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CIO  February 2006

CIO February 2006

Subject:

Re: Storage: traditional SANs and iSCSI

From:

John Manly <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 14 Feb 2006 12:24:53 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (95 lines)

We are using a variety of storage at Amherst College.

First, we have a pair of Equalogic PS200Es (iSCSI) and have been very
impressed with them.  Their performance appears to rival directly
attached RAID arrays, they incorporate a number of higher-end features
(such as snapshots) in the base price.  We have three Exchange 2003
Enterprise servers (Dell 1850s with dual CPU and 4 GB RAM and Windows
2003 Enterprise Server), housing a total of 4000 or so mailboxes.  The
1850s have Qlogic iSCSI HBAs in them, and we boot directly off the
Equalogic -- no local storage at all.  The Equalogic also houses the
main home directories for all faculty, staff, and students.  Our one
complaint about the Equalogic is the cost per TB -- they are very nice
boxes, but they do run almost $10K per TB.

For our tier 2 storage we have deployed one of the NEXSAN ATA-Beast
arrays (almost 15 TB at about $3K per TB) for backup-to-disk storage,
and hope to deploy a new SATA-Beast (20 TB) soon for truly large
capacity storage like video.  Both of these are fibre channel based, and
have quite limited functionality themselves, but can be "converted" to
iSCSI and given more features via an intermediate front-end system.  We
are using a home-grown Linux-based iSCSI target server as a front-end
for some of our internal storage needs (like log files), and are looking
into a commercial FalconStor front-end for the SATA-Beast to give it
more Equalogic-like features for the aformentioned video storage.

At present I wouldn't commit our more critical user or Exchange storage
to anything but the Equalogic units, though once we get more experience
with the SATA-Beast/FalconStor combination that might change.  The
problem, however, is that the FalconStor, like more traditional SAN
solutions, tends to ream you on the licensing costs for add-ons like
snapshots.

Incidentally, while we like the QLogic iSCSI HBAs, it turns out that the
free software-only iSCSI driver, for both Windows and Linux, is pretty
good by itself if you are on a 3 Ghz CPU or faster.  So you shouldn't
feel that you have to use a hardware iSCSI HBA unless you want to boot
from iSCSI.

-- John W. Manly  <[log in to unmask]>  (413)542-2641
   Systems, Networking, and Telecommunications
   Amherst College

-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher Sedore [mailto:[log in to unmask]] 
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2006 9:12 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [CIO] Storage: traditional SANs and iSCSI

Greetings,

I'm relatively new to this list, but have been lurking for a while to
get a feel for the conversations here and appreciated much of the
interaction thus far.

I'd like to query the collective experience here related to a project
that would provide significant quantites of centralized storage (home
and shared directories) for faculty, staff, and students and may also
include Microsoft Exchange for campus electronic mail.  Total storage
size to support both is expected to be 25 to 50 terabytes in the next
few years.

We have a variety of perspectives on storage technologies here and are
looking primarily at iSCSI and more traditional SAN offerings as
possible solutions to support home directories and Exchange storage.
There is some debate among our own technical staff about the viability
of iSCSI and its future in the market.  We've had one iSCSI vendor bring
equipment in and some of our staff have been impressed with the
capabilities and at least satisfied with the performance.  The iSCSI
solutions we've reviewed can offer significant cost savings, allow us
more flexibility in choosing vendors, and have some interesting
capabilities for geographic distribution and failover, but these
solutions are not as proven as the offerings from the big SAN vendors.
NAS is not favored in the Exchange environment, so we've not actively
investigated that option.

I'm curious about the experience and perspective of others on storage
and storage directions:  Are you deploying iSCSI for enterprise projects
and, if so, are you satisfied with the outcomes?  Did you investigate
iSCSI and decide to stick with traditional SANs?  What is your view on
the future of iSCSI vs traditional SANs?

Best,

-Chris

Chris Sedore
Director, Network and Communications Services Syracuse University

**********
Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent
Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

**********
Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

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