A fault-tolerant storage system that meets industry standards

If you need a faster, bigger storage solution, the CR8e RAID subsystem from nStor (formerly Conner Storage Systems) might be for you. The CR8e has eight SCSI-3, hot-swappable hard disk bays. It accepts either 4.2GB or 9.1GB hard disks, giving you a total of 72GB of online storage or a total of 63GB of online storage using RAID 5. (The system supports RAID levels 0, 1, 3, 5, 0+1, 30, and 50.) You can chain multiple units together to get a total of 1TB of online storage. CR8e supports 1" or 1.625" 7200 or 10,000 RPM hard disks.

You can further increase CR8e's capacity by reconfiguring and upgrading the system. For example, you can configure the system for dual-bus operation (each bus has four drives) or you can configure it to be a fault-tolerant boot device. In other words, you can use CR8e to boot your system--something you can't ordinarily do with Windows NT. The CR8e uses field upgradeable interface cards to extend the Ultra SCSI signal or to support a variety of host environments. Current interface cards include the Ultra Extended and Differential Converter cards. The unit supports fibre channel and low voltage differential SCSI (LVDS) technologies.

The CR8e is cluster-ready and is a Wolfpack-compliant RAID system. (For more information about clustering solutions, see "Clustering Solutions for Windows NT," June 1997.) You can use either dual PCI controllers or a multihost embedded interface controller for clustering.

CR8e also complies with the SCSI Accessed Fault-Tolerant Enclosure (SAF-TE) specification. Most server and RAID controller manufacturers endorse this specification, which nStor and Intel developed. The SAF-TE standard provides a standardized method for monitoring the temperature, disk drive, power supply, and cooling fan status and communicating this information over the SCSI bus to the host system. The AdminiStor Management Software uses the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to monitor and manage SAF-TE compliant products.

The CR8e system I reviewed came with the American Megatrends' MegaRAID PCI controller. The controller supports the SAF-TE standard. The controller also supports on-the-fly drive expansion and dynamic RAID level migration so that you can add hard disks and change the underlying RAID fault tolerance while the system is running. MegaRAID comes with 4MB of cache memory, which you can configure for write through or write back operation. You can upgrade the cache memory to 128MB. The controller uses an Intel i960 processor running at 33MHz. Although the MegaRAID is a dual-channel SCSI controller, you can purchase it with three SCSI channels if you need more drives or extra bandwidth.

Cool Runnings
Two variable-speed fans and an air plenum design keep the CR8e system cool. The system monitors its temperature and adjusts the fan speed accordingly. You can swap out the fans without shutting down the system.

Another hot-swappable feature is the redundant, current-sharing power supplies. These supplies provide a smooth transition of current when you're changing power supplies. They also prevent surges and spikes that can damage your system. The system has an extra power supply bay to accommodate a third power supply to meet additional power requirements.

You can view the status of the power supply, temperature, and other SAF-TE information from the operator control panel's LCD. You can also use the LCD to configure the SCSI ID settings and the environmental thresholds.

The operator control panel is on the front of the CR8e. The eight SCSI-3 hard disk bays reside behind a lockable, easy-to-open hinged door. The two interface controllers, two power supplies, and two cooling fans are in the back. The CR8e is available in desktop-tower or rack-mount configuration that comes in black or cream.

Take a Look
I found this system easy to set up and use. In addition, I liked many of the system's features, such as the ability to hot swap the drives and the fact that you can change the interface cards to suit any need. If you need a fault-tolerant storage solution, I recommend that you take a look at the CR8e.

Contact: nStor * 407-829-3500 or 800-724-3511
Price: Starts at $10,790
System Configuration: Three 4GB hard disks, Two hot-swappable power supplies, Two hot-swappable cooling fans, Two 1-meter SCSI cables with a very high-density SCSI connector and power cord, Eight-bay rack mount or tower enclosure, AdminiStor Management Software
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