Infortrend EonStor B12F-R1430-M5 review

Price when reviewed

As storage vendors look for new ways of being more environmentally friendly, they’re now turning their attention to the small form factor (SFF) hard disk. We’ve seen many manufacturers already using them in their latest servers, but Infortrend claims the EonStor B12F-R1430-M5 is the world’s first external 4Gbps FC SFF RAID subsystem.

They may not yet be able to match the larger 3.5in. hard disks for maximum capacities, but SFF drives do have a lot more to offer. Reduced power consumption makes them much greener and their lower heat output means more modest cooling requirements, which will have an impact in data centres already maxing out their utility supplies.

Reduced vibration is another benefit claimed by Infortrend, as the smaller drives have a lower transmitted vibration than 3.5in. drives during operation so increasing reliability.

The EonStor certainly looks impressive, as Infortrend has squeezed in 12 hot-swap SFF drive bays in two rows of six across its front panel. The carriers feature a small pop-out grab handle for easy removal. They require less space on one side than standard lever equipped carriers, and the button in the centre can be used to lock the drive in place by turning it with a screwdriver.

The price quoted is for a diskless appliance, but for testing Infortrend provided us with a dozen 36GB Fujitsu 15K SFF SAS hard disks.

The appliance comes with a pair of hot-swappable redundant RAID controllers – hence the “R” in the model name – and these are each equipped with a PowerPC RISC processor, 512MB of cache memory, and battery backup as well. The latter is located in a separate module, which slides into the controller from the rear and can be swapped out separately. Each controller offers a pair of 4Gbps FC ports and a Fast Ethernet port for management access.

There’s more, since each controller has a SAS multilane port allowing more arrays to be added to increase storage capacity. Infortrend offers 1U SAS arrays along with 2U and 3U SATA versions, and these can be cabled to both controllers for greater fault tolerance.

The appliance scores in the green stakes, as our in-line power meter showed it pulling a modest 172W in idle, which rose marginally to 177W when under load. We were also very impressed with the remarkably low noise levels, as the EonStor was quieter that many of the pedestal servers in the lab.

The operator and display panel to the left of the front panel provides plenty of manual controls plus status information, and can be swung to the side to facilitate access to the two drive bays behind. The backlit LCD panel keeps you posted on the status of the controllers and arrays, and four buttons below provide manual access to the controller’s firmware for array configuration.

Plenty of management options are on the table, as you can use a local CLI connection to the controller’s serial port or the RAIDwatch web browser interface. We started with RAIDwatch, and on first contact were given the opportunity to quickly create a single RAID6 array with hot-standby, using all drives and mapped to the first available LUN.

Under manual control you start by creating logical drives, where you select physical member drives, choose a RAID array type and pick which slot, or RAID controller, to associate it with. Each logical drive can be split into partitions, and then you create logical volumes for each one. We created two separate six-drive RAID0 striped logical drives, used them to create a single logical volumes, and assigned each one’s LUN to a different FC port on the primary controller.

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