Multilingual filers shatter storage-standard barriers
Competing file sharers from Adaptec, Celeros, Dell, and NetApp speak iSCSI, NFS, and CIFSFollow @pvenezia
Celeros EzSANFiler XD
Celeros isn't exactly a big name in the storage arena, but the company's products continue to impress me. Based on an off-the-shelf SuperMicro chassis, the EzSANFiler XD provides iSCSI, NFS, and CIFS services as well as FTP, secure FTP, and HTTP sharing with a fresh Web-based UI and commodity parts -- there's definitely a benefit to being able to source your own replacement RAID controller when push comes to shove.
Speaking of RAID controllers, the EzSANFiler XD ships with an Adaptec 4805-SAS controller, which can control both SAS and SATA drives in the same chassis. My test unit came with six 137GB SAS drives, and four 750GB SATA drives. They can be seated anywhere in the chassis, and even combined into RAID arrays, though that would hardly be a good use of resources. In this fashion, the EzSANFiler XD can provide limited tiered storage much like the Snap Server 650, but within the same box. The Adaptec controller driving the disks is relatively autonomous, however, with all disk-level configuration performed within the cards' BIOS, which isn't accessible from the management interface.
One differentiator is that the EzSANFiler XD boots from a flash drive. Unlike the other solutions that all host their operating system on one or more of the disks in their arrays, Celeros has placed the entire OS on a flash adapter that plugs directly into an IDE header on the mainboard. This means that no matter what happens to any hard drive, the OS will remain stable. On the other hand, I found that the internal multilane connection to the disk backplane didn't have retention clips, which made the connection alarmingly loose. It's a small bone to pick, but a necessary one.
The EzSANFiler XD didn't perform well initially, especially in write and random testing, but this was largely attributable to the disabled write cache on the RAID controller. Enabling the write cache produced far better results. Production versions of the EzSANFiler XD will ship with a battery-backed RAID controller to mitigate this issue. The system has a single dual-core Intel Xeon 5110 running at 1.6GHz per core and 4GB of RAM, which seems to be sufficient to handle normal operations.
As far as the network goes, the EzSANFiler XD is simply rife with interfaces. Six gigabit NICs were in my test unit, and they could be run independently or bonded with EtherChannel to create multigigabit pipes. Network I/O isn't a problem on this system.
On the management side, the Celeros management application is Web-based and played quite nicely with every Web browser I tried. It's written in PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) and presents a clean interface for managing the appliance. I did have some initial problems with Active Directory integration, but they were resolved after some digging. The unit I received was one of the first, since this is a brand-new product from Celeros. There were some rough edges to be sure, but the overall direction of the product is solid, and the price is very attractive.
Some of the issues I encountered with the EZSANFiler XD are already being addressed by Celeros, as the company plans on releasing a code update quite soon that will add 2Gb and 4Gb Fibre Channel support, as well as integrating hardware RAID management into the Web GUI.
The performance to cost ratio on this system is quite high, and there’s considerable comfort in knowing that the OS running your storage is running on solid-state disk.
Dell PowerVault NX1950