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Analysis

Nexsan adds SSD-cached NAS for mid-market
Peter Williams By: Peter Williams, Practice Leader - IT Infrastructure Mgmt., Bloor Research
Published: 16th August 2011
Copyright Bloor Research © 2011
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SAN products vendor Nexsan has announced the first models in its E5000 family of 'plug-and-play' NAS storage systems, incorporating its new FASTier solid state disk (SSD) caching which may boost random I-O performance by as much as 600 percent.

The E5110 and E5310 are aimed firmly at mid-sized companies without specialist IT skills, and complement its existing E Series SATABoy/Beast block-mode SANs. Among many features is an innovative graphical user interface (GUI) designed for fast, error-free set-up (achievable in 15 minutes) and management - even of dispersed systems.

The FASTier cache uses SSD RAM (E5110) or three tiers of SSD DRAM (E5310) working transparently to boost performance, especially in high random I-O situations - for instance, where applications in multiple virtual servers are accessing the same storage pool. For the second time in a month I find myself reporting on a storage vendor countering what can be a performance-killer - virtualisation resulting in multiplied random writes. It is something that all storage hardware vendors will need to face up to going forward.

The diminutive E5110 provides 8-62TB of storage capacity in 3-6U rack space; the E5310 is a 3U NAS head enabling 9-720TB storage expansion to only 19U rack space - less than any competitor at this time. High availability features include dual redundant hot-pluggable storage controllers with automatic failover. 1 and 10Gb Ethernet connection are supported.

All Nexsan's products are sold through its worldwide channel of over 600 partners. They should like the easy implementation, low energy and space, high spec and scalability - that should assist their market penetration without the need for major re-training. CTO Gary Watson told me that the company was confident of new clients as well as add-ons for existing users.

Most importantly, albeit real-world benchmarks are not yet available, the SSD-boost should mean performance holds up well for users as they move to virtualised VMware, Hyper-V or Xen environments.

Another neat addition is Nexsan's "Extreme Density with Active Drawer Technology" to simplify maintenance in high density storage; operation is not interrupted by a drive drawer being opened to service disks or fans. In the same vein, users can pool multiple LUNs and add storage on-the-fly followed by auto-rebalancing of I-O; the systems allow sharing of CIFS and NFS files simultaneously.

Among other features are power-saving AutoMAID idle disk power-down technology, reservation-less snapshots, thin provisioning, asynchronous replication, and NDMP v4. Watson said an iSCSI version should appear before year end. The E5000 range should give the likes of EMC, Dell and NetApp something to think about in the mid-market.

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