October 05, 2009, 1:30 PM — Dell acquired EqualLogic in 2007, adding a strong iSCSI player to their existing Fibre Channel storage options. EqualLogic offers some very usable iSCSI systems at good prices, from a base of around $10,000, to $17,000 as tested, to well over $100,000.
We received two PS4000 units, each with 16 250GB SATA drives. The systems included dual controllers and dual power supplies. Each controller has two gigabit Ethernet ports for iSCSI and a management port. The systems are available with up to 16 1TB drives.
We found setup to be very straightforward and quick, as one would expect of a system designed to be sold to everyone from inexperienced Windows system admins to SAN admins in large data centers.
Once one array is brought up and accessed through the admin interface, other arrays can be automatically discovered and added to the managed pool of storage. Administrative tasks are easily accomplished through a straightforward interface.
We were able to quickly set up iSCSI volumes and make them available to servers, and to easily control all the aspects of thin provisioning, replication, snapshots and cloning volumes to test new configurations. ISCSI performance over one or two gigabit Ethernet ports cannot match performance over multiple 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports. But the PS4000 system provides an excellent feature set, including an easy way to add multiple arrays and manage them from a single console.
There are many applications in which storage throughput is not the most important criteria, and iSCSI units like the PS4000 offer very usable and sharable storage at much lower prices than most Fibre Channel systems, while maintaining the enterprise-class feature set of the Fibre Channel systems. For example, the two systems we tested would cost $34,000 (list) for 8TB of storage, and offer great levels of redundancy and manageability.