Lenovo ThinkSystem DS6200 review

Lenovo’s DS6200 breaks the cost barrier for high-performance Flash storage

IT Pro Verdict

The ThinkSystem DS6200 is a fine choice for mid-sized businesses that want the best storage performance, real-time data tiering and scalability at a sensible price


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    Top performance; Powerful converged FC/iSCSI controllers; End-to-end SAS3 support; Highly scalable; Good value


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    Host port modes must be set from the CLI

Lenovo is upping its game in the storage market as its latest ThinkSystem DS series of arrays aim to offer an enterprise-class feature set and performance at a price mid-sized businesses can afford. On review we have the top-dog DS6200 a 2U appliance that targets I/O intensive applications and offers end-to-end 12Gbits/sec SAS support, real-time data tiering, high availability and a mighty expansion potential.

Along with 24 SFF drive bays, the DS6200 is endowed with dual controllers running in active/active mode. Each as a generous 16GB of cache memory, perform low-latency cache mirroring and team up a super-capacitor and Flash memory to protect their contents during a power outage.

Our review system has Lenovo's CNCs (converged network controllers) installed, which each have four SFP+ ports and support both 8/16Gbits/sec Fibre Channel and 1/10GbE iSCSI operations. You need to manually set their personality using the CLI but you can have them as all FC, all iSCSI or a mixture of both where the first pair are FC and the second pair are iSCSI.

High-speed SAS3 support extends to the CNC's expansion ports. You can daisy-chain up to nine disk shelves from them using fault-tolerant links for a total of 240 SFF or 108 LFF drives, and mix and match different shelves as well.

Lenovo ThinkSystem DS6200 review: Installation

Deployment doesn't get any easier as the appliance's web console runs a wizard that handles enabling management access and configuring system settings including SNMP monitoring. Out of the box, our CNCs had their port personalities set to iSCSI but we wanted FC support for our performance tests.

It's easy enough to change and we used the PuTTY client to SSH to the appliance and from its CLI, used the set host-port-mode' command to change them all to FC. Next up is virtual storage provisioning, where the appliance manages two storage pools with one assigned to each controller.

We were supplied with eight 800GB SSDs for testing and quickly created a four-drive RAID10 pool, or disk group, for each controller. As we were only using SSDs, the appliance placed them in the Performance tier and if you add SAS hard disks, they'll go in the Standard tier while Midline SAS drives are automatically allocated to the Archive tier.

The base license only supports real-time data tiering across SAS and ML-SAS HDDs and to use all three tiers, you'll need an optional license which costs around 2,553. However, the base license does enable SSD read caches which can be assigned to disk groups and are not part of the tiering process.

Lenovo ThinkSystem DS6200 review: FC performance

For performance testing, we used two Xeon Scalable and two Xeon E5-2600 v4 Windows Server 2016 hosts, all equipped with QLogic single-port 16Gbits/sec FC adapters. We mapped a dedicated virtual volume to each server and connected two servers to Controller A and the other two to Controller B.

Our first test using a single server delivered excellent results with Iometer reporting steady sequential read and write rates both of 12.3Gbits/sec. Random read rates held steady while write speeds dropped to 7.5Gbits/sec.

With all four servers in the Iometer mix, we recorded top cumulative sequential reads and writes both of 49Gbits/sec. Total random read and write speeds settled at 48Gbits/sec and 30Gbits/sec with each server recording average I/O response times of less than 0.3ms

I/O throughput is excellent as Iometer recorded cumulative sequential read and write rates of 388,000 and 115,000 IOPS. Moving to random operations saw read and write throughput drop to 228,000 and 114,000 IOPS with latency on all four servers hovering around the 1.2ms mark.

Lenovo ThinkSystem DS6200 review: Snapshots and management

The base license includes snapshot support for up to 128 targets which can be optionally increased to 512 or 1024. They're easy to manage and can be run on-demand or scheduled as often as every minute within a set daily time window, with an option to retain up to 32 for each volume.

We found snapshot recovery is equally swift as we selected a volume and viewed its snapshots in the list below. After choosing the one we wanted, we disconnected any hosts, selected the Rollback option and had our deleted data returned to its rightful place in a matter of seconds.

Asynchronous replication is another optional feature and a bonus is the DS6200 can replicate volumes to any remote ThinkSystem DS or older Storage S series appliance. It requires iSCSI connections to function and can be set to run immediately and as often as every hour.

We found the appliance's web interface very easy to use, and it provided quick access to the various storage functions. It also provides a handy performance section where we could monitor all components ranging from a single drive or host port to an entire controller.

We run Lenovo's XClarity Administrator as a Hyper-V VM in the lab and it automatically discovered the DS6200. Once we'd supplied our management credentials, it was amalgamated into the Storage section of the XClarity web console where we could view a full hardware inventory, monitor power consumption and temperatures, remotely control power and watch out for system alerts.

Lenovo ThinkSystem DS6200 review: Verdict

Mid-sized businesses that baulk at the cost of all-Flash storage arrays can rest easy with Lenovo's ThinkSystem DS6200. It offers a host of affordable enterprise storage virtualization features and teams them up with integral real-time data tiering, great Flash performance and plenty of room to expand capacity.


The ThinkSystem DS6200 is a fine choice for mid-sized businesses that want the best storage performance, real-time data tiering and scalability at a sensible price

Chassis: 2U rack

Storage: 24 x SFF hot-swap drive bays

Power: 2 x 580W hot-plug PSUs

Two controllers each with the following:

Memory: 16GB cache with super-capacitor and Flash memory

RAID support: RAID1, 10, 5, 6

Data ports: 4 x SFP+ supporting 8/16Gbps FC and/or 1/10GbE iSCSI

Management: Gigabit Ethernet

Expansion: 12Gbps SAS3 ports (max 108 LFF/240 SFF drives)

Other ports: Mini-USB CLI port

Snapshots: Base 128 (optional 512 or 1024)

Management: Web browser

Warranty: 3 years on-site 9x5 NBD

Options: SSD Data Tiering License (01GV561), £2,553 ex VAT

Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.