Storage UPDATE--Serial ATA--August 23, 2004

Storage UPDATE--Serial ATA--August 23, 2004

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1. Commentary

- Having It All

2. News and Views

- New SNIA Group Pushes Storage Management

- EMC to Resell Selected Third-Party Products

3. Resource

- IRPStackSize Mystery

4. New and Improved

- Partnership Creates New Storage Platform

- Eliminate Pain Points Before They Occur

- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 1. Commentary ====

by David Chernicoff, [email protected]

Having It All

It used to be that the attributes "reliable," "inexpensive," and "high-performance" were mutually exclusive in the storage world. In fact, if you could describe a storage-related product as inexpensive, you could safely assume that it wasn't highly reliable or particularly fast. Customers who wanted high reliability and speedy performance needed to go SCSI, and SCSI devices were never inexpensive.

Enterprising hardware developers attempted to remedy the situation by building IDE (aka ATA) RAID controllers and enclosures. However, the limitations of the ATA technology meant that the improvement in performance, although quantifiable, was less than compelling when balanced against the high price.

With IT budgets being tight, the cost of SCSI devices has been a big problem, especially for small businesses. Although they might be able to justify using SCSI devices with servers, workstation and desktop users needed to be running critical, disk-intensive applications to warrant the cost of SCSI subsystems, especially if the applications needed a lot of online storage. The fact that SCSI disk capacities remain significantly smaller than those available in less expensive ATA devices made the decision to use SCSI even harder.

However, Serial ATA (SATA) is finally becoming the answer to disk-performance-versus-cost questions for people who have workstations or small servers. SATA, with its simple seven-wire cables that can be up to a meter long (versus parallel ATA's 40-wire, 40cm cables), 150MBps performance, high capacities (drives as large as 300GB are available), and extremely low cost (approximately $1 per gigabyte), seems like the answer to many storage needs.

Add the current generation of inexpensive SATA RAID adapters, which offload RAID management to an on-card processor and are available for just over $300, and you have the makings of the formerly impossible high-performance, high-availability, inexpensive disk subsystem. And venders are adding a lot of features to these inexpensive controller cards--Broadcom, for example, offers an adapter that supports on-board RAID and hot swapping for less than $400; for more information, see the first URL below. (I should mention that SATA cards without on-board RAID can cost less than $100.)

Maxtor recently introduced the first 300GB-capacity SATA drive. A member of the 7200rpm DiamondMax 10 family, the new drive has a 16MB on-board buffer and support for native command queuing. Combine some of these drives with one of the Broadcom controllers (which are available with up to 8 ports), and for a fraction of the cost of a comparable SCSI system, you could easily have a terabyte of fast, hotswappable, relatively inexpensive RAID 5 storage for demanding workstation applications or for small to midrange servers running disk-intensive applications.

And the impact of SATA doesn't stop there. Vendors of high-end Storage Area Networks (SANs) and Network Attached Storage (NAS) are offering SATA drives as a way to compete on price at the entry and midrange levels of their markets. Earlier this month, HP announced one of the first storage arrays to support either SCSI or SATA drives. In fact, one of the big events last week at HP World 2004 was the Serial Storage Experience, where vendors showcased their SATA products as well as products that use the much pricier Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) technology.

Serial storage technologies seem to be the future of storage, with SATA meeting the needs of small and midrange customers and SAS at the high end. Both are technologies with which IT administrators, especially those responsible for storage, should become familiar. Speaking of HP World, the event's proceedings should soon be available online at the second URL below. The downloadable presentations offer quite a bit of useful information. The Storage track presentations are especially interesting, with topics ranging from cost-justifying SANs to building multivendor switched fabrics.

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==== 2. News and Views ====

by Keith Furman, [email protected]

New SNIA Group Pushes Storage Management

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) hopes to accelerate the growth and adoption of the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) with a new initiative. The SNIA has launched the SMI-Lab5 program at the SNIA Technology Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the objective of strengthening the SMI-S storage management standard. The SMI-Lab5 succeeds the SMI-Lab4, which successfully spurred widespread industry adoption of the SMI-S management standard. The lab initiative lets storage vendors get together and test their solutions with each others' products and with the SMI-S.

According to the SNIA, the SMI-Lab5 will concentrate on three key goals. The first is to provide a testing environment for the upcoming release of SMI-S 1.1. The new release will add support for health and fault management, performance monitoring, security and volume management, and more Network Attached Storage (NAS) management profiles. The second goal is to improve SCSI testing capabilities with an eye toward increasing support for Internet SCSI (iSCSI)-based storage networks. The third goal is to demonstrate SMI-S's appeal in global data center environments by highlighting the specification's support for managing both local and remote storage resources.

EMC to Resell Selected Third-Party Products

A new program will let customers more easily purchase compatible third-party products directly from EMC. The EMC Select program will resell other vendors' products that complement EMC's offerings and help fill out Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) storage solutions. Products currently available through the program include selected connectivity products, host bus adapters (HBAs), and tape libraries. All products in the program have been tested and certified by EMC's E-Lab. "Many of our customers include complementary third-party products in their ILM solutions and have asked EMC to provide these products. EMC Select offers customers a convenient way to obtain these additional components as they implement ILM solutions from EMC," said Howard Elias, EMC executive vice president.

EMC Select initially includes ADIC's Scalar family of automated tape libraries; QLogic SANblade and Emulex LightPulse HBAs; and CNT's FC/9000 Fibre Channel/FICON Director, UltraNet Edge 3000 Storage Routers, and UltraNet Storage Director - eXtended. The products are available now directly from EMC's sales force and its partners.

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==== 3. Resource ====

IRPStackSize Mystery

Forum member "Triage" installed and upgraded VERITAS BackupExec RemoteAgent and Open File Options files from version 8.6 to version 9.1 on a Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 (SP4) file and print server and was prompted to reboot to finalize the upgrade. After the reboot, the server's shares were no longer accessible. Attempting a connection produced a "Not enough server storage is available to process this command" message, even though plenty of storage was available. Event Viewer showed a supply of Event ID 2011 events, "The Server's configuration parameter 'IRPStackSize' is too small for the server to use a local device. Please increase the value of this parameter."

Triage duplicated the IRPStackSize registry entry from another server to the troubled server and solved the problem. However, because a search of TechNet unearthed known problems only for Win2K SP1 and Windows NT 4.0, the reader is still looking for an explanation for the difficulty he had on an SP4 machine. If you know what might be behind his problem, please click the URL below and help out a fellow IT pro.

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==== 4. New and Improved ====

by Jason Bovberg, [email protected]

Partnership Creates New Storage Platform

Luminex Software and Nexsan Technologies announced a partnership that will combine Luminex's Virtual|BLUE 3990 DASD Control Unit or Virtual|BLUE VTS Tape Control Unit and Nexsan's disk storage arrays. The combined storage platform lets a mainframe computer effectively become a server on a Fibre Channel Storage Area Network (SAN). Virtual|BLUE 3990 and VTS permit IBM and plug-compatible mainframes to connect directly to Nexsan's open-system RAID arrays through native ESCON I/O channels. Solutions will carry a "Nexsan certified" designation. For more information about this partnership, visit Luminex or Nexsan on the Web.

Eliminate Pain Points Before They Occur

Tek-Tools announced the availability of Profiler for EMC Celerra CNS, the latest module of the Profiler Rx network resource management suite. This analysis tool enables the intelligent enterprisewide management of Celerra Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices to identify and prevent potential pain points. EMC's Celerra Clustered Network Server (CNS) is a NAS gateway that delivers up to 325,000 operations per second and supports up to 224 direct network connections. Profiler for EMC Celerra CNS lets IT managers perform detailed file analysis to determine how space is being used on the file server, who is using the space, and what size and type of files are being stored. Pricing for Profiler for EMC Celerra starts at $3000. For more information, contact Tek-Tools at 972-980-2890 or on the Web.

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