Network storage appliances need to be fast, well featured and reliable. Can Armari's IG24T make the grade?
As more and more businesses see the cost, capacity and management benefits of IP SANs the number of storage vendors supporting iSCSI is turning into a stampede. We've had a wide variety of products in the lab over the past few months but Armari's IG24T stands out for a couple of very good reasons. Capacity is the first as this compact 4U rack mount chassis comes kitted out with a whopping 24TB making it look excellent value. Next up is versatility as along with support for iSCSI, the appliance has a few more tricks up its sleeve as it can provides NAS services as well.
The hardware comes courtesy of Supermicro as the IG24T comprises its 4U rack chassis partnered by an X7DVL-ER motherboard. The chassis offers 24 hot-swap drive bays and on the review system these all have 1TB Hitachi UltraStar SATA hard disks nestling in them. The entire compliment is looked after by a single RAID controller in the shape of a 24-port AMCC 3ware PCI-e card, which provides a triplet of 8-way multilane ports and each has been neatly routed through to the backplane with fan-out cables.
Redundancy is tops as the card has a battery backup pack and supports plenty of array choices, which includes the latest RAID-6 dual redundant arrays. The system came supplied with all drives in a single RAID-6 array that can handle the simultaneous failure of two drives but the price you pay for this extra protection is that available storage is cut to 20TB.
German software company Open-E is the power behind the throne as the server runs its Data Storage Server (DSS) software. This is implemented on a tiny USB DiskOnModule, which is plugged into the motherboard's USB header pins and used to boot from. The modules can be licensed to support different storage capacities and the price includes full support for all 24TB.
Installation is a simple process as you boot the server, wait for the Linux kernel to show the IP addresses assigned to each of the server's Gigabit ports and then point a web browser at one of them. We found that although the interface lacks the polish of Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 it is easy enough to use and provides good access to the myriad storage features.
The system can be supplied preconfigured with the RAID array of your choice and for the 3ware controller we were also able to access its 3DM management tools directly from the Open-E management interface. Another useful feature of Open-E is it supports software managed RAID arrays and will work together with hardware controllers as well so it's possible to have an array made from a mixture of both
To present storage to the network you create volumes and volume groups and choose from iSCSI targets or NAS shares. There's no need to worry about running out of space as existing volumes can be expanded into spare space and you can also configure snapshots on selected volumes enabling point in time copies to be made. Volume replication is also on the cards, although you will need a secondary appliance as this feature mirrors selected volumes on the primary appliance over the network.
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