Nexsan ATAboy2x review
Over the past year, ATA and SATA disk array solutions have shown they can provide the capacity and performance needed by companies running data-hungry applications. But the cost is greatly reduced compared to the Fibre Channel (FC) and SCSI alternatives. Nexsan Technologies’ expertise in this area has been particularly impressive, with its aptly named ATABeast winning a well-deserved Recommended award for its unbelievable capacity and excellent value.
Nexsan’s ATAboy2x continues this tradition. Its well-built 3U chassis provides a pair of 2Gb/sec FC ports and has room for 14 ATA drives. Remarkably, the price includes a full complement of the latest 400GB Hitachi drives, giving you no less than 5.6TB to play with. Fault tolerance is a key feature, as the ATAboy2x can be configured so that no component represents a single point of failure. For starters, you get two hot-swap power supplies, each with their own cooling fan, and the system also accepts a second RAID controller. Mounted in solid-steel sleds, one controller manages all drives, but adding a second splits ownership down the middle of the chassis. If one controller fails and is removed, the active one takes over and manages its RAID arrays and FC ports. The drives are mounted in solid carriers and the RAID controllers support hot-swap and hot-standby.
Nexsan has made sure the ATAboy2x can be managed from just about any system. Its NexScan system offers both CLI and web access. The latter doesn’t rely on any Java runtimes, so can be accessed by all the key browser products. The CLI’s smart GUI is still one of the best we’ve seen, while the browser interface is also very intuitive and informative. Its homepage opens to show the status of fans, power supplies and controllers along with enclosure temperatures. Below this is a matrix display of all storage bays along with animated graphics showing the status of each drive. If you have two controllers installed then each has its own management interface, but Nexsan’s WorldView allows you to swap between each one.
Simple volumes aren’t supported, but you can choose from a good range of RAID arrays. The ATAboy2x also supports hot-standby drives dedicated to specific arrays or floating spares, which can be grabbed by any array with a failed member. Volumes are created next and these can also be mapped to either or both FC ports.
To test maximum raw throughput, we added the ATAboy2x to our resident FC SAN built from a QLogic SAN Connectivity Kit. We created a pair of dual-disk striped arrays and used them in turn to create single volumes each assigned to different FC ports. We direct-attached Windows Server 2003 systems to each FC port using QLogic QLA2310 HBAs and assigned them to a separate volume. Using the open-source Iometer utility configured with two disk workers, 64KB transfer request sizes and 100 per cent sequential reads, we saw one server return an impressive 183MB/sec average transfer rate. Adding the second server saw cumulative throughput for the two separate volumes climb to 362MB/sec.
Once again, Nexsan shows that lower-cost ATA drives can deliver enterprise-level performance. Adding the very high capacity and substantially lower costs makes the ATAboy2x a better alternative to FC disk arrays for a huge range of SAN applications.