Six SAN shoot-out

Summary:Managing data storage is just as much of a task (or greater) as managing the servers themselves. It makes sense to centralise management in larger organisations wherever possible. Enter the storage area network (SAN).

(Credit: Dell)

Dell PowerVault MD3000i

The PowerVault MD3000i is Dell's entry-level SAN storage solution. The standard version includes one controller with 512MB cache. A high availability version is also available with dual controllers providing active/active redundant systems.

The MD3000i supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. This seems a little poor given the broad use of RAID 6. There could be as many as 15 disks in this device. It really needs an enhanced RAID controller to provide better data safety. Expansion modules can push the total number of drives even further, 45 drives with a total capacity of up to 18TB per enclosure (and a grand total of 90TB with additional enclosures).

With no option for fibre channel the array has to share the gigabit TCP/IP network port to transfer data. 1Gbps Ethernet NICs are likely bottlenecks for this array. If configured with faster SAS disks rather than SATA, the limitation would be particularly obvious. Each installed controller has 2 gigabit ports.

Dell provides a number of optional management software features including snapshots and disk copy; however, these are not packaged with this unit (they really should be included in any default configuration). Thin provisioning is another feature that will be missed in an entry-level SAN such as this.

Hot-pluggable technology can enable administrators to easily upgrade disks while keeping the business running. Though in truth, hot-pluggable disks are probably of greater use in a repair scenario rather than when upgrading overall capacity. This can be done during occasional scheduled maintenance. A maximum of only 16 servers can be connected to the MD3000i.

This unit also supports 5400rpm SATA disks. Dell claims the new disks will decrease power consumption by up to 30 per cent. This is definitely good news for MD3000i, because its maximum power consumption is rated at 550W — the highest of all SAN models reviewed.

Windows and Linux operating systems support is claimed. Dell uses a web-based management console, which bring flexibility to administrators.

The good

  • RAID controller-based iSCSI SAN solution with much better performance than PC-based ones
  • Supports both SAS/SATA disks
  • Two controllers with mirrored cache provide active/active redundant

The bad

  • Doesn't support RAID 6
  • Only supports Windows and Linux operating systems
  • Snapshot and disk copy are extra costs

The bottom line
Up to 15 disks and 16 server connections make this ideal for small enterprise and non-key applications.

Topics: Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Storage

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.