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Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?

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Craig Wolf
Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 11, 2012 at 12:21:12 am

Hi everyone. Thanks for reading.


I am replacing an aging xServe RAID in a clients network. They currently use the xServe RAID as storage for their mobile home folders, company file shares (RAID 5 w/ 500GB storage), mailstore (RAID 1 w/ 250GB storage) and backup for other servers (RAID 5 w/ 3TB storage). This is hooked up directly via FC to an Intel xServe running 10.6.8 server. They would like to replace this simply because they need more storage for files, and the age (about 7 to 8 years old).

I would still use the existing xServe RAID as backup storage, however, we are looking for replacements. Right now I am pricing out a Promise VTrak E-Class with 8TB of storage (most likely will go RAID 10, so 4TB of useable storage) and a new 4Gbs quad fiber card. Total for both is around $8500. I am not convinced however they need that fast of storage for their use. They can get a Drobo 800i (bear with me here) with 8TB of storage (if dual drive redundancy is on the useable is around 3.6TB) and a dual 1GB PCI ethernet card for around $4300. In the past, we have only used the DroboPro, and think that particular unit is too slow for anything but archival data or backup. We have yet to use the 800i (nor the 1200i).

What does everyone think? Or is there another product we should also be looking at? Network is 1GB for around 40 users. Mobile accounts just sync at logoff, and useage of file shares is probably light to medium.

Thanks again.


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 11, 2012 at 2:45:17 am

If I am not mistaken Drobo 800i and 1200i are iSCSI units (not NAS) so they still need to go through a server of sort - will that be xServe via one or more GbE links?

What kind of aggregate bandwidth does the replacement solution need to have? How about expandability?

Drobo units are cool in terms of usability and management. I like the 1200i especially for things like tiering, dual PSUs, swappable I/O module (10GbE in the future perhaps?), mostly tool-less servicing.

Not so sure about performance - it hasn't been Drobo's strong point in the past, but have changed to the better since.

If you need iSCSI for some reason, then short of going with much more expensive iSCSI units from the big boys (Dell EqualLogic, HP, EMC, etc.), or using a custom-built one with MS or Linux Storage Servers (which usually requires decent IT VAR support), Drobo units might just be the best choices for iSCSI SAN.

A cost-effective alternative to either iSCSI Drobo or a Fiber Channel unit like the VTrak E-class, is a DAS unit: drop a RAID controller such as ATTO R680 or Areca 1882x into the server, connect a 16-bay SAS expander unit, and that will cost around $3K before you add drives. Really fast, really expandable, highly customizable.

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Integrator
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 11, 2012 at 3:39:22 am

[Alex Gerulaitis] "Not so sure about performance - it hasn't been Drobo's strong point in the past, but have changed to the better since."

Just found out Drobo iSCSI units don't support load balancing (aka bonding, teaming) on their I/O ports so you'll be limited to line speed of about 120MB/s or less for each iSCSI target. For your client's 40 users, it's on the low side even if it's a low traffic environment.

(I do realize the bottleneck is also on the server - with xServe's one or two GbE ports, there isn't much to work with. That however can be changed by upgrading to a different server or dropping a 10GbE card into it. After that, the storage solution better not be the bottleneck.)

Would the DAS (SAS RAID HBA + SAS Expander box + drives) solution I mentioned work for your client?

If not, I'd look for either an iSCSI box that is faster than Drobo, or a Fibre Channel box like the VTrak E-class unit you mentioned, since it can potentially scale to dual 8Gbs channels to the server.

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Integrator
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 11, 2012 at 4:56:00 pm

Alex.

Thanks for the responses. Sorry, I should have mentioned that yes, the xServe will be sharing the storage out via 2 bonded Gb ethernet ports.

We don't really care how it is connected...iscsi, FC, mini-SAS, or whatever. Just has to be at least as fast as the current system.

I think I am not going to go the Drobo route. It just hasn't been fast enough in our tests. But I am really interested in the SAS approach. Is there a turn key solution? I have never used nor researched the SAS solution, but that sounds like it would work.


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Stephen Davies
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 11, 2012 at 5:20:13 pm

Craig,

There are many options that you can consider to replace the Xserve RAID. The "easiest" thing to do would be to get another FC RAID array which would simply sit in place of the Xserve RAID. Most newer designs feature 4Gb FC connections and support SATA and/or SAS drives so you would expect to get much better performance (assuming that the FC HBA in your Xserve is capable of 4G wire speeds. If not you could still operate at the existing 2G speed and have extra "umph" if you want to upgrade the HBA later on.

You could also go with an iSCSI RAID array (you should look at one that supports "bonding" of multiple ports) or even SAS RAID units. Either of these would vastly increase the performance of your existing set up but they would require that you also add an appropriate HBA to your server.

Why don't you check out our web site (http://www.proavio.com) as we have a lot of products that could be very useful in just this kind of environment. Our RS series, in particular, is available in either 8 or 16 drive configuration (up to 24TB for 8 drive or 48TB for 16 drive) are are available with either FC, iSCSI or SAS interfaces.

Stephen Davies
Technical Sales Representative
PROAVIO USA


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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 11, 2012 at 8:12:52 pm

Stephen.

Yes, exactly our thoughts. Initially we were going to replace the xServe RAID with a promise vtrak, buy a 4Gbs HBA, and keep the xServe RAID installed on the 2Gbs card for backup.

I will visit your site now. The 8 drive array might be what we are looking for. If just based on hooking up to one server, what would be your recommendation (knowing either way we'll need a card to hook up to it with) ... iSCSI, FC, or SAS?

Thanks again.


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Stephen Davies
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 13, 2012 at 5:23:58 pm

Craig,

There are a number of factors that need to be considered when when selecting the appropriate type of storage and/or storage data interface. Obviously, price is going to play a big part in it but performance, ease of integration/management and potential for future expansion are also going to have an important place in the final decision process. Ultimately, you will need to find a "comfortable" balance between these for your particular environment.

Deciding between an "internal" RAID (external JBOD storage array with an plug-in RAID controller in your server) and a purely external solution (RAID controller built-in to the storage array) is a little subjective. A JBOD array is definitely cheaper than an external RAID system; however, you will also need to factor in the cost of the internal RAID controller to get a true comparison. However, a JBOD solution is completely dependent on the workstation/server so a failure there could be disastrous for your stored data. An external RAID is completely independent and "agnostic" of the host computer so data is a little more secure and you could even swap out the entire host system without affecting the storage. Expansion is also typically more common with external RAID systems. Finally, integration is definitely easier with an external RAID system; JBOD systems require the integration of internal hardware, loading and configuration of appropriate drivers, etc.

The type of data interface will largely be driven by your performance requirements, although ease and convenience of integration will also play a part. For the most part, there are 3 predominant interface types that you can choose from; Fiber-Channel, iSCSI or SAS (for internal systems SAS is really your only option). iSCSI is, without doubt, the easiest to integrate as it simply plugs into one or more of the existing LAN ports on your computer. However, most iSCSI RAID systems are limited to GbE so performance will only be about 70MB/s. You can increase this by "bonding" multiple ports (link aggregation) but this would require a storage system that supports multiple data ports (such as our RS series) and may require the addition of a multi-port NIC to your server.

At the other end of the spectrum is the SAS interface. By far, SAS will give your the best data throughput potential of all of the available interfaces. However, you will need to add a SAS interface to your workstation/server so you'll have to add that cost to the overall price of the solution. Maximum cable lengths for SAS are also a lot shorter than either GbE or FC, so that may be a factor.

Finally, Fibre-Channel (FC) stands somewhere between the other two interfaces. FC is definitely faster than GbE but is nowhere near as fast as SAS. FC also shares the extreme cable length capabilities of GbE but does require fairly expensive interface hardware to be added to you computer. In your case, however, you already have an FC controller in your server so that could make a fibre-channel solution a viable alternative for you.

If you need to get more information on any of the ProAVIO products, you can find full information on the Enhance Technology (http://www.enhance-tech.com) web site (Enhance is our parent company).

Thanks.

Stephen Davies
Technical Sales Representative
PROAVIO USA


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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 16, 2012 at 12:19:05 am

Sorry, should have been more detailed in my original post

Very familiar with FC on Macs and PCs, and iSCSI on PCs. Other than Drobos haven't setup any iSCSI on Macs. Very interested in mini-sas.

Looking really for product recommendations.

Thans.


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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 11, 2012 at 8:16:57 pm

Stephen.

I don't see the RS series in here.

http://www.proavio.com/products.html

Ultrastor, IS316JS, or Studiorack? Also, while not required, we would prefer rack mounted options. Thanks again.

And I appreciate the responses from everyone even though this isn't creative/video focused. Much appreciated.


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 11, 2012 at 10:08:15 pm

[Craig Wolf] "Ultrastor, IS316JS, or Studiorack? Also, while not required, we would prefer rack mounted options. Thanks again. "

An S8MS StudioRack would work (with a MiniSAS RAID controller) although I'd recommend an expandable solution, and I think Fibre-Channel would work the best given the existing hardware: ES16FS. I'll check on pricing if you'd like me to.

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Integrator
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 16, 2012 at 12:20:39 am

I'd love pricing. I am looking to buy ASAP and have a set budget. Alex, can I email you directly?


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 16, 2012 at 7:12:28 pm

[Craig Wolf] "I'd love pricing. I am looking to buy ASAP and have a set budget. Alex, can I email you directly?"

Working on pricing; of course: my first and last name initials - at dv411 dot com.

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Integrator
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 16, 2012 at 10:39:27 pm

ProAvio / Enhance Tech 16-bay 3U 6Gbs SAS expander:
- $6,036 SRP with 16TB (16x 1TB SATA),
- $6,804 32TB (16x 2TB),
- $9,851 48TB (16x 3TB).

ProAvio S8MS StudioRack 2U RM 8-bay 3Gbs non-expander: $558, no drives.

Enhance Tech UltraStor RS 2U RM 8 Bay 3Gbs non-expander (same as StudioRack S8MS):
- $4,968 with 16TB (8x2TB SATA) (PN: RS8SS-F16T)

The extra $1100 for the 16TB version (or $1900 for twice as much) - includes much greater expandability, redundant power supplies.

All racks include fixed rails (non-sliding). Sliding rails optional.

RAID controllers: about $1500 extra from ProAvio when bundled together with the solution (Areca 1882x); about $1000 purchased separately (not from ProAvio).

The StudioRack, due to its non-expander nature, can be used with a less expensive RAID controller, e.g. Areca 1320-8X for around $400 (or less).

Hope this helps and please let me know if you need any additional info.

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Integrator
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 17, 2012 at 3:45:17 pm

Sorry, I was thinking both you and Stephen worked for Enhance Tech/ProAVio.

Hmm, at that price point, the client may just go with the Promise solution, as they are very comfortable with FC.

I wish I could test this out before I make the purchase. Client needs it purchased today.


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 17, 2012 at 8:10:38 pm

[Craig Wolf] "Sorry, I was thinking both you and Stephen worked for Enhance Tech/ProAVio. "

DV411 is an independent VAR and systems integrator. ProAvio/Enhance is one of our storage vendors, and is of Creative Cow sponsors with strong (as you noticed) presence here which may give an indication of the strength of their support.

[Craig Wolf] "Hmm, at that price point, the client may just go with the Promise solution, as they are very comfortable with FC."

$600 StudioRack, $400 RAID controller, plus drives (about $1600 for eight Hitachi HDS 2TB drives) - there just isn't anything much cheaper than that.

Going up from that, it's a $2500 16-bay SAS expander, plus a $1K RAID controller, plus drives - and that may indeed be closer to an FC solution especially that you already have an FC card in your XServe.

The prices I gave you were all MSRPs; depending on the model, you can expect actual prices to be 10-15% lower.

[Craig Wolf] "I wish I could test this out before I make the purchase. Client needs it purchased today."

In it has to be today - then FC. Testing a DAS like this may take a day or two - installing and configuring the controller, plus array initialization may take some time. FC is more of a plug-n-play thing.

Here is alternative from ET:

UltraStor RS System: 3U RM 16 Bay 16TB (16x1TB SATA) 2-port 4G Fibre Channel 3YR w/ 1YR ARP - $6400. Is it cost-effective vs. Promise VTrak E-Class?

Which Promise model are you considering? E.g. PROMISE VTrak Ex30f 8Gbps FC, is $9.5K just for the box (before adding drives).

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Integrator
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 17, 2012 at 8:34:13 pm

UltraStor RS System: 2U RM 8 Bay 8TB (8x1TB SATA) 2-port 4G Fibre Channel 3YR w/ 1YR ARP [RS8FS-F8T] - $4,206 SRP.

One of the most cost effective 4Gb Fibre systems I've seen.


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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 17, 2012 at 9:11:49 pm

I found if I got the VTrak EClass 4TB array and purchased 1TB drives from Promise it is cheaper than getting the VTrak EClass 8TB array. I believe price was around $7500.

The price on the UltraStor is fantastic.


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 17, 2012 at 9:20:17 pm

[Craig Wolf] "I found if I got the VTrak EClass 4TB array and purchased 1TB drives from Promise it is cheaper than getting the VTrak EClass 8TB array. I believe price was around $7500."

Aye, that's usually the case - when drives are purchased separately, they don't have to initialize / test the array, and the warranty is usually different: i.e. they usually don't x-ship replacement drives for drives purchased individually.

[Craig Wolf] "The price on the UltraStor is fantastic."

It is indeed although I just heard from Enhance: the RS series aren't compatible with xServe for some reason - finding out why.

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Integrator
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 18, 2012 at 3:13:34 pm

email sent


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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 16, 2012 at 3:33:10 am

Alex, I was doing some googling and came across this.

http://www.enhance-tech.com/products/diskarrays/R8MS.html#Tab1

Looks like it is very similar to the S8. Could you tell me the difference? Also would love to know which controller you recommend.

Thank you so much. I think I am almost there!!!!


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 16, 2012 at 7:26:55 pm

[Craig Wolf] "http://www.enhance-tech.com/products/diskarrays/R8MS.html#Tab1

Looks like it is very similar to the S8. Could you tell me the difference? Also would love to know which controller you recommend. "


The same thing; ProAvio S8 is optimized and supported for A/V applications rather than general IT ones with R8MS.

Neither box is an "expander" type - i.e. can't daisy-chain / attach additional storage units to it. Also, I don't see a version supporting 6Gbs SAS line speeds, a must these days.

Generally if you must go with an 8-bay rack box rather than 12-16 (more efficient in space utilization and cost efficiency; after 16 bays it evens out), I'd much recommend getting an industry standard "expander" type with a 6Gbs SAS good quality backplane. Those are generally in the $1500 - $2500 range depending on features, build quality, brand. Before you add drives of course. Non-expander 8-bay ones - about $800 less.

I'll check with ProAvio and will have more info shortly.

Controller: ATTO R680 or Areca 1882x. For server apps (which is what you intend to use it for), probably ATTO.

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Integrator
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 11, 2012 at 10:22:38 pm

[Craig Wolf] "We don't really care how it is connected...iscsi, FC, mini-SAS, or whatever. Just has to be at least as fast as the current system. "

Mini-SAS is generally the fastest and the least expensive way to attach storage:

- 24Gbs aggregate line speed via a single MiniSAS 6Gbs port
- inexpensive cabling (up to 10m)
- costs approx $2K less than a Fibre-Channel solution (from ground zero)
- Direct-Attach (DAS) only

Fibre-Channel:
- 16Gbs aggregate line speed via dual 8Gbs ports
- negligibly more expensive cabling given total costs, much longer cable runs - 100s of meters
- DAS or SAN (SAN with a switch and management software)

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Integrator
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Rainer Wirth
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 12, 2012 at 12:59:25 pm

I've replaced two Xserves two years ago.
I've a sonnet R800 (8 drives) with SAS (very fast and reliable) and a 4x8gb FC Axus Yotta raid 24bay. I still use one of the Xserve raids for the render files. All raids have 3TB Hitachi HUA hard discs. To me the best you can get. No problems until now. If you need more than one Workstation (Server) you have to use Fibrechannel raids. Sonnet, active storage, small tree, Axus, dulce. I wouldn't go for Promise (tech specs). But this is just personal choice.
The drives you use in the raid configuration are important. Get the best drives you can buy. A raid is there to work and forget about it.

Rainer

I still think that the Xserve Raids are a very good piece of hardware - working working working



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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 17, 2012 at 3:51:22 pm

First, thanks so much for all the advice.

Second, and totally your perspective, but if you have to get a general IT DAS and used mini-SAS, what would you get?

Third, I know this isn't related to A/V, so thanks so much EVERYONE for taking the time to answer my questions.


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 17, 2012 at 8:45:59 pm

[Craig Wolf] "Second, and totally your perspective, but if you have to get a general IT DAS and used mini-SAS, what would you get? "

1. A good SAS RAID controller first: ATTO R680 or Areca ARC-1882x, about $1K. There are other options too.

2. An expander-type 6G SAS box with 8 or more bays. Choices: ProAvio / Enhance, Promise, HP, Areca, many more. Prices: $2500 for a 16-bay solution from ProAvio, $1.7K for CineRAID (division of Areca) CR-R08E, an 8-bay 6G SAS expander.

3. Enterprise class drives

Done. :)

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Integrator
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 17, 2012 at 9:17:40 pm

Ok, this is awesome.

Thanks so much.


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Jul 17, 2012 at 9:24:40 pm

Craig, let me know if you need a quote. (You got my message above with my direct email?)

Enhance (and CineRAID/ Areca) will also sell you (e.g. via DV411) just the enclosure, without drives, if you are looking for the best price.

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Integrator
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Craig Wolf
Re: Thoughts on xServe RAID replacement?
on Aug 14, 2012 at 10:45:21 pm

Just want to say Alex was terrific to work with and purchase from.

I just installed the CineRaid, and it was FREAKY FAST!!!!!

Just an amazing product! Thank you again Alex.


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