Fujitsu Siemens FibreCAT SX80 iSCSI review

It may be a late entry to the IP SAN party but the FibreCAT SX80 iSCSI aims to beat the rest on value, features and ease of use.

Price
£2,876

Although Fujitsu Siemens has always offered an extensive network storage portfolio its main focus has traditionally been on FC SANs (Fibre Channel Storage Area Network). The FibreCAT SX80 iSCSI represents its first foray into the world of IP SANs (Internet Protocol Storage Area Network)and it aims to offer SMBs an easily deployed and more cost effective alternative to FC SANs.

The SX80 iSCSI uses the same 2U chassis as its fibre channel FibreCAT chums, which is extremely well constructed with attention to detail extending to the sturdy drive carriers. There's room for twelve hot-swap hard disks and it accepts SAS or SATA or a mixture of both. Fault tolerance is extensive with the chassis supporting dual redundant RAID controllers plus dual combined fan and power supply units. Expansion options look good as the array supports the latest high-capacity drives and the single SAS port on the controller enaqbles you add up to four more 12-bay disk shelves.

The RAID controller offers a couple of unusual features developed by Fujitsu Siemens to improve performance and reliability. FibreCAP replaces traditional battery backup packs with a combination of capacitor and CompactFlash card and in the event of a power failure the cache contents are written to the card. The benefit here is that when power is restored the capacitor takes a lot less time to recharge than a standard battery pack and can provide full protection much quicker.

Next up is FibreCache, which provides a high-speed, direct link between two controllers. Data written to one controller is synchronously mirrored to the other and it aims to improve general performance by reducing internal system traffic between the controllers.

For installation you can use a serial port connection to the CLI but make sure you don't lose the supplied cable as the small port on the controller is proprietary. We found it just as easy to point a web browser at the unit's default IP address where we were greeted by a well designed management interface.

You start off by creating virtual disks, or vdisks, where you select the member drives, decide on a RAID array and assign hot-spares if required. The controller supports all key arrays types, which includes the latest dual drive redundant RAID-6. If you have both controllers installed you can also assign a preferred controller to a vdisk. Note that you can't change the RAID array type later on but you can add more drives and expand an array, although this doesn't apply to mirrors. During manual vdisk creation you can decide on the number of volumes it should have and leave the controller to create equal sized volumes which you can then name as required.

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