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Nexsan spins its own NAS array, the E5000 platform

Nexsan Corp. comes up with its own NAS array, the E5000, with support for tiering software and solid-state caching to boost performance.

Nexsan Corp. is taking another shot at delivering network-attached storage (NAS). The vendor today launched the Nexsan E5000 NAS array platform that uses a file system with the vendor’s IP as well as solid-state drives (SSDs), tiering software and caching to boost performance.

Nexsan has gone the NAS route with partners in the past. In 2008, it launched a NAS gateway (called The Edge) that was based on Windows Unified Data Storage Server (WUDSS) and connected to the vendor’s storage arrays. It also combined with ONStor for a meet-in-the channel low-end NAS bundle of ONStor NAS heads and Nexsan storage.

This time, Nexsan is using its Assureon CAS (content addressable storage) technology and its block-based E-series arrays to build its E5000 NAS series.

“It’s our first NAS product where we control the stack. We don’t have to depend on anyone else’s roadmap vision,” said Gary Watson, Nexsan's co-founder and chief technology officer. “This is the beginning of the family. We have quite a roadmap coming.”

That roadmap includes unified storage, but for now Nexsan has NAS-only E5110 and E5310 models. They both use Nexsan FASTier SSD cache that boosts performance of applications with random I/O workloads.

The FASTtier read and write cache supports multiple SSD technologies, including a plug-in PCI DRAM card, single-level cell (SLC) and enterprise multi-level cell (eMLC) flash.

The E5000 systems support CIFS and NFS. Nexsan executives didn't disclose much detail about their file system except to say it has Unix elements. “We're telling people that we drew from the Assureon and E-series technology base to create these products, but we want the latitude to do what we want under the covers,” said Don Chouinard, Nexsan’s director of product marketing.

The E5110 comes with one or two controllers and scales from 8 TB to 62 TB of capacity with an optional 100 GB of SSD in a 3U or 6U configuration. It holds up to 31 disks through an expansion shelf, with two Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports per controller and two optional 10 GbE ports per controller.

The 3U dual-controller 5310 model scales from 9 TB to 720 TB of capacity, with up to 1.5 TB of FASTier cache. It holds between 18 and 240 disks. The device can be expanded with Nexsan’s E18 and E60 block storage arrays, which support SATA, 7,200 rpm NL-SAS and 15,000 rpm SAS drives. The 5310 includes four GbE ports and two optional 10 GbE ports per controller.

Pricing for the E5110 is listed at $15,000, while the pricing for the E5310 ranges from $82,000 to $183,000 depending on the combination of E18 and E60 expansion shelves.

Software features for the E5000 line include thin provisioning, reservation-less snapshots, replication, and Active Directory and LDAP integration.

Watson said FASTier is optimized to handle the random I/O requests in virtualized server environments. “FASTier helps that environment go quite faster,” he said, “because VMware and Hyper-V have the effect of being a sausage grinder of mixed requests and SSD cache makes random workloads go faster.”

According to Terri McClure, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, because the operating system for the E5000 models resides on a fixed Read Only Memory (ROM), the memory for the OS is inside the controller. This accelerates the boot up and other system functions, and helps deploy the SSD caching where it makes sense for performance and reliability.

McClure compared the E-Centre management GUI to an Apple-like interface. The GUI uses wizards to help create pools, snapshots, volume management, asynchronous replication and clustering for high availability.

“It’s going to appeal to the next generation of storage administrator who grew up using Apple products,” she said. “It’s also good for small- to medium-sized enterprises that don’t necessarily have a storage administrator.”

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