Iomega’s ix4-200d: A Killer
Desktop Storage Array
Iomega is well into its second coming
as EMC’s entry-level storage division. First, they applied EMC’s
compact and full-featured LifeLine home storage software to existing gear,
giving birth to the Home Media Network Hard Drive, StorCenter ix2, and
StorCenter Pro ix4-100. Then they wooed the small-business community with the
rack-mount StorCenter ix4-200r, adding iSCSI target support and VMware
Today, they are back with the
ix4-200d, probably Iomega’s best product yet. It includes every feature
of the rack-mount ix4-200r, including NAS and iSCSI target mode plus great new
stuff like one-touch synchronization. All of this is packaged in a Drobo-like
desktop system with a starting list price of just $700, or less than
half the cost of a comparable ix4-200r!
External desktop storage products, exemplified
by Western Digital’s wildly successful My Book series, have been a huge retail
hit. Priced just over $100, these drives pack a terabyte or more and offer plug
and play simplicity. I recently visited a small business with a WD or Seagate
USB enclosure on every single desk. I’ve purchased five USB- or
FireWire-connected hard drives myself over the last two years!
But these single-drive desktop wonders
are a disaster waiting to happen:
- They fail frequently
(like my Maxtor 3200), instantly wiping out the data they contained
- They are targets for thieves,
so data loss prevention (DLP) experts warn against their use
- They aren’t shareable
natively, so most people resort to sneakernet swapping rather than fight
with Windows to present them as a network share
- When they’re full, they’re full,
forcing the purchase of a whole new drive
Many vendors sell grown-up versions
that address some or all of these concerns with multiple drives, network
connections, and encryption, but these have been slow to catch on.
Since they contain redundant drives and extra hardware and software, they are
much more expensive than their little cousins. Iomega has done battle in this
arena with their original StorCenter ix2 and the ix4-100, but these have yet to
catch on. Even Drobo, with their fanatical user-friendly focus, has failed to
convince many buyers.
Then there is the world of business storage.
Way down at the bottom of the enterprise storage pyramid lies the realm of small
4- and 8-drive storage arrays. These SMB storage arrays offer a lot of
capacity and reliability for the money but very little in the way of
Iomega’s StorCenter Pro ix4-200r, in contrast, wowed the techies with
a full iSCSI target stack that was certified for VMware ESX. But the price, over
$1500, definitely limited sales to the home hobbyist.
“Just Right” Storage
Although the name is similar to the
Pro ix4-200r launched this Spring, Iomega went back to the drawing board for the
ix4-200d. They built an entirely new device that could offer the impressive
features of their StorCenter Pro line at a price closer to consumer storage
offerings. The result boasts everything the Pro has and more at less
than half the price:
- You want connectivity? The ix4 sports
dual gigabit Ethernet ports that can be teamed up for
performance or split off for redundancy.
- You want NAS? The ix4 supports NFS,
SMB, and even Apple’s AFP, plus it’s Active Directory compatible.
- How about iSCSI? It’s a
full-featured iSCSI target, certified for Microsoft Server 2003 and
- Want to host virtual machines? The ix4 is
certified with VMware ESX 4 vSphere using both NFS and
iSCSI, on the Xen HCL, and that Microsoft logo means it will work with
Hyper-V as well.
- Need backup? The ix4 comes with
EMC’s Retrospect and supports OS X Time Machine
over AFP just like an Apple Time Capsule.
- Looking for weird features? How about
support for up to 5 Axis network cameras, BlueTooth Picture Transfer
Protocol, and UPnP/DLNA media service!
- Iomega also added a new feature,
QuickTransfer, to synchronize files between devices.
QuickTransfer: Data Synchronization for
One nifty new feature included with the
ix4-200d is QuickTransfer, a one-touch data synchronization capability.
Leveraging rsync technology, but hiding this complexity with a more-friendly
wizard-based GUI, QuickTransfer allows users to set up synchronization
jobs between the ix4 and a variety of targets:
- USB drives can be plugged
into one of the three USB 2.0 ports and synchronized with a subset of the
content of the ix4. For example, a portable USB drive could be “recharged”
with the latest set of data before one heads out of the office.
- Two Iomega ix4’s, or other NAS
systems for that matter, can be synchronized over the Ethernet/IP
LAN. This would provide a robust and bandwidth-friendly remote office backup
or data replication solution.
- A PC or Mac can also be
synchronized over a network share, providing a simple alternative to the
bundled backup software.