Long-time readers know that a Dell iSCSI array currently lies at the heart of our virt lab. Our December wishes came true when Dell updated us with not one, <em>but two</em> arrays just in time for the holidays.

Joe Hernick, IT Director

December 12, 2008

3 Min Read

Long-time readers know that a Dell iSCSI array currently lies at the heart of our virt lab. Our December wishes came true when Dell offered us not one, but two updated arrays just in time for the holidays.We've run through a number of SAN solutions in the Virtualization Lab, running the gamut from direct-attached storage, LeftHand Network's niche-y VSA, and old Fibre Channel rigs. Recent loaned gear has included pre-Dell acquisition EqualLogic iSCSI appliances such as the 16-drive PS3900XV.

Dylan Locsin and the nice folks in Dell's EqualLogic Product Marketing group have just shipped us a 48-bay PS5500E SATA rig and a 16-bay PS5000XV SAS box. Let's just say that, while I'm thrilled, the freight driver and the folks at my loading dock were not so happy.

Both systems came wrapped on a single pallet, shipping weight: 450 pounds. Dell does a great job of getting the goods on site. The 4u PS550E ships as an empty frame; all forty-eight 1TB drives come individually wrapped and bundled in deep layers of foam against the chill December air. The 3u SAS box came fully loaded with sixteen 300GB 15K drives.

Installed weight: 78 pounds for the smaller system, 165 pounds for the big one. I did not rack them alone.

I know I'm showing my age, but I continue to be impressed with modern storage systems. We yanked drives from the SAS box to ease installation, got both storage chassis mounted in a sturdy 4-post rack, installed all 64 drives, wired up connections to data and storage networks, and powered the beasts up.

We were able to add the two new devices to our existing EqualLogic SAN in a few minutes via the array management web interface. Dell's tools detected the new arrays, I entered IP and iSCSI info, and we ware ready to allocate the new raw storage in no time at all.

The hardest part of adding 52.8 terabytes of storage to the lab? Unpacking the crates.

The most laborious? Inserting the 48 SATA drives and re-installing the 16 SAS drives.

I remember when setting up robust, complex storage solution used to be a multi-day exercise in masocism. Now it's an afternoon of straightforward, honest work.

One final environmental note; I've often griped about excessive system noise from storage arrays in the past... dense drives and their required cooling systems tend to be raucous by necessity. Both of the new arrays are markedly quieter than last-gen gear from EqualLogics, and both systems spool up in a very civilized fashion, making them nicer on the ears and on the peak load meter for our rack UPS. Decibels might not make that much of a difference in a formal data center, but these new arrays make our test environment a more livable workspace, and will be appreciated by employees working in adjacent spaces.

Initial system performance is impressive. While we're a fan of SAS to satisfy the need for speed, the SATA array has frankly exceeded our expectations. Seek and write times are always helped by many spindles, and forty-eight drives do a good job of spreading the load...

We've started playing with the systems' virtualization-specific goodies like volume and pool management from within Citrix/XEN and direct support for auto-snapshotting in VMware and other snazzy VirtualCenter links thanks to use of vStorage APIs. Expect to read more as we dig into additional hypervisors as part of InformationWeek's rolling review.Long-time readers know that a Dell iSCSI array currently lies at the heart of our virt lab. Our December wishes came true when Dell updated us with not one, but two arrays just in time for the holidays.

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About the Author(s)

Joe Hernick

IT Director

Joe Hernick is in his seventh year as director of academic technology at Suffield Academy, where he teaches, sits on the Academic Committee, provides faculty training and is a general proponent of information literacy. He was formerly the director of IT and computer studies chair at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, CT, and spent 10 years in the insurance industry as a director and program manager at CIGNA.

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