Even with all that Jaz, StorPoint HD/4 storage tower has a short memory

The GCN Lab last year favorably reviewed a 1G Jaz drive [GCN, June 16, 1997, Page 35]. Now Axis
has incorporated four of the Jaz drives into a single small tower for network access.

This would be a good arrangement for small workgroups that share large volumes of
geographic information system, computer-aided design or medical files. In environments
that publish their electronic documents, the Axis tower could act as a depository for
archival copies.

There are some caveats, though. If you plan on using large files, invest in an upgrade
to cache memory. The tower comes with 2M but can support up to 32M. The more cache memory,
the better your data throughput, especially for large files.

The Axis unit the lab tested had the standard 2M cache, and performance fell short.
Perhaps a future review can take another look at the product with a larger cache.

Another caveat: Each Jaz disk costs about $125. If you plan to fill and archive lots of
disks, you would be better off staying with tape or another low-cost medium.

Setting up the Axis StorPoint was not easy. The lab had hoped to simply Telnet to the
device and set the necessary configuration parameters. Although the documentation
explained the basic commands, it did not describe the syntax needed to execute them.

Because thin-server firmware is so basic, the ease of initial setup matters very much
to users.

After the lab found and downloaded Axis' own configuration software from the company's
Web site, the Microsoft Windows NT network immediately detected the Axis StorPoint. Why
the company didn't ship the utility with the product is a mystery.

To make the evaluation setup comparable to most readers' networks, the lab decided to
install only TCP/IP support. The Axis tower can support other protocols, but TCP/IP is the
lowest common denominator.

After assigning the StorPoint an open IP address, rebooting and a little more tweaking,
the lab added it to its domain and assigned names and security lists to each of the four
Jaz drives. The lab also could access the StorPoint from the Web.

Web access is useful for browsing data, but you can upload and download files from the
StorPoint over the Web. The initial Web page default that comes with the StorPoint can be
changed so you can load your own page.

With Hypertext Transfer Protocol installed, this might be an ideal setup for intranet
applications that use large amounts of data.

The tower's performance was lower than expected under Windows NT. The documentation
stated the expected throughput as 1,050 kilobytes per second. But even under Windows 95,
the lab saw only about half that. Under NT, the tower performed more slowly than a 1X
CD-ROM drive.

The lab tested the tower's speed at taking data from a PC and writing it to the Jaz
disks. It then tested writing Jaz data to the PC. The toughest test was performing all
reads and writes on the same Jaz disk.

The best results, about 500M per second, came in reading data from the Jaz drive under
Windows 95. All other scores were lower in the same general range.

The addition of more cache memory would obviously improve the scores, as would a
100Base-T connection.

The StorPoint HD/4 has a ways to go before it delivers enough throughput for most
users. If they mostly access data from Win95 machines or over the Web, rather than writing
data, it could be useful. As a backup device, it is inadequate.

The thin server scores in some areas and misses in others. Cache memory can be
upgraded, but the drives themselves cannot. That's too bad, as Iomega recently built a 2G
Jaz drive backward-compatible with 1G Jaz disks and about 40 percent faster.

The StorPoint's firmware is upgradeable, and although there is no 100Base-T option yet,
the network connection can be changed. The tower does bring multiple Jaz drives onto a
network, but performance issues make it seem more like a soloist.


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