Adaptec Snap Server 650 review

Price when reviewed

Adaptec’s commitment to its family of NAS appliances shows no signs of abating as we bring you an exclusive review of its latest Snap Server 650. Last year saw Adaptec deliver a raft of new appliances, and the 650 comes in at the top of the range with a keen eye on performance. Adaptec has embraced AMD in favour of Intel, and the 650 is the first Snap Server to come equipped with dual-core Opterons.

The appliance comprises a smart combination of Supermicro 1U chassis and motherboard. Along with four processor cores, you get 2GB of memory as standard and high-speed SAS storage, which comes courtesy of a quartet of Seagate 15K.4 SAS drives in hot-swap carriers. Whereas the majority of NAS vendors have settled on Microsoft’s Windows Storage Server 2003 (WSS2003), Adaptec differentiates itself by using the leaner Linux-based GuardianOS to power the appliance.

The hard disk connections are handled by an LSI Logic SAS controller card, but RAID is managed by the OS, and once an array has been created it can be split into multiple volumes. The card also has an external SAS port, allowing capacity to be expanded massively. You can add up to seven SANbloc S50 expansion units, with SAS drives currently delivering up to 25.2TB and SATA drives upping this to a stunning 63.5TB.

The OS is designed to offer a range of features that can be activated with a licence key, and the 650 comes with BakBone NetVault 7.1 pre-installed along with five client licences and a 500GB virtual tape library. An external SCSI port at the rear allows a physical library to be installed, which must be licensed in NetVault separately. The volume snapshot option has been activated, 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.

The 650 comes with iSCSI target support ready to go, and these are easy enough to create. You simply select a volume, enter a capacity and activate CHAP authentication if required. It’s recommended that separate volumes are used for targets, as these can’t be included in snapshots or backed up by NetVault. The 650’s hardware pedigree certainly made its presence felt in our performance tests, as a dual 5100 Xeon server running Iometer on one iSCSI target reported an excellent 112MB/sec read throughput. Two servers using separate iSCSI targets reported 56MB/sec apiece, showing the limits of a single Gigabit link, but placing the appliance’s pair of ports in a load-balanced team saw Iometer report a cumulative 224MB/sec read throughput.

The SAS drives also showed their mettle in the Iometer 100% write tests, as one Xeon 5100 server returned an equally impressive 99MB/sec, which increased to 146MB/sec with two servers using a load-balanced link. General NAS performance over CIFS/SMB is top notch as well, with one mapped share returning 111MB/sec read and 107MB/sec write performance.

Adaptec is a little stingy with capacity, and we’d have liked more storage for the price. But apart from that, the Snap Server 650 delivers quality performance for both NAS and iSCSI applications, and offers a high level of features as well.

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