Transtec NAS3000M review

£6472
Price when reviewed

The NAS3000M storage array shows off Serial ATA at its best. This 3U chassis comes equipped with a full complement of 400GB hard disks, allowing it to deliver an incredible 6TB of raw storage. Unthinkable less than a year ago, these capabilities show clearly that SATA has the edge over SCSI where capacity and value are a higher priority than performance for mid-range and enterprise storage applications.

This well-built appliance is a smart partnership of Supermicro SC-933 chassis and motherboard. Along with top capacity, it delivers a fine specification for the price. A couple of 2.8GHz Xeons backed up with a healthy 4GB of DDR2 memory sit in the driving seat, while RAID is handled by a 16-port Areca PCI controller. Although not such a common choice with storage vendors, it delivers a good range of options, including support for RAID6 arrays. A feature also supported by IBM’s xServer 366, this new array type requires a minimum of four drives, as it uses the capacity of two for redundancy and can survive the loss of two drives. Transtec took full advantage of this, as the review system came configured with a two-drive mirror protecting the OS plus a 12-disk RAID6 array with hot-standby for NAS and iSCSI operations. Usefully, Transtec even included Supermicro’s IPMI 2-compliant baseboard management controller, allowing the appliance to be managed remotely irrespective of its condition.

At the heart of the NAS3000M sits Windows Storage Server 2003 (WSS2003), which provides an excellent range of NAS-related services. We’ve always found the administrative interface very intuitive. You can swiftly create volumes, set up network shares and designate user and group access permissions. String Bean Software stands in for iSCSI duties – its WinTarget WSS2003 plug-in module comes preinstalled. This makes a solid alternative to FalconStor’s iSCSI Storage Server plug-in. It provides plenty of useful features and is particularly easy to use. Accessed from a separate tab in the WSS2003 web management interface, WinTarget allows you to create target disks from either files or volumes, which are then assigned an iSCSI IQN. You can implement CHAP authentication, and security extends to only allowing iSCSI initiators to be identified and assigned to specific targets. For the latter, you need to log your initiators on to the appliance first, which will identify them and add them to a list. You can then pick a WinTarget disk and decide which initiator is permitted to access it. The price of the review unit also includes the WinTarget snapshot feature, which allows point-in-time backups to be taken at scheduled intervals.

For testing, we created a volume on the appliance and designated it as an iSCSI target disk. Then, using a Server 2003 system running version 2 of Microsoft’s Initiator software, we created permissions and logged onto it. Running the open-source Iometer configured with 100 per cent read operations using 64KB transfer request sizes returned an average throughput of 68MB/sec. Although this isn’t in the same league as Adaptec’s Snap Server 18000, it’s quite reasonable.

Clearly, the biggest selling point of the NAS3000M is its cash/capacity ratio, and on this alone it looks good value. However, it also provides good NAS and iSCSI functions, reasonable performance and plenty of storage management and security features.

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