Evesham StoreVault S500 review

£3872
Price when reviewed

Network Appliance (NetApp) has traditionally focused on the enterprise network storage market and, as such, its products are way beyond the pockets of smaller businesses. However, vendors ignore the growth and potential of this market at their peril, and NetApp has reacted with its StoreVault division. It offers a single hardware solution, and here we take a look at the S500 as supplied by Evesham Technology.

A key differentiator of NetApp appliances is their combined support for NAS plus IP and FC SANs in a single solution. StoreVault has a similar philosophy, with the base price of the S500 including CIFS and IP SAN support. The S500 can then be licensed to support FC SANs and NFS file sharing as required. Naturally, there are similarities between NetApp and StoreVault appliances, as the S500 supports RAID4 arrays that NetApp calls aggregates. These allow more drives to be added on-the-fly, and if a data drive fails then the parity drive maintains consistency. The S500 also offers support for dual-parity arrays, which are essentially RAID6 and can survive the loss of two drives. Capacity can be increased online by installing more drives and adding them to the array.

The appliance’s OS is based on NetApp’s Data ONTAP, which we saw in our review of the £42,000 FAS3020 appliance (web ID: 77719). Naturally, this has been scaled down significantly for the S500, which runs Data ONTAP SVE. We’ve found NetApp appliances complex to install and configure, and SVE addresses this for the SMB market, as the S500 is managed using the bundled StoreVault Manager software, which aims to simplify the process. Essentially, you need to treat the StoreVault products as totally separate from NetApp, as the S500 has its own support contracts and uses a different licensing system. SnapShots are supported for shares and LUNs, but are fixed at 20% of each volume, and quotas can’t be applied at the appliance level.

Storage Manager does make light work of installation, although you’ll need a lot of patience, since we found this was unbearably slow. On first contact, you follow the quick-start wizard that takes you through feature licensing, setting up administrative access and alerting, network addressing and CIFS authentication, which can be a workgroup or NT or AD domain. Storage Manager may be slow but it’s pretty, with the main page displaying a large graphic of the appliance showing which drive bays are occupied and whether they’re parity, dual parity, RAID members or spare drives. For CIFS shares, you select the share creation option, which opens a separate window where you add new folders. Then you can use the new StoreVault tab on the folder right-click menu to activate folder sharing and to add a username and password.

Both FC and iSCSI come under the same menu option where you create a LUN, decide on a size and pick which host is allowed to use it. Before you do this, you’ll need to ensure your FC hosts have an active connection to the appliance, while iSCSI initiators need to be logged in to the appropriate portal. If you want an IP SAN then assign an iSCSI host to the LUN, or assign an FC host if you want an FC SAN – simple.

For testing, we hooked up a couple of Supermicro dual 3GHz Xeon 5160 servers running Windows Server 2003 R2. They were equipped with QLogic 2Gb/sec FC HBAs and Microsoft’s iSCSI initiator software. Using Iometer, we configured it on each server with four workers, 64KB request transfers and 100% sequential read operations. We focused on CIFS performance first and created two shares that were mapped to each server over Gigabit Ethernet. One server reported a reasonable read speed of 66MB/sec; with two servers in the mix, we saw a cumulative 124MB/sec throughput.

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