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: IBM)

IBM System Storage DS3200/DS3400

This device is a work horse and is unapologetically focused on engineering rather than appearances.

IBM has always been a competitive player in storage field. The DS3200 is quite similar to the DS3400, except that the latter also supports fibre channel in addition to iSCSI. The DS3400 comes in three flavours: single controller, dual-controller and dual-controller telco (with 48V DC input).

IBM claims the DS3200/DS3400 is appropriate for mid-sized enterprise because of its expandability. The DS3200/DS3400 can accommodate up to 48 disks — although this figure has been exceeded by some other products on the market (the EMC AX4, for example, can be expanded to take up to 60 drives). The base DS3200/DS3400 unit can support up to 3.6TB; with 14.4TB capacity being possible with the addition of three EXP3000 devices.

The DS3200/DS3400 can be upgraded to two controllers with 2GB cache, and six 1Gbps iSCSI ports (DS3200) or four 4Gbps FC ports (DS3400).

A useful feature of the DS3200/DS3400 is DC power support compliant with NEBS-3 and ETSI. This means it could even be used in a telco datacentre. Some mid-sized enterprises rent space in an independent datacentre instead of building their own. The power options of this device really broaden its application and location options.

The management software for this unit seeks to be task oriented rather than object oriented. Thus when an administrator seeks to make a change the first question is what process rather than what device is to be operated on. The reasoning for this is that it makes it easier for non-experts to grasp — which is not an unreasonable premise. Concepts such as copying and expanding are, for example, simpler than appreciating the difference between virtual and physical storage devices. Even so, if usability is a concern, IBM might have also thought about including thin provisioning.

The DS3200/DS3400 consumes a maximum of 361W. This is lower than most of the other devices considered; however, it is difficult to assess how the wattage per operations performed compares between this machine and the others reviewed here.

OS support is very good including Windows, Linux, Netware, AIX, VIOS, Solaris and VMware.

The DS3400 comes with a three-year parts-and-labour warranty.

The good

  • 48V DC power support
  • Good interoperability with IBM Tivoli storage management solution

The bad

  • IBM's claimed support for SAN switch models is limited
  • Disk expansion is limited to 48
  • Lack of active/spare mode in the RAID controller

The bottom line
Six iSCSI ports and DC power support are the only two shining points of this device which otherwise does not excite.

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

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