Dell PowerVault NX3000 review

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Dell’s network storage portfolio received a big boost in the enterprise sector when it acquired EqualLogic. With its new PowerVault NX3000 it turns its attention to Windows Storage Server 2008, and in this exclusive review we take a look at this combo of Microsoft’s latest storage software and Dell’s 11th-generation PowerEdge hardware.

The NX3000 is built from a PowerEdge R710 2U rack server, which received a PC Pro Recommended award in our exclusive review. For the NX3000, Dell currently offers only 3.5in hard disks, as capacity is its primary focus.

The drives are managed by a Dell PERC 6/i RAID card complete with 256MB cache and a battery backup unit. The six drives in the review system have been split into a dual-drive mirror for the host OS and a quad-drive RAID5 array for storage.

Dell PowerVault NX3000

The NX3000 comes with WSS2008 Standard, which offers the same support for memory, RAID and storage capacity as Windows Server 2008 Standard. Along with NAS support you get Microsoft’s iSCSI target software too. Updates for WSS2008 mean the target is now 64-bit only, and initial support for 2TB LUNs has been increased to 16TB.

For general management you can either use a monitor, mouse and keyboard, or access the appliance remotely over RDP. All storage-related operations are accessed directly from the Server Manager interface, which offers a provisioning wizard for setting up network shares, assigning NTFS permissions, sharing over SMB and NFS, and defining access restrictions.

You also get all the file-screening, quotas and storage-report features as standard. These allow you to block files from being copied to the appliance, limit the amount of space users can consume, and pull up detailed reports on usage.

The Single Instance Storage (SIS) feature delivers data de-duplication. Note that Microsoft’s implementation operates only at the file level – not the block level – and doesn’t support system and boot volumes, remote drives or files referenced though junction points.

It employs a Groveler service to scan NTFS volumes designated for SIS operations looking for duplicate files. These are moved to a hidden Common File Store and replaced with links. This latest version adds support for clusters, 20 SIS volumes per server as opposed to six, and the ability to remove SIS from a volume.


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