The SASBoy offers masses of IP and FC SAN storage, in a single appliance, but is Nexsan still the undisputed champion for low cost network storage?
Nexsan has always focused tightly on large businesses looking for heaps of network storage but without the benefit of a blank chequebook.
We've always been hugely impressed with its SATABeast appliance as it offers a monster capacity combined with top value and performance. The SATABoy also received a warm welcome here at IT PRO with its combination of capacity and value earning it a coveted Editor's Choice award.
With its latest SASBoy, Nexsan shifts its focus towards those businesses giving performance a higher priority over capacity. It's aimed at applications such storage of X-ray or MRI images where content may be stored for long periods of time but users need fast access for searches.
The SASBoy is also being touted by Nexsan as the world's first green SAS disk array. As it uses the same hardware as the SATABoy it gets the benefit of Nexsan's AutoMAID (automatic massive array of idle disks) technology.
AutoMAID allows administrators to set time schedules for parking disk heads, reducing spin speeds and spinning them down. A problem with most disk arrays is their unhealthy appetite for power and AutoMAID is designed to reduce this significantly by turning drives off during extended periods of inactivity. This also cuts cooling demands and when drives are powered back up they do so sequentially to avoid any power surges.
The SASBoy on review came kitted out with a pair of hot-swap RAID controllers each equipped with 2GB of cache memory plus battery backup packs and providing support for RAID0, 1, 10, 4, 5 or 6 arrays. IP and FC SANs are on the menu as each controller has a pair of 4Gbps FC ports and two Gigabit iSCSI data ports. Fault tolerance is a key feature as well as the system can be configured such that no component represents a single point of failure.
With dual controllers you have four system modes available where you can use each controller as individual elements with no redundancy, set them so that volumes can be mapped to all four ports or combine them together as active/active partners with either two or four data ports presented. Note the two-port active/active mode does not require redundant paths on your host systems.
Nexsan's CLI interface offers a well designed GUI rather than a command line whilst Nexsan's new Storage Manager utility functions as an MMC snap-in so you can access the appliance directly from the Computer Management screen. The new web interface looks good and its quick start option automatically configures one RAID-5 array per controller. However, it's easy enough to select your own RAID configuration and split them up into logical volumes.
Simple volumes are not supported but you can choose from any supported RAID array, dedicate hot-standby drives to specific arrays or designate them as floating spares. Volumes are created next and, depending on which system mode selected, you can decide which FC and data ports you want to map them to. Strong access controls are provided where you can limit host access to specific ports and decide whether they can have read only or read/write access.