Adaptec Snap Server 720i review

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Adaptec offers one of the largest choices of network storage products currently available, and has now turned its eye to the increasingly popular iSCSI market with the launch of two new Snap Servers. In this exclusive review, we look at the Snap Server 720i, which firmly targets SMBs with a hankering for an IP SAN.

Adaptec Snap Server 720i review

The 720i comprises a Supermicro 1U chassis and motherboard, three Gigabit network connections spread across two embedded ports and an Intel PCI card. The review system came with a quartet of 500GB Western Digital SATA hard disks, looked after by an Adaptec 4800SAS PCI-X controller card equipped with battery backed-up cache memory. Expansion is very much on the cards, as the SAS controller has an external port that supports up to eight Adaptec SANbloc S50 12-bay disk arrays – the same units as used by Adaptec’s larger NAS appliances. These can handle any mix of SAS and SATA drives, and currently allow storage to be expanded to 36TB.

During installation, it’s clear there are more than a few similarities between the new 720i and its predecessor, the Storage Array iSA1500 (<a href=”/reviews/64814/adaptec-storage-array-isa1500.html” target=”_self”>web ID: 64814</a>), as all IP SAN management is carried out using the bundled Storage Manager; this must be run on at least one system within the storage network. A valuable feature of Storage Manager is that it can now be used to remotely manage all of Adaptec’s NAS, IP SAN and RAID HBA products from a single interface. Your first job, however, is to install the freely available iSCSI initiator from Microsoft and ensure the MPIO (multipath I/O) component is loaded as well.

All servers in your virtual storage scenario must also have these initiator components loaded along with the Storage Manager Windows components. On first contact, the Storage Manager fires up a quick-start wizard, where you set up the three network ports with fixed IP addresses. You then move on to RAID pool creation, where you use an Express option or take manual control and pick from a choice of array types that include RAID6 and 60. Within these pools, you can now create logical devices, but you’ll want to declare all your iSCSI hosts first, since any system that isn’t listed won’t be able to access the appliance.

Don’t get smart with host names, as Storage Manager expects these to comply precisely with the correct IQN conventions. Automatic provisioning is slick, as you select a host from the list and decide on a disk volume size and a drive letter. Next, you add formatting options, choose authentication if required and leave the appliance to create the volume. It then assigns it to the initiator, where the new drive automatically appears formatted and ready for use.

For performance testing, we called up a pair of dual 3GHz Xeon 5160 Supermicro servers loaded with Windows Server 2003 R2. On the appliance, we configured a dual-disk RAID0 stripe and assigned a logical drive to one server. Using the freely available Iometer utility configured with 100% sequential reads and 64KB transfer request sizes, we saw an average raw throughput of 106MB/sec. We created a second RAID0 stripe and assigned a logical drive to the other server and, with both of them in the mix, Iometer reported a cumulative 197MB/sec.

The only feature that requires a licence is volume mirroring between appliances, and this is where MPIO comes into play for Windows Server 2003 R2 systems, as you can use it to create multiple redundant paths to volumes. Everything else is included in the price, so you get support for up to512 volumes and an equal number of concurrent host connections. Up to 256 snapshots are supported for point-in-time copies of selected volumes, and these can be run regularly to a schedule. Usefully, you can set the snapshot to read-only and assign it to another server, where it could be backed up without affecting the network.

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