Plasmon Raidtec Data CS3102 review

£4820
Price when reviewed

There’s no doubt that current legislation on the retention of corporate data, including emails, is doing the storage industry much good. Hard disk storage is in big demand. Plasmon Data’s recent acquisition of Raidtec now provides it with a solid portfolio of products to stand alongside its blue-laser UDO drives, which we took an exclusive look at last year.

Plasmon Raidtec Data CS3102 review

Along with NAS and SAN products, Plasmon offers a wide choice of DAS (direct attached storage) appliances. The latest CS3102 combines 3TB of SATA/150 hard disks and converts it to dual-channel Ultra320 SCSI. Internally, there isn’t much to see, as the slim controller board is mounted on a removable sled and connects directly with the hard disk backplane. Fault tolerance is good, as the chassis is equipped with three hot-swap cooling fans and a pair of power supplies. The chassis has room for 12 SATA hard disks and the price of the review unit includes a full complement of 250GB Maxtor drives.

Installation is simply a case of inserting the drives, powering up and connecting the appliance to a server. The CS3102 can be remotely managed since the controller card provides a Gigabit Ethernet port. Web browser access isn’t supported, so all contact is via the bundled Raidtec Manager utility. For testing, the appliance was connected to a dual Xeon Windows Server 2003 system. At the time of writing, Plasmon was offering a free LSI single-channel Ultra320 PCI card with every purchase, so we used this in the server.

The Manager utility automatically searches the network for Plasmon appliances and displays them ready for configuration. The interface is a little rudimentary and could do with a redesign, but it’s easy enough to use. The default configuration is 11 drives configured as a 2.4TB RAID5 array with the 12th drive as a hot-standby. If this doesn’t suit, you can delete it and choose from a range of supported arrays. The appliance is aimed at a number of markets and the utility offers four predefined configurations for file server, CAD workstation, database and media server applications. Choose the most appropriate, select your disks and then the stripe size will be automatically set for you, along with read and write cacheing options.

Monitoring extends to graphics of the front and rear panel, providing hotspots for click-and-view status reports on the relevant component. An internal temperature monitor can be linked to an audible alarm threshold and you can view each individual drive plus a graph showing any detected errors. Only email alerting is on offer and you can send warning messages to two recipients. Performance is impressive, though. With the open-source Iometer utility configured for 64KB sequential read transfer requests and ten outstanding I/Os, we saw the server’s internal Ultra320 hard disk return a modest 45MB/sec throughput. But running the same test on a 25GB volume configured on the appliance’s default array saw this leap to a massive 217MB/sec.

There’s no denying that DAS appliances offer the best value, with the CS3102 delivering a wealth of SATA storage at a price that NAS can’t hope to compete with. Naturally, the host system must be powered down during installation, but if performance is a greater priority then you’ll find the CS3102 won’t disappoint.

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