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Cross-Platform Company Storage Architecture? 60

Eric^2 asks: "My company is preparing to implement a major network storage upgrade, and I'd like to get some ideas from Slashdot about what devices should be considered, and hopefully some experiences with some of the offerings that are available. What types of storage are you using and what would you recommend?"
"We are currently using approximately 2TB of storage space, and will need to expand to over 10TB in the next two to three years. We have a mix of Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux clients and servers. All of our authentication is presently done through an Active Directory. If possible, we would like to centralize all of the storage into a single namespace, such as OpenAFS or DFS. Anything we purchase will have to be under maintenance contract for hardware such as failed drives or controllers. Ideally, whatever system we choose would allow us to purchase both high-speed SCSI spindles for our transactional needs and lower-speed SATA high capacity drives for our archival storage needs."
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Cross-Platform Company Storage Architecture?

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  • NetApp (Score:4, Informative)

    by ZESTA ( 18433 ) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @05:09AM (#15355947) Homepage
    Depends on what your budget is, but I would look into Network Appliance ( Their systems are top notch, and have some very cool software features. They support NFS, CIFS, iSCSI, and Fibre Channel as connection methods.

    • Re:NetApp (Score:2, Informative)

      The OP doesn't say much about the selection criteria - scalable? performant? manageable? cheap?

      If it's cheap, then Netapp might not qualify... :)

      What about technologies - NAS? Host-attached? Gateway/NAS? Grids?

      Other companies/products to consider:

      EMC [] (The Celerra is a nice product)

      Onstor [] Bobcat

      HP []

      IBM []

      Hitachi []

      Panasas []

      Exanet []

      Yotta Yotta []

      StoreAge []

      If you want basic raid devices look at Infortrend []/Transtec []. Their S-ATA offerings now support RAID-6 and are dirt cheap.

      • Re:NetApp (Score:4, Informative)

        by Jim_Maryland ( 718224 ) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @09:47AM (#15356945)
        In some cases, going cheap isn't always a good idea. A group that manages one of our labs decided to buy a device from Excel Meridian [] and in my opinion, it's a piece of junk. We found limitations that affect both a mixed OS environment as well as scalability (not in disk space but handling larger Active Directory structures). The Excel Meridian device we have has about 6 TB of storage so space isn't an issue but the ability to execute files on it from an NFS mount fails. We also find that it can't join a domain that has a large number of user entries (don't recall the exact number but want to say it's around 1000 users). For a small workgroup this might be fine but not for a larger corporation.

        NetApp is by far my choice but if I need to get a cheaper device, Dell PowerVaults are generally adequate unless you are looking for highly transactional file activies (we've run into the file lock problem on the device occasionally if we process files, in our case image processing). To avoid the file lock though, we process locally on our UNIX boxes and transfer the results to the PowerVault. One limitation we find on the PowerVault (and likely it affects all MS Win32 based file systems) is case sensitivity. I believe you "can" change to allow differentiation of files based on case but Microsoft doesn't recommend it.
    • I absolutely second that endorsement. We've been using NetApp Filers for about five years now for everything from direct FC storage for Oracle, to back-end storage for media streaming/serving, to a fileserver acting as a gateway between two LANs to give us a virus-checking point and cross-platform access for Win, Mac, Linux, and Solaris clients.

      The Filers perform outstandingly and do everything they're touted to do (no vaporware yet!). The machines themselves, however, are nothing compared to the service f
      • I'd love to back this up as well, we use our NetApps for a mixture of CIFS, iSCSI, NFS and soon FC as well.

        Everything just works, their boxes are incredibly stable. Ours are pushing 900 days of uptime, with zero service interruptions during that time.

        We've had one hard disk fail, I got a call from NetApp support while at lunch and I literally had to argue with them to get them to just drop ship the drive and not send a tech along to replace it.

        NetApp is a fantastic product, and really offers surprisingly go
  • by Alowishus ( 34824 ) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @05:10AM (#15355949) Homepage
    I went through this decision process at a civil engineering firm with 3TB of data. We wound up building a SAN out of XServe RAID cabinets, QLogic SANbox switches, XSan software for the OS X machines and ADIC's StorNext FX software for the Linux and Windows. XSan/StorNext is a shared filesystem, which inherently gets you a combined namespace without any DFS-type machinations. All servers literally mount the very same volume and access it simultaneously.

    XSan is really the deal of the century - you can build a full-blown StorNext system starting with ADIC's software, but that approach can be exceptionally expensive. Instead, start with XSan (which is a functional but slightly stripped version of StorNext) and then use ADIC's much less expensive StorNext FX client licenses for each non OS X server that needs to join.

    Redundancy can be everywhere. Start with a pair of redundant XServes as metadata controllers. Add a pair of redundant SAN switches. Apple's FiberChannel HBAs are all dual channel, as are the XServe RAID cabinets. For any non-Apple hardware, buy dual channel QLogic HBAs.

    Apple provides a variety of maintenance contracts for all their hardware, as does QLogic. ADIC and Apple provide support maintenance agreements for the software. The only missing piece of your equation is SCSI-based storage. But since this whole system is entirely standards-based, all you need to do is find a favorite vendor of SCSI FiberChannel cabinets and drop a few into your SAN and then partition them accordingly, right along with all the SATA storage.

    It's a beautiful system, and a raging bargain compared to every other comparable solution I've investigated.

    • SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- At NAB 2006, Exavio Inc. (Booth # SL585) will unveil innovative new workflows that leverage the ExaMax 9000 I/O Accelerator to deliver increased performance and efficiency in existing complex storage environments. The presentation will include an uncompressed HD workflow for Apple(R) Power Mac(R) with Xsan(R) and a multi-stream PC-based 2K digital intermediate (DI) workflow demonstration running off an accelerated storage area network.

      "In the post production worl
    • I can also recommend the Xserve RAIDs from Apple.

      Mostly for the RAID Manager app, which, if you open it up and pull out the .jar file, can be run on any system with a java VM. I had Xserve RAIDs attached to Xserves, Sun servers, Linux servers, and a Windows server.

      See: []

  • Venti (Score:4, Informative)

    by DrSkwid ( 118965 ) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @05:14AM (#15355968) Homepage Journal
    Either through plan9 port or the real thing

    Venti is block level and, as such, coalesces identical blocks, a bit like LZW, so backing up 100 Windows machines doesn't take up 100x the disk space of backing up 1 windows machine. [] [] [] []

    Sean Quinlan (one of the 2 Venti inventors) moved from Bell Labs by Google.

    News for nerds, stuff that matters
    Post Comment
    Database maintenance is currently taking place. Some items such as comment posting and moderation are currently unavailable.

    MySQL r0x0rs

  • Application ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pwet ( 975604 )
    you forgot the most important : what are you using your storage for ?
    • Everything except OS boot partitions. I want all of our data to reside on this solution. We have a large Oracle database, a few smaller SQL databases, lotus notes databases, Maildir folders, web site folders, and a few terabytes of artwork, cad drawings, and office documents. This means that I will have both clients and servers of all three stated platforms accessing the community storage.

      I'm not looking for a *cheap* solution, per se, although price will be factored into the decision. What I'm looking
  • NetApp (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I would definitely recommend NetApp. We have both a Linux (Debian) and Windows environment and the NetApp works brilliant with both. We initially went with the FAS270 which can scale to 6TB directly or with the upgrade of the "head" I think you can go up to a few PB. It was the most cost effective and scaleable we could find and their support/response is much better than EMC. Builtin technology is fantastic and flexible and I know they have a tie-in module for cheaper archival, I think (not really sure on t
  • it depends... (Score:5, Informative)

    by therus121 ( 536202 ) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @06:52AM (#15356262)
    You need to see how you want to access your storage, and what is going to be running on it, as to how you go:-

    SAN - block level data access to storage. Good for databases; low client counts (because SAN ports are expensive relative to ethernet) - but with high IO demands. EMC are good, but pricey - a low to mid end Clariion would probably be the right range to aim at.

    NAS - file level data access to storage. Good for situations where there are many clients connecting, and their IO demands are not excessive. Netapps filers are very good at this (if youy can find information on their new OS (10GX) then it's VERY interesting. ILM use them in their render farms.

    iSCSI - a blend of the best of both, but it's still looked upon as an emerging technology. You get (or did) free iSCSI licenses with netapps filers.

    O'Reilly have a good book on this. "Using SAN's and NAS" which is vendor agnostic []
    • Re:it depends... (Score:2, Informative)

      by TrueKonrads ( 580974 )
      Don't forget that there is ATA-over-ethernet [] You can buy the 10 disk arrays make them RAID5 and offer as SAN solutions to linux machines with ease, without expensive fiber switches.
    • I would certainly consider an EMC Clariion. The Symmetrix is probably overkill for your needs and budget. (Disclaimer: I work for EMC on the Symmetrix side.) I suspect that Clariion also supports iSCSI. (You could check with Dell's or EMC's web sites.)

      Also, don't forget about backup. Sure, you're protected by RAID, but with the more advanced systems, you can send a single command to the storage system and make a copy of everything within the array to allow you to recover from user errors (or virus dest
  • Samba, Dfs, and NFS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by skroz ( 7870 ) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @07:02AM (#15356288) Homepage
    At my company we've used a number of Dell PowerEdge Linux servers running Samba. All of the servers are then tied together using Samba's Dfs implementation to "stitch" individual components together for Windows clients and NFS/AutoFS/symlinks for Linux clients. This is all accomplished with some very simple perl and shell scripts.

    This likely won't work in all environments, however. Our data is divided into thousands of discrete and manageable chunks stored in individual directories, so stitching it together via an automated process is relatively simple. Part of the job of the scripts mentioned above is to "rebalance" these chunks (move them from server to server) to prevent any one volume from becoming full. If your data "components" are large, or if your data is too active to move regularly, this won't work.

    It's the poor man's cluster, and there are better solutions out there, but it works extremely well in our case.
  • 1) SAN, any SAN, pick a SAN. I'm not going to endorse any one brand here.
    2) a pair of IBM pSeries boxes that can be DLPAR'd
    3) Put all storage, including boot disks, on the SAN. All servers boot off of the SAN within the pSeries hardware. All servers have a failover DLPAR ready to go on the second pSeries box.
    4) Run Linux on all of the DLPAR's. The storage servers would be running OpenAFS.

    OpenAFS client is well supported on *NIX & Windows... it's a mature and actively developed platform. Very secure
  • etherdrive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @08:08AM (#15356494) Homepage Journal
    Here are some guys my friend was looking at for a storage solution. Basically they just ethernet-ify as many hard drives as you want. How you configure them is up to you. It's a bit expensive, but it's incredibly simple and flexible. []
  • How we skin a cat... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gurutc ( 613652 ) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @08:08AM (#15356499)
    Here's a pretty OS-nonspecific example of cross-platform storage implementation. Some of it is about backups and may seem off-topic but is valuable as an example of how much you can mix platforms and OS to get what you need in network storage solutions.

    We protect 3 Terabytes per night from 250 remote servers with a backup strategy using RSYNC. These include both Windows and Netware servers. Our centralized backup file server is a single Dell PowerEdge 2850 with dual Xeon CPUs which runs OpenSuse 10 and has a combination of both Dell Powervault RAID SCSI enclosures and LaCie Big Disk USB External drives attached. Using a fast server with an OS that we can tune gives us incredible multistream-capable throughput for network storage. Think about the speed required folks, 3 Terabytes in 12 hours from 250 hosts at 75 sites. (Well RSYNC means we don't send all the data, but still! ;-0 )

    Then, each day, we back up the Linux box using a Windows server installed on a Dell Optiplex workstation box with a tape jukebox attached and running CA ArcServe. That way we get a daily snapshot to tape allowing us to do a scheduled rotation.

    This means we are following the Golden Rule of Backups, which applies no matter how much data you back up, which is this: Always have 2 separate backup copies of important data. And it's better if they are different types of media. And with SANS and NAS solutions redundancy is critical. These acronyms should be called AIOB which stands for 'All In One Basket'

    RSYNC has done what no commercial software seemed to be able to do: give us a good working backup system for our enterprise. It uses very efficient synchronization and compression algorithms to move the changes from our distributed servers. If you want this rig to do backups too I recommend considering it. Here's a link to the RSYNC Project: []

    Here's the Novell RSYNC forum: hread.php?group_id=1148&group=novell.forge.rsync.h elp []

    And here's a good resource for RSYNC on Windows: rsync.shtml []

    Here are two more good RSYNC Windows links: ster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=6&MMN_position =23:23 [] []

    The NASBackup Project is a neat Open Source effort to make a gui-based RSYNC client for Windows. It works very well.

    More info: RSYNC uses an algorithm that only sends the changes in the file systems. This algorithm is so efficient that i can even get down to only sending the changed blocks in an individual file without having to send the whole file. It works very well for us even over DSL/Cable speed connections. You want to optimize your entire I/O schema including all network layers as well as the way you read, write, and cache file and database operations on all connected hosts.

    I hope this little bit of info helps you.
  • (Score:2, Informative)

    by gurutc ( 613652 )
    Free NAS Wireless, secure, open source, multi platform, easy to configure, etc etc etc. For free! I've used it. Compared to the LaCie network devices (not the USB LaCies, they're great) it is FASTER! But a dedicated Linux box you config yourself and with a tuned IP stack is quicker. However, for the effort of downloading a teensy ISO, burning a CD, and spending 5 minutes to install and config, this solution is really astounding.
  • by C_Kode ( 102755 )
    Use a SAN. If you can't afford fibre channel then use iSCSI. The prices are coming down and you can mix SCSI and UltraATA storage on it. So you get local disk performace on all devices (using FC that is) and you can implement ATA where you require mass storage but not high performance and SCSI 320s where you need the transaction processing.

    We use SCSI 320s for our main file servers and databases and use UltraATA storage for disk to disk backups and other non-highspeed required storage.
  • We just did a similar project, and concluded that iSCSI was the way to go for complete cross-platform accessibility. We evaluated the contenders, and LeftHand came out on top. EqualLogic was a close second. Both vendors allow you to add iSCSI storage devices in smallish increments, which each add their cache, bandwidth, and processing power to the storage pool.

    Nothing from EMC, HP, or the other big boys came close in terms of functionality and scalability at this low end of the market. EqualLogic and LeftHa
  • Talk to top vendors. We just decided on a Dell/EMC CX3-40 system, after comparing systems from HP (EVA 6000), IBM (DS4800) and StorageTek (FLX 380). They were so close to one another in support and features. Surprisingly, their engineers and sales teams were quite complimentary of each other, and each attested to interoperability (our mix of WS2K3EE, RHEL/SEL, VMware ESX and MOSXS). Quite honestly, we would be very happy with any one of them. Dell just went all out and gave us the best value.
  • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @09:40AM (#15356895) Homepage Journal
    Google's Search Appliance [] has been on the market for years. They have a page of user stories [], which includes National Semiconductor, Nextel, Universities, government agencies, large and small companies.

    Given an effective search, you can store the information on anything. That means you can deploy many cheap and fast servers close to the source of information creation, and have that information available everywhere. With 250 GB drives going for $50, you could have all 10TB of storage taken care of twice for $4,000.

  • by Evro ( 18923 )
    I heartily recommend Isilon's storage system. It's expensive but the features are incredible. The killer feature for us was the ability to add more space without having to muck around with repartitioning or rebuilding arrays. Our system has 3 nodes each with 9 drives, we can lose a disk or an entire node and the system doesn't miss a beat, it begins restriping the data that was on the dead disk onto other free space. When you want to add another node to add more space, you basically plug it in and turn
  • We tried a few of the "big company" combo SAN/NAS devices and found that they... well suck. They can't do all things well. They can either do Windows well, or UNIX well, or SAN well. But not all things well no matter what the marketing literature says. It is also very simple to end up paying a whole lot of money by the time you get the pieces and parts put together.

    What we ended up doing is getting a SATA2 SAN that supports 5 simultaneous connections over gig copper. We connect to it over iSCSI. We have:
    - M
  • Looks like you are looking for mid-tier disk that is able to handle Fibre Channel (SCSI) and SATA disk behind a single controller. You have several choices including SUN, EMC, IBM, Xiotech, and HDS. I would include all of those in your research. Price and performance leaders in the space you are looking at are probably SUN and Xiotech, with SUN's new storage line (aquired from StorageTek) being some of the best bang for the buck storage around. This is assuming that you are looking for enterprise qualit
  • From an email I, ironically, received today.

    I'm relocating to US from beginning of June, and I will be available under:

    Krzysztof (Kristof) Franek
    CEO & President
    Open-E, Inc.
    2694 Middlefield Rd, Suite A
    Redwood City, CA 94063

    Open-E develops innovative software products for cost-effective Network Attached Storage (NAS) and iSCSI solutions. It is with great excitement to announce that we are growing globally with our products and talented team members. []
  • I can't remember exactly where I heard, but a company called Ibrix is doing exactly what you're looking for. So much so, in fact, that I was suspicious that this was a spam question ;)

    Their site seems to be down now, but google for them and you will see articles.

    HTH, i'm no storage / SAN expert.
  • You mentioned needing a support contract. What happens if the system goes down? Does the company go out of business after a few hours of downtime? How about a day? Do-it-yourself solutions don't have full software support, even if your hardware support is above reproach and you subscribe to RHN or whatever. In 24/7/365 environments with big money on the line, you need to go with NetApp like everybody here is telling you. Always ask your sales reps how long it will take to get a support expert ON SITE
    • Thanks for taking the time to respond!

      You mentioned needing a support contract. What happens if the system goes down? Does the company go out of business after a few hours of downtime? How about a day?

      No, but we are out some money. We could probably survive one days outage, and our existing NetApp FAS250 has next-day service on it. I'm happy with the NetApp, but want to do my homework on this next storage device just like I did three years ago.

      Looks like there is enough advice on vendors and hardware spec
      • Keep the thing updated, and set auto-updates to do dry-runs and email you what they could do. ... I actually have a nice shell script for that ... ask me and I'll post it online for you.

        Yes, please post it or email it ... I've got a dozen or so Debian servers that could benefit from it regardless of the new storage box. Thanks in advance.

        My script in its current form will email security-related update notifications as they arrive, and other upgrades are only reported on Mondays. Some day, I'll write

  • OK. Up front:

    I work at Sun. I do not speak for Sun in any way, however. None of what I'm saying is priviledged, or otherwise not publicly available.

    A lot of what is right for you depends on your exact setup. Given your description, I'm assuming you are primarily concerned with file serving for clients, with the possibility of needing to centralize some primary storage for DB or similar app-specific servers. I'm also going to assume you are single-site (given the rela

    • First, thank you for this information. I've been looking at a solution like this, but hadn't realized that the Sun support contract would cover *everything* in the solution, which is a huge plus in my book.

      I've been following ZFS for the last few months (since the November slashdot post about the open source release) and am very impressed with its' capabilities. That, combined with the binary-ready build of AFS on Solaris, and this is a very attractive solution that I'll look into.

      Talk to a Sun sales rep
      • Honestly,just go with the 800 number. I can't say who your Acct Rep would be these days.

        Also, I'm not 100% sure that OpenAFS is covered by Sun. I'm pretty sure it is, but... Everything else definitely is covered, though, and at the minimum, you'll get help from a Sun SysEng if you're looking at OpenAFS. (with a Gold Contract, SysEng's respond quite fast. ;-)


  • I think what you should be looking at is a SAN that has the capability of a NAS frontend. For your transactional/database loads you will want block-level I/O which usually means either fibre channel or iSCSI connections from the servers. For the file sharing you can either connect a regular server to the SAN and have it handle exporting the storage or get NAS functionality from your SAN vendor. Most NAS functionality from SAN vendors only does SMB or NFS but is nicely integratable and manageable.
    We were in
  • I can highly recommend NetApp. My installation supports about 100TB on NetApp FAS and R servers. The FAS servers use FC disks for very high performance at fairly high cost. The R servers use SATA disks for reasonable performance at reasonable cost. Support is excellent. We support Solaris (NFS), Windows (CIFS), Linux (NFS) and Mac OS (NFS) from the NetApps. The same file system can be exported through NFS and/or CIFS.

    We tried Snap Servers, Sun SPARC boxes with FC disk arrays, Linux boxes, various RAID
  • There are item specific bits to consider on this.

    1) It doesn't matter if you use SCSI or FC - if it's connected via iSCSI that will be your bottle neck. 2gb / 4gb Fiber Channel will give you the perf that iSCSI won't. Eiter way spend the money on good HBA's, and get a spare

    2) If it's not something you're already fimilar with, you should spend the money and get a box from EMC and let them deal with it. Yes, some times its worth spending the money on. They show up to swap out any "issue" component, and th
  • I'd say one of the first questions you need to ask yourself (and your management and legal people) is what level of security you require for your data. After that read up on NFSv3 security; a good article is at dfs/musings.pdf [] , which touches on most of the major problems. And yes, the situation really is that bad, and tools to exploit the numerous weaknesses are easily obtainable. NFSv3 "security" is a joke. Unless you use it purely as a back end system on
  • Netapp (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TopSpin ( 753 ) * on Friday May 19, 2006 @07:29PM (#15369668) Journal
    Netapp has a new division called "StoreVault" that is about to release new products that might be ideal for your purposes. There isn't much information publically available yet, but what is available is:

    o Data OnTap OS
    o NAS and iSCSI
    o Optional FC interface (yes, NAS, iSCSI and FC in one device)
    o "simplified" web interface
    o Based on FAS250/270
    o $5000 entry level price
    o Scalable to 12TB

    Presumably the products will launch some time in June.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell