IBM Unveils New Midrange Storage Systems
November 15, 2005 Alex Woodie
IBM last week unveiled two new network storage servers designed to help small and mid size businesses consolidate their storage. The N5000 range of devices can be equipped with Fibre Channel and SATA disk drives, can be clustered for high availability, and support multiple operating systems, including Windows, Unix, and Linux. The devices also support Linux and AIX partitions running on iSeries servers, but not i5/OS.
IBM’s new N5000 line of storage servers are aimed at customers requiring a network attached storage (NAS) solution for powering disaster recovery and disk-to-disk backups at small data centers and remote regional offices. “The N5000 series supports a broad range of network-attached storage needs, and is designed to provide more scale, more attachment flexibility, and a richer set of software capabilities,” says Barry Rudolph, vice president of storage systems at IBM.
There are two components of the line, including the N5200 and the N5500. The entry-level N5200 A10 device is equipped a single Intel Xeon processor running at 2.8 GHz, 2 GB of memory, four integrated Gigabit Ethernet ports, four 2 Gbps Fibre Channel ports, and three PCI-X expansion slots. The N5200 A20, which is a beefed up version of the A10 used for clustering implementations where failover is required, doubles the processing, memory, and expansion capabilities, and includes an Infiniband (IB) cluster interconnect between the two processing nodes.
Users build up their physical storage with their N5200 and N5500 units by purchasing EXN1000 or EXN2000 rack-mountable disk drive expansion enclosures. They can connect up to 12 of these disk enclosures to their N5200 unit (depending on the type of disk used), or up to 24 of these disk enclosures if they choose the larger N5500 unit.
The EXN1000 storage expansion unit contains 14 SATA disk drives, either in 250 GB or 320 GB capacities, providing the N5200 user a maximum of 40 TB of storage across nine enclosures holding 126 300-GB SATA drives, or a total storage capacity of 24 TB across 168 drives in 12 units if the users choose the 250 GB drives.
The EXN2000 storage expansion unit contains 14 Fibre Channel disk drives, including 10K RPM drives in 72, 144, and 300 GB capacities, or 15K RPM drives in 72 or 144 GB capacities, giving N5200 users a maximum capacity of 50 TB across 168 drives in a full complement of 12 enclosures. N5200 and N5500 users cannot mix and match between SATA and Fibre Channel drives, and if they choose the more expensive Fibre Channel drives, they must all be spinning at the same speed.
The N5500 A10 device is equipped a single Xeon processor running at 2.8 GHz, 4 GB of memory, four integrated Gigabit Ethernet ports, four 2 Gbps Fibre Channel ports, and three PCI-X expansion slots. Like the N5200 line, there is also a beefed up version of the base unit used for clustering implementations where failover is required. This N5500 A20 unit doubles the processing, memory, and expansion capabilities of the base unit, and the IB cluster interconnect.
Like the N5200 line, the N5500 uses EXN1000 and EXN2000 storage expansion units, each of which contain 14 SATA or 14 Fibre Channel disk drives. Fully outfitted, the N5500 can connect to 24 EXN1000 or EXN2000 expansion units (only 18 expansion units if the higher capacity drives are used), giving it a total capacity of 84 TB across 336 250 GB SATA disk drives. The total capacity on the N5500 is slightly less using Fibre Channel drives.
The N5200 and N5500 use industry standard iSCSI, CIFS, FCP, and NFS storage protocols, which means they support IBM’s Linux and Unix (pSeries) servers and its Windows and Linux (xSeries) servers. iSeries and zSeries are also supported, but only for NFS storage via Linux and AIX partitions; native OS/400 is not supported.
The new N5200 and N5500 drives become available December 9, with starting prices of $60,000 and $85,000, respectively. These products are the result of an OEM agreement that IBM and Network Appliance formed in April (see “IBM Makes a NAS Play”). The first product resulting from that union was the N3700, a storage device that can hold up to 17 TB of data.
IBM also says it is planning to offer during the first half of 2006 two gateway models of the N5500 and N5200 that will provide connectivity to a variety of back-end disk systems, including the IBM DS8000 and the IBM DS4800. The DS8000 line is IBM’s midrange to high-end storage server product line based on its Power5 processor, and it supports the iSeries and zSeries natively. The DS4800 (formerly FAStT) is a midrange array that supports Windows, Linux, and Unix servers, as well as AIX and Linux partitions within the iSeries.