GCN LAB REVIEW
A storage system with plenty of capacity and compatibilty
Dot Hill's AssuredSAN 3430 RAID has 12 hot-swappable bays for SATA or SAS hard drives
Let’s face it, the topic of data storage is about as exciting as discussions about the budget. But they are just about as necessary and important. Coming up with a strategy on how and where to store all of your organization’s information can be one of the most vital things a network administrator can do, even if it’s one of the least glamorous.
In order to have the data stored in a way so that everyone in the organization can access what they need, often a storage area network (SAN) is the best way to go. A SAN can manage data sources and keep track of the various permissions that different users might have. The main problem with a typical SAN is that of any storage – the difficulty of modifying available capacity to meet the ever-increasing needs of the various departments. Also, if the data source and the SAN controller are from different manufacturers, there might be a struggle to get them to talk to each other.
The AssuredSAN 3430 10Gb iSCSI SAN RAID System from Dot Hill Systems heads off both of these potential problems. The 3430 comes in a 2U rack-mountable enclosure. In the front are bays for 12 3.5-inch hard drives that can be Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA), Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) or Solid-State Drives (SSD) in any combination. The unit we reviewed had 12 600G 15k RPM SAS drives for a total capacity of a little over 7T.
Dot Hill AssuredSAN 3430 10Gb iSCSI SAN RAID System
Ease of Use: B
Pros: Fast transfer rates, large capacity.
Cons: Set up take a bit of effort.
All storage systems fail, so be ready to recover
Once we got the unit powered up and connected to our network, it was a relatively simple matter to change the IP addresses of the two controllers and access the administration interface through a Web browser. However, at this point our work had only just begun.
First, we had to create a virtual drive out of one or more of the available physical drives in the enclosure. We were pleased to find this aspect to be very flexible. We could pick any of the unused physical drives we wanted and put them in a Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID). The AssuredSAN supports RAID 0 (striping), 1 (mirroring), 3 (striping with a dedicated parity), 5 (striping with distributed parity), 6 (striping with double distributed parity), 10 (a combination of 1 and 0), and 50 (a combination of 5 and 0).
Once we had our virtual drive, we needed to create and map a volume that can be accessed over the network. Then we needed to set up one of the computers on the network so it could function as the host for that volume. This may seem like a lot of steps to set up network storage, but really it’s the nature of this particular beast.
We ran file transfer tests between the AssuredSAN and a client connected to the host computer over a 1G Ethernet connection. We found them to be as fast as network transfers to and from a drive similar to those in the 3430 but installed on the host computer. The 10Gb iSCSI port did nothing to slow the process down, as expected.
One of the major strengths of the AssuredSAN is its scalability. We were able to easily add an unused drive to an existing RAID configuration without any trouble. And with two RAID controllers, finding the right drive combination for your organization should be a breeze.
The 3430 can connect to up to seven model 3130 expansion enclosures as necessary. With the addition of seven 3130 enclosures, the total capacity could climb to 288T. And that doesn’t include the ability to manage any external hard drives or disk towers to which you might have the need to furnish access.
The AssuredSAN can save an organization money through its power saving features. One of the biggest ways it does this is with its new drive spin-down feature. If a drive is not in use after a specified amount of time, it will spin down. The exact savings in power will depend upon which drives are used how often, but Dot Hill estimates it could be as much as 25 percent.
Dot Hill’s retail price for the AssuredSAN 3430 10Gb iSCSI SAN RAID System as configured for our review was $19,298. This is a decent price for such a powerful SAN, especially when you consider this includes 12 600G SAS hard drives, which you might be able to find on sale for about $5,000 total if you were extremely lucky.
It should be noted that Dot Hill also sells SANs whose enclosures house 2.5-inch drives. There are also models that have Fibre Channel connections, as well as hybrid systems that have both fiber channel and iSCSI.
The AssuredSAN would be an asset to any network that needs more control over its data storage capabilities, and may need to increase those capabilities in the future.
Dot Hill Systems, www.dothill.com