Hitachi Data Systems SMS-100

HDS' IP SAN appliance is designed for small businesses. Can if deliver in the performance and value stakes?

On review is the dual controller model where both function only in active-active mode so providing a good range of fault-tolerant connection options. Each controller has a pair of Gigabit data ports along with separate management ports and these must not be on the same physical network otherwise the management ports can't be accessed.

For installation HDS has modified its enterprise Storage Navigator Modular (SNM) management software to make it friendlier. SNM2 runs a group of services on your designated host system and its web services can be accessed either locally or from another remote system. Don't change your mind after installing the host system services as the uninstall routine doesn't work properly and we found we couldn't get rid of SNM2 without doing a complete OS refresh.

From here it got a lot easier as SNM2 offers a very well designed interface, which opens with links to a quick setup routine and common tasks including logical unit (LU) creation, volume backup and firmware upgrades. iSCSI target presentation is handled neatly as you create an LU, decide on its size in MB, GB, TB or blocks and choose a LUN and stripe size. You can assign it to a specific data port and either use an existing iSCSI target or create a new one.

The SMS-100 delivers in the performance stakes and for testing we used a pair of Boston Supermicro dual 3GHz Xeon 5160 servers loaded with Windows Server 2003 R2 and Microsoft's iSCSI initiator. With one server logged into a data port on one controller we saw the Iometer utility on one system return a raw read speed of 110MB/sec.

We logged the second server onto a dedicated data port on the other controller and watched Iometer report a cumulative throughput of 218MB/sec for both systems. Single controller systems won't see such high speeds as logging the servers onto the data ports on one controller saw Iometer return a cumulative 109MB/sec.

Host access security is good as it can be enabled on individual data ports to stop more than one host logging in to an iSCSI target and you can implement CHAP authentication as well. The LUN expansion feature is unusual as you select a primary LU and combine other LUs with it to create a single larger one. The process is simple enough to use and there's also an option to reverse the process.

Optional features abound and include a volume backup tool, HDS's Copy-On-Write snapshot, ShadowImage replication and TrueCopy Extended Distance software where the latter is used to replicate data across SMS-100 appliances in different sites.

During testing we found the SMS-100 worked extremely well, delivered good performance and was easy to deploy in the lab's IP SAN. Our only gripe is that although RAID-6 is fundamental to the appliance's modus operandi it is greedy for storage resources as of the six hard disks in the review system, two of them are required for parity operations. Nevertheless, the SMS-100 is clearly suited to SMBs that have limited budgets and on-site support and do not want to get involved in field replacement manoeuvres.

Verdict

Hitachi Data Systems makes IP SANs even easier to deploy for SMBs with an affordable iSCSI appliance that doesn’t require users to hot-swap any component and offers a good turn of speed as well.

Chassis: 2U rack chassis Storage: 6 x 146GB Hitachi UltraStar 15K SAS (max. 12 drives) RAID: Two controllers with RAID-6 support Memory: 1GB per controller with BBU Network: Per controller - 2 x gigabit data ports, 1 x gigabit management port Other: 1 x SAS auto-migration port per controller Power: 2 x 515W redundant non-hot plug supplies Management: Hitachi SNM2 software

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