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The MetaStor E4600, a multi-vendor subsystem

The MetaStor E4600 is a multi-vendor subsystem

The E4600 is a Fibre-to-Fibre array featuring full 2 Gbit Fibre Channel connectivity. The E4600 is based on the newest LSI storage controller, its 4884. The E4600 is a multi-vendor subsystem intended for transaction-intensive, high performance applications. The E4600 stated performance is twice that of the E4400 (110,000 I/O per second from cache). In November 2001, LSI introduced its MetaStor E4600HPCx that was intended for very high throughput, bandwidth-intensive environments. The E4600HPCx is a packaging of multiple E4600 subsystems into various configurations. The E4600 is available in rack-mount modules featuring disk drive modules containing ten or fourteen disk assemblies and a command module containing either single or dual control units. The MetaStor E4600 features dynamic scalability, high-availability, and optimal performance for both transaction and throughput-oriented workloads.

The major competitors to the MetaStor E4600 products are the server specific storage and multi-vendor solutions offered by Sun Microsystems, IBM, Compaq, Dell (CLARiiON arrays), and Hewlett-Packard. The E4600 will also compete directly with the cache-centric offerings from IBM, EMC, HDS, and Sun particularly in SAN consolidation configurations.


The MetaStor E4600 RAID array is targeted for SAN and open-systems single or partitioned servers. A single subsystem can support up to 224 disk drives scaling in capacity up to 16.06 TB (73 GB disk drives). The E4600 is a full Fibre Channel solution supporting eight 2-Gbit redundant Fibre Channel host connections and four FC-AL 2-Gbit Fibre Channel loops as the drive interface. With the introduction of the SANtricity 8.0 software in 2001, the E4600 now supports a point-in-time copy (instant image) and up to 64 partitions. Additionally the E4600 supports Dynamic Volume Expansion allowing a logical volume to grow non-disruptively. The E4600 supports attachment to Windows NT, Solaris, HP-UX, Linux, NetWare, AIX, and IRIX operating systems.

  • Redundant (N+1) power and cooling, dynamically replicable
  • RAID levels 0, 1, 3, 5, and 0+1 (supported concurrently)
  • Global hot-spare disk drives (up to 15)
  • Dual-active 4884 controllers
  • Mirrored R/W cache
  • Up to 8 Fibre Channel host interface connections (via mini-hub)
  • Two redundant Fibre Channel loops disk interface
  • Supports SANtricity Storage Manager 8.0 and SANshare storage partitioning software (LUN-masking)
  • On-line expansion
  • Supports from 10 to 224 disks
  • Disk drive options: 18GB, 10,000 rpm; 36GB, 10,000 rpm; 72GB, 10,000 rpm; 180GB, 7,200 rpm
  • Based on the LSI 4774 controller: 1GB data cache per controller (mirror option); Hardware XOR; 300 MHz control processor; Multi-bus architecture with greater than 500 MB/second internal bandwidth; GBIC connectors (optical standard with copper optional)

4884 Controller - The MetaStor E4400 is based on LSI's 5th generation RAID controller and its second full Fibre Channel (host and device interfaces) subsystem. The 4884 incorporates a 300 MHz control processor with a multi-bus architecture. The controller has incorporated FC mini-hubs for host and device connections. It can support four redundant host connections and dual FC-AL drive interfaces. The mini-hubs maintain loop integrity when a controller is removed. The 4774 supports Fibre Channel point-to-point, FC-AL, and switched fabric class-2 service. The 4774 features 1GB of R/W cache per controller with a mirroring option. It uses the LSI Spectra Memory ASIC with hardware XOR.

The following are the opinions of the Evaluator Group as to the strengths and weaknesses of the MetaStor E4400.

E4600 perceived strengths and weaknesses

Perceived strengths

Availability features - The E4400 subsystem offers failure tolerance across its disk arrays via hardware RAID and redundancy across all of it major component groups; controllers, power supplies, cooling, AC input, and host path fail over.

FC host interface - The subsystem supports Fibre Channel (FC-AL) 2 Gbit attachment for the major UNIX (Sun. HP, and IBM) and Windows NT. The E4600 supports fabric attachments (Class-2 service) for specific hosts.

Performance - The stated performance of the E4600 places it at the front of the distributed arrays.

Subsystem capacity and scalability - The subsystem can scale to over a terabyte in capacity supporting up to 224 disk drives.

Point-in-time copy - The addition of a point in time copy function with SANtricity 8.0 is a major plus for the E-Series subsystems.

Perceived weaknesses

Distribution channels - LSI Logic Storage Systems is primarily an OEM supplier of RAID subsystems and RAID controllers. LSI OEM storage products are sold by IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems, among several others. MetaStor is a relatively small portion of their overall revenue. That said, MetaStor is focusing on distribution and currently increasing the number of its distribution partners.

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