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: EMC)

EMC Clariion AX4-5

Who says a server can't be classy? The AX4 has a fine looking facade styled with attractive lines and shades of silver and grey. Opening its access panel reveals 12 2.5-inch 750GB SATA hard drives (minimum four, and part of this is reserved for housekeeping). Dell's AX4-5f is an OEM version of EMC's Clariion AX4. The specifications from EMC indicate a DC power source whereas the information from Dell indicates AC power; in fact, the EMC tested at Enex (which was provided directly from EMC) was endowed with both options!

Dual controllers are now the standard for entry-level SANs and the AX4 is no exception. It provides good flexibility in both active/active and active/spare scenarios.

A single AX4 can provide storage space for up to 10 servers. With the help of expansion packs, the number can be increased to 64 servers (and up to 60 drives). This is a reasonable number for any mid-sized enterprise and they can connect all their servers on one array and establish data storage in a really useful manner. Storage capacity for the AX4 is 27TB with current SAS drives and 60TB with SATA II drives.

Support for both 1Gbps iSCSI and 4Gbps Fibre Channel provides choices for varied budgets. Users can select high performance or low cost. Similarly, support for both SAS and SATA disks provides a performance versus cost trade off. In fact, one can mix both types of drives in one SAN system to suit individual company needs.

RAID 5 is a bit old hat these days. With the dramatic increase in disk numbers per array, administrators need more stability to keep data safe. More disks mean more risk of disk failure. RAID 6, as provided by both devices, is really essential for disk storage systems because it doubles parity checking protection. The AX4 ensures companies have this added security.

The default Navisphere management software only supports 16 snapshots, which is obviously not enough for any productive environment. However, the EMC SnapView software pack can be purchased to enable administrators to create as many as point-in-time snapshots as space allows.

The AX4 has enhanced integration with VMware solutions. This means users can easily build or migrate to a virtual environment. The AX4 also allows for thin provisioning of volumes which reduces the administrator's need to be adept with a crystal ball.

EMC's DC power option greatly improves the capacity to use the AX4-5 in the telecommunication field. A wide range of OS support is provided including Windows, Linux, AIX, HP UX, Netware, Solaris and VMware.

The standard warranty is for three years with 24/7 remote support. A premium support service is available which includes on-site support with a four-hour response time.

The good

  • Integration with VMware
  • UPS-backed mirrored cache and cache-destaging to disk

The bad

  • Standard snapshot support is inadequate

The bottom line
The AX4 makes it a safe choice as it has all the essential SAN features.

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

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