Multilingual filers shatter storage-standard barriers
Competing file sharers from Adaptec, Celeros, Dell, and NetApp speak iSCSI, NFS, and CIFSFollow @pvenezia
Network Appliance StoreVault S500
This product actually came as a shock to me. The heart and soul of Network Appliance is the company's Data OnTap OS platform, which runs on every storage product NetApp sells. A $250,000 SAN solution runs it, and so does the $8,000 StoreVault S500. Of course, the S500 isn't nearly in the same class at its big brothers, but it does offer the same basic functionality.
The StoreVault S500 ships with StoreVault Manager, NetApp's Windows-based management tool. With a brand-new unconfigured S500 running on the same subnet as a Windows workstation, StoreVault Manager will find it with Universal Plug and Play and walk the user through the basic configuration, including networking setup, Windows and NIS parameters, and storage configuration.
From there, it's a matter of aligning your mind to the application, configuring shares and iSCSI LUNs, and overall storage parameters. For those that haven't used a NetApp product before, this app is very useful. For those that have NetApp experience, it's actually rather annoying. Fortunately, FilerView, the Web-based management tool native to Data OnTap is also available, although the two cannot coexist.
My evaluation unit was a 3U rack-mount appliance with twelve 500GB SATA drives. It's nothing fancy from an aesthetic point of view, with a very rudimentary LED display and a few status lights. Raw capacity is about 6TB, but usable capacity falls well short of that. Eliminating two drives in a dual-parity RAID configuration and removing another for a hot spare, coupled with a reasonable snapshot reserve, actual disk size of about 415GB, and file system overhead bring the total available storage to just under 4TB, though that's a well-protected 4TB.
Integrating the S500 into a Windows network is very simple, and setting ACLs on shares and directories in those shares is also simple. Snapshots are integrated with Windows' own Shadow Copy Service, and ACL management can be done from any Windows system with appropriate rights. The NFS side is also easy, with NIS bindings and POSIX-compliant ACLs. iSCSI LUNs can be created at a whim and masking is handled through a relatively straightforward initiator grouping mechanism. NDMP (Network Data Management Protocol) backups are supported, and replication between S500s is also built in.
Given its roots, the S500 has a head start on most other products, and it shows in the robust nature of the solution. Where the S500 falters is in performance. There are two gigabit NICs, but they cannot be bonded together, and although it's certainly capable of pushing lots of bits, it's hamstrung by a lack of resources. Whereas most of the other vendors are using dual CPUs, or at least a single dual-core CPU and a pile of RAM, the S500 runs with a relatively anemic 3GHz Intel Celeron CPU and 1GB of RAM.
The performance tests showed the S500 running in the low end of the pack, but handling different file sizes relatively equally. This is fine for many implementations, but in a high-demand scenario, it's overmatched. During backups, it's possible to consume most or all of the system resources, so 24/7 operations may need to look elsewhere.
That said, for the cost and the stability of the solution, it's a definite winner in the right environment.