Washington University techs praise BlueArc NAS arrays

The new hardware outperforms every other box the school has used

While they haven’t abandoned their standard network-attached storage (NAS) arrays from Network Appliance Inc., IT managers at Washington University in St. Louis’s School of Medicine said they have been wowed by two new NAS arrays from BlueArc Corp. In fact, they said, the BlueArc hardware has exceeded the performance of every other box the school has owned.

“For us, it’s doing NFS [file] serving, and we’ve hit it with hundreds and hundreds of blade servers and we’re getting 4.8Gbit/sec. sustained throughput ... and it wasn’t breaking a sweat,” said Kelly Carpenter, senior technical manager for the St. Louis school’s genome sequencing center. “I have a feeling we could run this thing up to 6Gbit/sec.”

Throughput on most high-end NAS arrays is about 4Gbit/sec., according to analysts.

Carpenter said he purchased his first two enterprise-class NAS arrays from San Jose-based BlueArc a little over a year ago after seeing the technology at a supercomputing conference. About two months ago, he upgraded his boxes to BlueArc’s latest NAS line, the Titan 2000 series.

The difference in performance between the older Titan 32 NAS array and the Titan 2200 was incremental -- from 4Gbit/sec. throughput to 4.8+ Gbit/sec. for the Washington University shop. But Carpenter said he is also impressed with the box’s scalability and its ability to partition jobs.

“If you’re doing other things like a backup at the same time you’re [file sharing], it doesn’t affect it at all because it’s on another motherboard. It’s a pretty cool architecture,” Carpenter said.

The older model Titan scaled to 256TB capacity. The new models scale up to 512TB under a single name space. Washington University’s School of Medicine has used the new boxes to more than double its storage capacity to 120TB.

The new NAS arrays also feature 10Gbit/sec. Ethernet ports for clustering. Washington University has a pair of clustered boxes for redundancy and fail over capability.

BlueArc announced its Titan 2000 line earlier this month. The NAS box is modular in that capacity, CPU and network connectivity can each grow separately. BlueArc introduced two models: the Titan 2100, which has 5Gbit/sec. sustained throughput and can handle up to 75,000 operations per second, and the Titan 2200, which has 10Gbit/sec. throughput and can process up to 100,000 operations per second.

Like the older models, the Titan 2000 series arrays can process CIFS, NFS, iSCSI and NDMP protocols. BlueArc also claims that a single Titan 2200 array can support 60,000 Windows (CIFS) servers, 60,000 Unix (NFS) servers and up to 4 million files per directory.

Carpenter said his shop still supports four of NetApp’s FAS980 high-end NAS arrays and doesn’t plan on dumping those anytime soon. He said the NetApp boxes still perform very well and the BlueArc and NetApp boxes are comparably priced. “They’re both willing to negotiate on price,” he said.

Carpenter is using the Titan arrays as a repository for data produced from genome sequencing projects, which requires high I/O rates. “There’s a lot of compute servers banging on genetic data,” he said.

“In terms of modularity, Carpenter called the Titan “a very sweet box,” because of its ability to expand on the fly. “If we need more bandwidth, you just pull out a blade, module, whatever you want to call it, and slap in a new one and away you go.”

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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