EqualLogic SAN (Part 1)
In order to write about Storage Area Networks (SANs), you really need to have access to a SAN. Now if I had an unlimited budget, I'd happily have set up a SAN here in my office, if only for the simplicity and the ability to centralize storage across all the computers here. And with an iSCSI SAN, there's really no speed penalty at all - in fact, quite the opposite from my limited experience. Windows Server 2008 adds native support for SANs, allowing you to easily integrate them into your environment. Which, of course, was why I needed one so I could write about it for the Windows Server 2008 Administrator's Companion book for MS Press.
So, I poked around a bit, and finally decided that the best looking SANs out there for simplicity, and quality, were those from EqualLogic. Of course, that was a "view from Google" - I had no personal knowledge at all. So, poked around EqualLogic's web site, found the "press contact" email address, and sent off a blind query, asking if they'd lend me one for a few months. Hey, it never hurts to ask!
So, imagine my surprise when I get an email back in less than 24 hours asking me some details about how I'd want to use it, etc., and what I actually needed. After a bit of back and forth, they sent me a new PS3800XV SAN with 16 146GB, 15k SAS drives in it. And set me up with a support contact (nice touch, that!) so that if I had any issues or problems, I could just call or email. Sweet.
So, I'm off on a business trip, and get a call from my co-author, Sharon Crawford. She says the FedEx person had been to the office with this enormous box that weighed 50 kg. And when was I going to be back home because no way was she dragging that monstrosity up 2 flights of stairs to the office.
Well, when I got home, I opened up the shipping box and tried to take it up myself. Nope, that's not going to be fun. So I took the 16 drives out and hauled it up to the office. Once it was all put back together, I had a chance to appreciate it. This is a really, really well built unit. The 16 drives in their hot swap cages are fairly typical, but the entire back panel screams of redundancy. Dual power supplies, dual controllers, each with 3 Gb Ethernet NICs in them. And even with all the drives removed, the whole thing is seriously heavy.
Now the PS3800XV isn't exactly designed for home offices - it takes serious power, and it's not exactly quiet. And I can imagine what an entire rack of these things would sound like starting up. But even just the one had me looking for a closet to hide it in - when you first start it up, it sounds like a 747 taking off. After a bit it settles down to a dull roar, but that first power up is impressive.
The goal of this exercise was to test out a SAN in "production" - both as a clustering resource (since Windows Server 2008 doesn't support shared SCSI for clustering, unlike its predecessors), and as a central storage for holding virtual machines. In part 2 we'll talk about exactly how well that went, from creating our first LUN to using it to host 8 Longhorn server VMs.