EqualLogic delivers an array of impressive IP storage features
Scalable and easy to manage, EqualLogic's PeerStorage Array 100E is a winnerFollow @infoworld
2003 will probably be remembered as the year of IP storage.
Many storage vendors, including Cisco, EMC, Microsoft, and Network Appliance, have adopted the iSCSI protocol in their solutions, often as a complement to the established FC (Fibre Channel) transport.
Support for IP-based storage from large vendors is important, but so is the contribution from entrants such as Intransa and LeftHand, because their products have mostly removed the SAN price sting, opening those solutions to more customers.
EqualLogic, another newcomer, recently joined the ranks of IP-storage suppliers with its PeerStorage Array 100E, pledging easy-to-manage, scalable, and affordable SANs based on the iSCSI protocol.
Judging from a few weeks spent testing the 100E, EqualLogic has delivered on that promise. Its storage enclosure performed quickly and reliably, and setting up collaboration with a twin unit was easy and rewarding, promising painless expandability down the road.
With an entry-level price of $28,000 for an array with an 840GB capacity, purchasing a PeerStorage doesn’t require a large initial investment, which should attract more customers to networked storage.
EqualLogic sent me two arrays, each hosting 14 Hitachi Deskstar 185GB ATA drives and two control modules in a 3U box. Each control module, essentially a server on a hot-pluggable card, hosts the OS. The EqualLogic management software provides 1GB of battery-protected cache, SATA (serial ATA) controllers, and three GbE NICs with copper and optionally fibre ports.
You can order the array with just one control module. But the solution is faster with two, thanks to the onboard cache that doubles to 2GB, and it's more resilient because each controller will automatically compensate for a failing one. During my tests, removing one of the controllers did not compromise volume access from my servers, and the array immediately returned to normal working conditions when I reinserted the controller.
A second controller makes the array more expensive, but it's highly recommended because of the added performance and safety. It also complements the standard redundant power supply and cooling fans.
Each PeerStorage array can be optimized for capacity or performance. You may choose between RAID 10 and RAID 50. Either way, two drives for each array are spares by default, which should give adequate protection from disk failures. In fact, when I removed a drive to simulate a fault, the arrays promptly replaced it with a spare, preserving data content and access while rebuilding the RAID configuration with the new drive.
Setting up the first array using the PeerStorage CLI (command line interface) over a serial connection was easy. After that, I just pointed my browser to the storage group IP address to access the Java-based management GUI.
At first, the EqualLogic GUI seems starkly simplistic, but that apparent plainness hides a host of powerful capabilities, such as drilling down to assess the health of the hardware components for each array, setting automated warnings to notify malfunctions, and monitoring network ports and disk performance via online charts.