Multilingual filers shatter storage-standard barriers
Competing file sharers from Adaptec, Celeros, Dell, and NetApp speak iSCSI, NFS, and CIFSFollow @pvenezia
Adaptec Snap Server 650
Ever since Adaptec bought Snap, it's been anyone's guess whether the company would continue with the product line. The Snap 18000, introduced years ago, was one of the first low-end competitors to Network Appliance, and its Linux-based solution has fared well over the years, but there's been very little rustle from the company until recently. The Snap Server 650 in this test bears little physical resemblance to the 18000, but the management interface is GuardianOS, same as it ever was.
The Snap 650 is a 1U appliance with four SAS drives and an up-front LCD status panel. Since SAS capacities are low, and the prices high, SATA shelves can be tacked onto the Snap 650 to provide more storage. They're attached using external SAS/SATA connections, and storage volumes can be spanned across the two arrays. In practice, this isn't a good idea because like disks should be grouped together. This does offer the benefit of tiered storage within a single unit, however, since high-demand volumes can be placed on the SAS array, and lower-priority volumes on the SATA array, all within one box.
I tested the Snap 650 on both the SAS and SATA arrays for all tests to determine the performance difference between them, and it would definitely behoove an admin to place SQL databases or a Microsoft Exchange datastore on the SAS side of things, while normal file sharing lives on the SATA end. Although the internal drives in the 650 are SAS, it's possible to add disk shelves with 10K and 15K SAS drives, and 7200 rpm SATA drives.
Integrating the Snap 650 into the network was straightforward, using basic Active Directory and NIS bindings. Shares are created on any volume and can be accessed from both CIFS and NFS, as well as FTP, HTTP, and AFP (AppleTalk Filing Protocol) protocols. This separates the Snap650 from the others, as they may offer a few extra protocols, but not all of them.
ACLs can be managed from the UI or from Windows and POSIX systems, though NFS permissions will be Greek to anyone who's never used a standard NFS server before. There's no sugar-coating -- it's basically like editing /etc/exports. To NFS admins, this is actually a benefit, but to others, it might be a bit of a pain.
Network connectivity is provided by a pair of gigabit NICs that can operate independently or bonded, although the management of a load-balanced configuration can be a bit wonky, with seemingly benign spurious errors during reconfiguration. This didn't cause any problems, but was certainly odd.
On the performance side, the Snap 650 really cooks for a filer in this price range. Armed with two dual-core Opteron CPUs and 2GB of RAM, it's ready for just about any workload. It consistently posted the highest scores in the performance tests, and generally ran circles around the other systems.
GuardianOS has had its problems, and is in need of a refresh, but its basis on Linux and the XFS file system is fairly solid. The Snap 18000 I've had in the lab for a while recently had a hiccup after more than a year of faithful service, and all appeared to be lost. It took some time and some support from Adaptec, but the array was repaired, the file system reconstituted, and all the data eventually recovered.
The Snap Server 650 offers significant expansion, quick setup, and a lot of horsepower for the price, and is hopefully a sign that Adaptec is finally getting serious about its Snap filer line.