Boston Igloo 24T-Stor review

Price when reviewed

The Boston Igloo 24T-Stor takes full advantage of the latest high-capacity SATA hard disks and brings together a network storage solution that delivers an incredible 24TB of raw storage in a 4U rack system. It also has a dual personality, as it can function as a NAS server and present iSCSI targets as well.

Boston Igloo 24T-Stor review

The brains behind this box come courtesy of German company Open-E and its Data Storage Server software, which is preinstalled on an internal USB DiskOnModule plugged directly onto the motherboard. The Igloo is an all-Supermicro affair, with the 4U chassis offering 24 hot-swap drive bays and being home to a Supermicro X7DVL-ER motherboard. Redundancy is well catered for, as the hard disks are looked after by a 3ware PCI-E SATA RAID card, providing three eight-lane ports that have been neatly cabled through to the backplane. The card offers an extensive choice of arrays, and the system came configured with all drives in a single RAID6 array, which can handle the simultaneous failure of two drives.

A drawback of this arrangement, if you can call it that, is that multiple drives are kept back for dual parity operations, so total capacity drops to 20TB. Our only real complaint is the lack of a battery backup pack, which should be included considering the amount of storage at stake. Also, with our in-line power meter fitted, we saw the system consuming an unhealthy average of 500W.

Installation starts by pointing a web browser at either of the appliance’s gigabit ports, where you’re presented with an unsophisticated interface. It isn’t as good as that offered by the likes of Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, but it’s easy to navigate. Your first port of call is array creation, and we liked the fact that 3ware’s web-management tool can be accessed directly from the Open-E interface. Next, you create volumes and volume groups on selected arrays and decide whether they should be NAS shares or iSCSI targets. You can also expand existing volumes into spare space and set up snapshots on selected volumes. If you have another Open-E appliance, you can use the volume-replication feature, which will mirror selected volumes over the network.

For NAS shares, you select a volume, choose a name and decide on access controls that extend from local users and groups to NT domain or AD authentication. FTP and HTTP access can be allowed on a per-share basis, and you can globally limit the number of connections and insist on encrypted transfers. iSCSI configuration is even easier, as you simply create a target and assign a previously created volume to it. The IQN is set automatically based on the target name supplied, and you can implement CHAP authentication and decide if the target LUN should be read only. Initiator access can be controlled, as you assign lists of blocked and allowed IP addresses to each target. All connections can be monitored from the status screen, where you can see all SMB, FTP, NFS and AFP connections.

With the Igloo installed on our gigabit network, we saw it post respectable speeds in our performance tests. Using a Supermicro dual 3GHz Xeon server, we copied a 1.68GB disk image file to and from a Windows share, and saw write and read speeds of 36MB/sec and 38MB/sec respectively. FTP speeds were nothing to sniff at, either, with the same file sent to the appliance and retrieved at an average of 38MB/sec in both cases. Using Microsoft’s iSCSI initiator 2.05, we had no problems accessing our iSCSI targets and saw the Iometer utility return a raw read throughput of 97MB/sec.

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