Proware SB-3164E-G1A3 review
The latest Proware IP SAN appliance from Ultimate Storage shows clearly that if you’re prepared to take a cut in features you can make savings. The SB-3164E-G1A3 impresses with its 8TB raw capacity and low price tag, but the supplier also advised us that it offers a 16TB version for only ?5,454, making for even better value.
In terms of build quality, this 3U array is well constructed and the front panel has room for 16 SATA hard disks mounted in hot-swap carriers. An LCD screen and operator keypad is provided, with the panel flipping down to allow drives to be removed or inserted.
Two 460W hot-plug supplies and fan trays are located at the rear. The RAID controller offers a pair of Gigabit data ports and you’re spoilt for array choices: along with stripes, mirrors and RAID5, you have dual-redundant RAID6. For the latter two arrays you can also have them striped in RAID50 and 60 configurations.
The obvious drawback is that dual controllers aren’t currently supported. There’s a second bay for one at the rear, and we were advised that Proware is aiming to launch a dual-controller version next year. Expansion isn’t possible either, since there aren’t any external ports for daisy-chaining extra arrays. Other features missing are virtual disk mirroring and remote replication. A QCopy utility is available for replication, but this isn’t supported by the controller in the review system and nor will it be.
General installation is simple, although Proware’s method of creating iSCSI virtual volumes is slightly unusual. Your first job is to create volume groups (VGs), where you pick drives and select a RAID array type. Next, you create user data volumes (UDVs) that are your iSCSI virtual drives, and each VG can contain multiple UDVs of varying capacities.
For access control you select a UDV, and either make it available to all hosts using a wildcard or enter the full IQN of the host initiators allowed to access it. Here you can also decide on read or read/write privileges. Note that the controller advertises only a single iSCSI node name with all accessible virtual volumes appearing under this as LUNs.
VGs can be migrated to different RAID arrays and expanded if required, and for the latter you just specify extra physical drives but keep the same array type. UDVs can also be expanded into spare space within the assigned VG simply by clicking on a button in its size column and entering a new capacity. Proware includes volume snapshots as standard, and the array supports up to 32 in total.
For each UDV you need to specify spare space for their snapshots, and Proware recommends around 20%. With this configured you can create on-demand snapshots, or set up schedules to run them regularly at hourly, daily, weekly or monthly intervals. Snapshots can then be used to roll back their associated UDV if there’s a problem. You can also present snapshots as new read-only UDVs, and we found that, after attaching a snapshot to our hosts, it appeared as an optical read-only drive that was a perfect copy of the original.
MPIO is supported, and to test this we logged on to both data ports from a host server with its initiator configured to use both the server’s network ports. With a fault-tolerant link now in place we copied a 2.52GB video clip to the iSCSI target, disconnected one network cable and watched it continue without pause.
For performance testing, we created three striped VGs using two sets of four drives and one with eight drives. We then created UDVs within each one and made them available to all hosts. For our client systems we used dual, quad-core Xeon Dell PowerEdge 1950 and Boston Supermicro servers loaded with Windows Server 2003 R2 and the latest Microsoft iSCSI initiator.