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Nexsan SATABoy - PC PRO Recommen


Nexsan SATABoy - PC PRO Recommended

SATABoy - PC PRO Recommended

Verdict: Massive capacity and excellent raw performance make Nexsan's SATABoy a top choice for data-hungry applications where cost is a critical factor

Storage maestro Nexsan has traditionally targeted capacity-hungry, budget-conscious businesses. For this reason, it's always shunned SCSI and Fibre Channel (FC) hard disks in favour of ATA and SATA. And with good reason too, as the PC Pro Recommended ATABeast, for example, is capable of delivering a truly monstrous amount of RAID-protected storage and a raw performance that isn't far short of FC arrays. The PC Pro Recommended SATABlade also epitomises the prowess of SATA, as it delivers over 3TB of storage in a slimline 1U chassis.

Nexsan's latest SATABoy takes SATA to the next level. This 3U chassis has room for 14 drives, and with the review system kitted out with 500GB SATA II models it offers a raw capacity of 7TB. This makes the SATABoy an ideal candidate for applications requiring high storage capacity, such as disk-to-disk backup and data archiving. Fault tolerance is a key feature as well, as the system can be configured so that no component represents a single point of failure. The chassis includes a pair of hot-swap power supplies, each with their own cooling fans, and the review specification includes a pair of RAID controllers equipped with 512MB of battery-backed cache memory. The controllers are mounted in solid steel sleds, and in a dual-controller configuration disk backplane ownership is split down the middle. Should one controller fail, the active one will take over and manage its RAID arrays and FC ports.

Nexsan's NexScan system ensures the SATABoy can be managed from any PC, as it offers both CLI and web access. The latter also doesn't rely on any Java runtimes so can be accessed by most browsers. The CLI interface is particularly impressive, offering a well-designed GUI rather than a command line. The web interface also gets our thumbs up, as it's very intuitive and provides easy access to all functions. A quick-start option gets you off the starting blocks by automatically configuring one RAID5 array per controller. However, it's easy enough to select your own RAID configuration and split it up into logical volumes. Simple volumes aren't supported, but you can choose from a good range of RAID arrays. The SATABoy also supports hot-standby drives dedicated to specific arrays or floating spares, which can be grabbed by any array with a failed member. Volumes are created next and these can also be mapped to either or both FC ports

For performance testing, we introduced the SATABoy to our resident FC SAN built from a QLogic SAN Connectivity Kit. Nexsan claims each controller can deliver 370MB/sec, so to test this we created a single quad-disk RAID0 array and used it as one large logical volume assigned to one controller. With a direct-attached Windows Server 2003 system, we saw the open-source Iometer report an average throughput of 184MB/sec. Connecting a second server to the same controller via its second FC port saw cumulative throughput rise to 367MB/sec, thus confirming Nexsan's claims.

If you're driven by capacity/price ratios, Nexsan's SATABoy is just what you need. It delivers excellent storage features plus total fault tolerance, and all at a price FC disk arrays can't hope to compete with.

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