Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Seeking SAN

I've written in the past about iSCSI. I'm now nearing a position, a convergence of 2 situations that has me searching for a solution. My current iSCSI server, a linux based system with 3ware controllers with the iSCSI Enterprise Target software, is nearing its end of warranty with no extension option available. This system provides storage for file services, as well as space for a SQL database used for email archiving and up until recent, space for vm images. The second part of the play is my corporation's move to virtualization. Utimately the plan is to move all enterprise services currently in-house to a multi ESXi server environment.

Keys to this type of environment are shared storage and strong IO capacity. Shared storage, namely SAN storage allows ESXi to perform all of its neat tricks with its vmfs cluster filesystem, not to mention it is the best tuned selection for VM performance. NFS is also an option, but removes access to a few of ESXi's great features, and carries processing overhead. IO capacity is critical - all the space in the world can be quickly lost to complaints of lag and slowness if that space does not have IO capacity to perform(Exchange/SQL).

So I've began the adventure of looking for a solution. A solution to handle VM images, SQL, Exchange, and file serving; a lot of different IO profiles. Thus far I've looked into following iSCSI solutions: Dell/Equallogic PS5000 series, Netapp S / FAS lines, and Compellant. They each offer their different strengths and less desirable aspects. Before any decision is made, there will be demo units put through the ringer, but I'd also like to hear from anyone out there with experience in this arena. For my size organization this solution will be a reasonable sized invenstment and it needs to be right the first time.

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steve said...

Have you looked at a sun 'thumper' (x4500) system? I'm 99.99% sure you can share out the volumes via iscsi and you get >48TB for <$50k. zfs handles all of the redundancy, snapshots, etc. etc.

Matt said...


Wow, interesting. I've not seen that before! It doesn't sound like the absolute fastest, but you can't knock the price!


I'm using one of the Dell/EMC AX-45s and I've liked it so far, but I've never heard a bad thing about NetApp. of course, the price is a bit...higher

Make sure to let us know what you go with in the end.

O said...

Check Hitachi SMS100 or AMS series.

You should be able(can ask Hitachi for help) to use iometer and find out if the SMS100 is enough or you need the AMS.


JeffHengesbach said...


Thanks - I'd seen the product when it was launched but forgotten about it. Bang for the buck it's a fantastic solution, but I really want to move towards a true SAN system, not just a server acting like one - I've been there. I have some architecture issues with it as well, trying to pump the IO of all those drives through 3 PCI-X buses is questionable - All 4 NICs also go through a single PCI-X, not good for my current situation. That said it'd be a sweet solution for surveillance recordings / archival / limited video streaming.

Glad to see you're still reading - I've been slow on posting lately. I'm really shying away from FC due to HBA / swtich costs. My infrastructure is small enough that those items really impact the bottom line.

I ran across an interesing thread over at while googling, a good read.

The good news is going virtual opens up a good bit of funding by eliminating physical equipment and maintenance, but of course the more that can be saved the better.

O said...

By the way, I use Virtuozzo instead of vmware. For me it happens to be much faster and have a better performance and density results. (no, i don't get payed for this).

Jason said...

We run emc gear here. For what your asking for the emc celerra would be a great fit.
I can get you in touch with the local emc account rep if you'd like.
I've also heard good things about netapp, but their sales and sale engineers left a bad taste with me.

Beakman said...

I highly recommend LeftHand Networks SAN solution. HP recently announced plans to acquire LeftHand, and their support for VMware is very strong. I will say that it can be quite pricey depending on your storage requirements, but it is definitely worth looking into. We currently run four 3.6TB SAS nodes that support our five-host VMware ESX cluster and a handful of SQL databases.