Boston Igloo 2U-24T-Stor review

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Boston has always been a keen proponent of Microsoft’s storage management software, and its latest system teams Windows Storage Server 2012 (WSS2012) with a tasty hardware package. The Igloo 2U-24T-Stor offers 24TB of raw storage in a Xeon E5-equipped appliance at a very reasonable price.

This 2U rack system has 12 hot-swap drive bays, each kitted out with a 2TB Seagate Constellation SAS 2 hard disk. All 24TB is up for grabs, since the OS is loaded on a pair of mirrored 250GB Seagate SATA SFF hot-swap drives lurking at the rear of the chassis, alongside the system’s dual-redundant 920W PSUs.

This all-Supermicro system uses an X9DRH-7TF motherboard supporting dual Xeon E5-2600s. The price includes a single 2.4GHz E5-2609 CPU, which boasts four cores, a 10MB L3 cache, support for 1,066MHz DDR3 and a low TDP of 80W.

The front drive bays are connected directly to an embedded LSI SAS2008 controller, which has 1GB of battery-protected cache. Usefully, the backplane has a pair of expanders, allowing the drives to be connected via dual-redundant paths, and the motherboard has an integrated Intel X540 dual-port 10GBase-T adapter. However, Boston won’t beat Broadberry’s CyberStore 316S WSS for expansion, since the Igloo isn’t designed to support extra external disk shelves.

Boston Igloo 2U-24T-Stor

As WSS2012 is preinstalled, you’re ready to start serving storage out of the box. The price includes the Standard version, which is packed with features, including NAS and IP SAN operations, block-level deduplication, thin provisioning and SMB3 and NFS4.1 support. It has an unlimited capacity licence and doesn’t need any CALs, either. The clustering/failover features are ready to go: just add hardware.

Another valuable feature of WSS2012 is Storage Pools, which allows physical disks of different makes and sizes to be combined together. Similar to Synology’s Hybrid RAID, pools can be used to create mirrored, striped or RAID5 virtual volumes, and their capacities can be expanded by adding new drives later on.

Prior to share and iSCSI target creation, we needed to enable the Windows Server File and iSCSI Services, which had been left disabled. This is easy to do, and other storage services such as data deduplication and the File Server Resource Manager can be enabled during this phase. The latter is needed for storage reports, quotas and file-screening features to work.

NAS performance is excellent, with Iometer reporting high raw read and write rates of 113MB/sec for a share mapped to a Dell PowerEdge R515 server loaded with Windows Server 2012. Real-world performance was equally impressive: drag-and-drop copies of a 2.52GB video clip returned read and write speeds of 108MB/sec.

The latest version of IIS – which is included with WSS2012, but not preinstalled – adds further handy features, including the new FTP Logon Attempt Restriction feature. This allows you to set a threshold for the number of failed logins within a given time frame in seconds, after which you can block the IP address or just log the details.

Boston Igloo 2U-24T-Stor

Performance was excellent, with the FileZilla FTP client uploading and downloading our test video clip at 109MB/sec. General NAS backup operations were also quick: our standard 22.4GB collection of 10,500 small files copied at an average of 74.5MB/sec, faster than most Linux-based NAS appliances.

IP SAN targets are simple to create, and a useful feature of Microsoft’s thin provisioning is that it works directly with Storage Pools, which means it can be applied to shares as well as iSCSI volumes. Again, performance is swift, with Iometer reporting fast raw read speeds of 113MB/sec over Gigabit for a 500GB target.

Even more impressive is the Igloo’s deduplication performance, which is vastly superior to that of ZFS-based storage appliances, and on a par with more expensive proprietary systems. The Binary Testing deduplication test suite returned a high reduction ratio of over 7:1 for a one-month backup simulation against Broadberry’s CyberStore 316S WSS.

Boston’s Igloo 2U-24T-Stor offers a well-specified storage server, backed up with Microsoft’s latest WSS2012 OS. It doesn’t support any external expansion, but we can’t fault it for performance, and its low price makes it a good choice for NAS and IP SAN operations in SMBs.


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