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We got our hands on one of Thecus' eight-bay N8800PRO storage appliances for the purpose of taking Open-E's Data Storage Software V6 out for a test drive. Read on as we set up, manage, and benchmark this marriage of storage-oriented hardware and software.
Small and medium businesses, government offices, health care providers, and research institutions generate lots of data every single day. All of that information needs to be archived and protected. As a case in point, the German Electron Synchrotron, DESY, in Hamburg, generates 100 TB of raw data per experiment, and a typical health care provider can generates hundreds of gigabytes per month in patient records.
Beyond simply storing data, managing it cost-effectively is critical, as is delivering the information to users and applications where and when they need it. Business-class storage devices are designed to do that over a number of different interfaces. Direct-attached and network-attached are two of the most popular, though storage area networks built on Fibre Channel or iSCSI technology are popular as well.
Even as enterprise-grade technology increasingly finds its way into SMB environments, NAS remains a moderate-performance, affordable technology for small- and medium-sized businesses. Flexible protocol support and provisions for backup technologies like data replication and synchronization are particularly attractive.
There are plenty of network-attached appliances available. However, the selection thins out considerably you filter by reliability, performance, enterprise support, and reasonable cost. Thecus sent over its N8800PRO to demonstrate that a storage server with redundant power supplies, a multi-core host processor, and performance-oriented networking can be had for about $1600 without hard drives. Add eight of your own 2 TB nearline SATA disks and the unit's cost hovers around $3600.
But an accessible price tag isn't the only interesting aspect of this NAS device. You can also install Open-E's Data Storage Software V6 on it, which expands its feature set beyond what Thecus' own firmware offers. Some of Open-E DSS 6.0's capabilities include iSCSI, CIFS, and Fibre Channel support. Installing the third-party firmware is relatively easy from a flash drive or CD. As the installation process progresses, device drives (needed for the storage and Ethernet controllers) are automatically configured.
In the pages that follow, we'll discuss how Open-E DSS 6.0 and Thecus' N8800OPRO interact, with an emphasis on the third-party operating environment. There are integrators who offer package deals, pre-installing Open-E DSS 6.0 on the Thecus appliance. The cost of that combination often depends on the features you enable and the storage array installed.