CD-ROM tower is faster with Windows 95 than with NT

When the GCN Lab previously tested SMS Data Products' Millenia CD-ROM tower, we
encountered some performance and configuration problems. The new Millenia 700 has faster
drives and a revamped communications module.


Configuration problems were largely nonexistent this time around, but performance still
lagged, especially under NT. Under Windows 95, programs can make direct calls to the disk
hardware. Under NT, the operating system layer handles the calls.


The last version of the Millenia 700 we tested had seven 4X CD-ROM drives. The new test
unit came with seven 12X drives. In both cases, the SCSI interfaces were internal.


The performance increase this time around was not just from the faster drives. We had
tried out a number of connectivity modules on the previous tower, one of them from Axis
Communications of Sweden.


The new test unit had an updated version of the same module, and some of the
performance improvement came from that. The average improvement was threefold under both
Win95 and NT, but the performance gap widened between the two platforms.


The GCNdex32TM benchmark score for CD-ROM access under Win95 rose to 11.18,
while under NT it was only 1.58. (The baseline 1.0 score for this test is a 2X CD-ROM
drive's 300-kilobyte/sec transfer rate.) So the CD-ROM tower clearly would not be a good
choice for NT users.


Vendors that offer thin-server products for Win95 and NT should spell out in their
documentation what sort of performance to expect, depending on client platform and network
protocol.


SMS' documentation said the Millenia is capable of throughput up to 900 kilobytes/sec.
The NT tests failed to deliver that rate, but caching made the Win95 results come closer.
On tests designed to prevent caching from affecting the score, Win95 throughput fell by
more than half.


The Millenia system chassis was the same as before with a locking front door to protect
the CDs. The system is a good example of a modular thin-server design, but the Axis module
still lacks a serial interface for configuration from an attached PC. You must configure
it over the network.


SMS should bundle the Axis configuration tool that is downloadable free from Axis' Web
site at http://www.axis.com.


Upgradeability is extremely important for thin servers, and the Millenia 700 does well
there. All seven drives can be upgraded, and the communications module can be replaced.
Once bought, this package would not become obsolete.


You can buy the Millenia 700 in configurations with seven, 28 or 196 drives. If most of
your users work under Windows 3.x or Win95, the Millenia would be a good buy for networked
CD-ROM access. But if you have NT users, prepare for complaints.


Performance probably would improve under a 100Base-T connection instead of the 10Base-T
connection in our review unit.


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