pushed out to individual blades based on their rack number, chassis number, and slot position within a chassis. Back up those server blades with a load-balancing appliance, and the entire hardware swap would be invisible to users.
Where’s the value-add?
The blades and Control Tower XT remain excellent, and this time around RLX adds storage to the mix.
This consists of QLogic-manufactured FC daughter cards within each server blade; an RLX-branded QLogic 2GBps, 16-port FC switch (the QLogic SANbox2); and, in my test configuration, an RLX-branded LSI Logic drive enclosure with room for 14 FC drives in a 3U-high package. RLX equipped the drive enclosure with four Seagate 36GB drives.
To make a long story short: Everything works until you get to the blade system-storage integration. The drivers and hardware integrate with the FC storage system fine; the storage works out-of-the-box, even on hot-swapped blades.
My major complaint — and it’s a biggie — is that beyond the inclusion of drivers and qualification of the gear, there’s no “RLX Secret Sauce” in the storage array. Control Tower XT doesn’t see the LSI Logic storage array or QLogic FC switch, beyond the use of an add-in module to facilitate provisioning the storage with its servers. Also, Control Tower can’t simulate the storage resources on its browser-based display, monitor their hardware status, or affect their configuration.
For example, a hardware failure with the blade chassis or with a blade was readily visible on RLX’s tiny ActivStat LCDs or with Control Tower XT. But have a failure or configuration issue with the FC storage gear — such as my tests with failing out a hard drive or killing a power supply — and as far as Control Tower XT is concerned, the system is A-OK, even if the LSI Logic disk array is beeping its head off with error tones. Your only option is to use separate QLogic FC management software to take care of the solution’s storage components.
I commend RLX for expanding its offerings and can’t fault any of its components on their own. But I came away from this test disappointed in its full system with the storage solution.
The system works great —RLX has an outstanding blade system with outstanding management. Yet until the company goes beyond slapping its logo on partner hardware and begins truly integrating peripheral systems such as storage into its management system, there will be little to commend such “modular computing” offerings from RLX beyond the simplicity of one-stop shopping.
Read more about storage in InfoWorld's Storage Channel.