EqualLogic SAN array hits high notes

It seems that every time I configure an EqualLogic iSCSI SAN array in the company of folks who've never seen the process, they ask the same question: "Really? You're already done?" The answer, always, is Yes.

The simplicity of EqualLogic's management platform extends from the CLI to the GUI interface, and is also exhibited physically with the simple chassis and controller design. Form certainly follows function, but the PS3800XV isn't lacking in either. Suffice it to say, I really like this array.

Scalability and performance

There are many ways to build and scale an iSCSI SAN, but the general rule is that as you add capacity, you also add bandwidth. With EqualLogic, this is part and parcel of the overall solution: You can't add capacity without adding bandwidth.

The PS3800XV sports 3Gb NICs per controller, for a total of six interfaces. The controllers function as active/passive partners, with three of these NICs waiting in the wings to take over and the other three as independent entities, each with a unique IP and MAC (media access control) address that's shared with its passive counterpart. There's no EtherChannel, bonding, or other port aggregation methods in use, since load balancing is handled with native iSCSI referral commands.

This setup performed perfectly in the lab with a selection of iSCSI software initiators. Theoretical throughput is in the 300MBps range; in practice, I was able to get close to 300MBps with three clients, each pushing 100MBps reads from the array. Even more interesting is the fact that I was able consistently to reach 100MBps throughput on CIFS filesharing tests using an HP DL360 as a fileserver with an iSCSI LUN (logical unit number) mounted via the Microsoft iSCSI software initiator, and 12 simulated clients running from nbench. That's better performance than many native CIFS filers are able to produce. In fact, it's better than most fileservers writing to local disk.