Adaptec Snap Server 520 review

£4000
Price when reviewed

Adaptec’s Snap Server family has always offered one of the most comprehensive choices of NAS appliance capacities and prices. The latest 500 series extends this further. Three new products join the clan, and in this exclusive review we take a look at the Snap Server 520. This targets businesses looking for a cost-effective but expandable network storage solution.

Adaptec Snap Server 520 review

However, at the time of review, Adaptec was in the process of selling off a large portion of its business, which includes the entire Snap Server range. The company spent much of 2004 gorging itself on other storage vendors in an effort to diversify, with Snap Appliances high on its menu. Now, suffering from a bout of indigestion, it has decided to slim down by shedding its systems divisions and focusing on its core HBA and ASIC disk and RAID controller components business. We’ve been assured by Adaptec that, by the time you read this, the Snap Servers will be under new management.

A feature that differentiates the 520 at this level of the NAS market is that instead of using WSS 2003 (Windows Storage Server 2003), it’s powered by the Linux-based GuardianOS. This is no bad thing, as it’s much leaner and less demanding on resources than WSS 2003 and also has the advantage of full 64-bit processing for improved performance. The web management interface is particularly intuitive and sees a few minor cosmetic improvements. However, there’s a lot more going on underneath, as Adaptec has added several new features. RAID is managed by the OS, and once an array has been created it can be split into multiple volumes. Install a SAS controller card in the server and you can daisy-chain up to four SANbloc S50 SAS expansion units for a top capacity of 26TB. These appear to the system as JBODs and are configured as separate RAID arrays. Existing volumes can then be expanded on-the-fly.

For general backup, you get BakBone’s NetVault 7.1 preinstalled along with five client licences. The price includes a 500GB virtual tape library, and an external SCSI port allows a physical library to be installed, which must be licensed within NetVault separately. As expected, volume snapshots are available, and you can decide how much space should be set aside during volume creation. Anti-virus scanning with free updates courtesy of Computer Associates is also included, although only on-demand scans can be run at scheduled intervals.

iSCSI targets are supported, and it’s recommended that separate volumes are used for target creation since these can’t be included in snapshots or backed up locally by NetVault. Target creation is a simple but swift affair. You select a volume, enter a capacity and activate CHAP authentication if required. Performance is definitely a cut above the rest, too. With Iometer configured to use two workers and 64KB sequential read requests, we saw an average throughput for one target over Gigabit Ethernet of a particularly healthy 105MB/sec.

The 500 series of appliances breathes new life into the Snap Server range and provides plenty of features and very good value. The 520 scores well for iSCSI performance, but we recommend waiting until it’s clear who will be running the show before signing on the dotted line.

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