Adaptec's little SAN that can
Exclusive: Snap Server 720i, an entry-level iSCSI SAN, packs big features in a small formatFollow @infoworld
If you have used other products from Adaptec, Storage Manager will look like an old friend. Regardless, it won't take long to get acquainted with its GUI, from which you can centralize the monitoring of all of your arrays. In addition to typical management tasks such as setting up the network configuration and creating LUNs (logical unit numbers), Storage Manager allows you to provision storage without even touching your Windows machines.
After installing an agent on each of my application servers, I was able to create and assign new volumes remotely from the management console. Behind the scenes, the provisioning agent took care of formatting the volume, assigning a drive letter and preparing the Microsoft iSCSI initiator for the connection -- this last step is very helpful because it avoids having to jump between consoles.
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The Adaptec CLI's comprehensive online help -- which will even guide you word by word through a command -- puts most similar tools to shame. I never needed to keep a reference manual close by to type a command, and neither will you.
The 720i feature that takes the cake is the built-in remote mirroring. Naturally, mirroring requires two arrays but brings ironclad protection to critical volumes by automatically creating remote mirrors of selected volumes on the second unit.
Remote mirroring is also very easy and quick to implement; in fact, creating a mirror is faster than explaining how it works. Here is how: From Storage Manager I clicked on one of my application servers, chose the volume to protect, and then clicked the appropriate entry from the pop-up menu. The wizard proposed to create a new volume of the same size on the second array, and I clicked Next and Apply to confirm. My mirror volume was set.
To mimic a real-life scenario, before testing the fail-over, I added more files to the source volume, then increased its size by 5GB. Peeking at the second array, I noticed that Storage Manager had quietly increased the size of the mirror as well -- so far, so good.
To simulate a failure, I simply pulled the power cord from the 720i. In the time it took me to return to the console, Storage Manager was showing that the array was down. From my application server, I opened the "lost" volume in Windows Explorer and all of my files, including the last batch, were still there. The automatic fail-over was successful; the system had automatically switched my server to the mirror volume.
I don't know if the power-off hiccups I experienced were caused by the array or by some glitch on my network, and frankly it doesn't matter much because sudden power loss is an unlikely event in most installations. What counts more is that the Adaptec Snap Server 720i combines great scalability, reassuring high-availability features, and excellent management tools, all at a very affordable price and with a three-year warranty on hardware. Few arrays in its class can even come close to that.