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NAS for medium size company

Posted on 2011-03-24
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Currently have about 100 employees and about 10 servers (Exchange, SQL, file, print, etc...).  We are a complete Dell shop.  All data is cuurently stored on local storage for each server.  I would like to purchase a NAS in the next couple months and use it to store:

- a VMWare datastore (approximately 800GB)
- all data currently on our old file server (approximately 800GB)
- Exchange data (currently running 2003 but will be upgrading to 2010.  Would like to store information store db files here)

What is the best way to go about choosing the right NAS?  I'm assuming I could go with iSCSI, attaching it to the Exchange server, File Server and VMWare ESXi Server?

I will be getting something in  the 8-12TB range, but need some help in understanding the basics of how it attaches and possible forseen issues with bandwidth...??  Thanks.
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Question by:tenover
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12 Comments
 
LVL 6

Expert Comment

by:JRoyse
ID: 35209111
Call your Dell Rep.  Get some pricing, and get another vendor to give you a quote.  

Make sure that it is VMware certified compatible.

Yes, Iscsi will work fine.

Two big things to influence your decisions that you didn't mention:

1. How are you going to back this up
2. what type of redundancy for storage connections + power backup do you have.  You'll need two storage swiches to elminate cable outtages, and a decent power source..
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LVL 6

Expert Comment

by:zkrieger
ID: 35209137
Dell recently aquired Equallogic. their SATA models do not have a good reputation, but their SAS line is said to be average.

if you dont mind stepping away from Dell owned parts, i recommend looking at the Xiotech ISE line.

iscsi will certianly be easier for you to handle, and somewhat cheaper than fiber, but fiber is usually the better overall choice.

iscsi bandwidth is almost never an issue, its things like getting the iscsi software controllers working before exchange starts on the server for instance. you can use TOE (tcp offload engine) cards to work around this, but at that point the cost between fiber and iscsi is a lot less.

iscsi is almost always easier to use and has the advantage of being easier to point at temporary servers if you need to pull data without mapping through a server. (helpful if a server fails)

your use case is more opporiate to a SAN than a NAS by the way. (nas is a file share for users, while san is dedicated storage directly connected to servers, rather than clients)
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LVL 16

Expert Comment

by:Auric1983
ID: 35209151
tenover,

I have a Dell MD3200i iSCSI SAN and couldn't be more happy with it's performance.  

If you buy an MD series, make sure you get the dual controller & dual power supplies, for redunancy.  As well if your budget allows 2 x dedicated powerconnect (or equivalent) managed switches for the iSCSI traffic.  I run my iSCSI traffic over a seperate VLAN on my regular core switches and do not have any performance problems.

Each controller requires 5 network ports, there are 4 1GbE interfaces for the iSCSI traffic as well as a management port.  Each server should have at least a dual port NIC dedicated for the iSCSI traffic.  
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Author Comment

by:tenover
ID: 35209229
Thanks for the replies.  I'm lost on the "Need 2 managed switches" though.
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LVL 16

Expert Comment

by:Auric1983
ID: 35209243
iSCSI uses standard network interfaces for the traffic.

Best practise is to have two redundant switches running only the iSCSI traffic.

what do you use for network switches now?
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Author Comment

by:tenover
ID: 35209473
Ahh, gotcha.  Thanks.  Currently have multipl Cisco 2960's and some Cisco 3560's.
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LVL 42

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kevinhsieh earned 500 total points
ID: 35210337
You will do well with your current cisco switches if they are gigabit. I disagree with the comment that the Dell EqualLogic line is poor and that the SAS is only average. I have been using their PS400E (14 * 750 GB SATA) for over 4 years and have been very happy with it. I expect to use it for another 4+ years.

Based on my usage which is more than your sizing, the PS4000E would fit the bill.  My guess is that everything will go to 2.5" SAS drives the next time they do a hardware refresh.  

Dell just bought Compellent, the EqualLogic purchase was years ago.

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Author Comment

by:tenover
ID: 35210456
Thanks.  Is it generally frowned upon to host your Exchange DB files on a SAN or NAS or is it ok to do so?  
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LVL 16

Expert Comment

by:Auric1983
ID: 35210478

There is a distinct difference between a SAN and a NAS and it is to do with the type of communication.

a NAS is file level access.  a SAN is bit/block level access.

a NAS would use SMB, NFS or other file access protocol, whereas iSCSI SAN is just that, SCSI commands, so the IO is a lot faster.

Now that we have that clear.  It is great to host your Exchange DB on a SAN, provided that you have redundant paths to the SAN (Multiple Nic's, controllers etc.)  AND the SAN LUN is setup in some sort of RAID array so you are protected from disk failure.

Dell EqualLogics are pretty slick, but the cost factor compared to an MD series is almost double.   That being said, call up your dell account rep, they have storage specialists that understand this stuff more than I can begin to scratch the surface of.  
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Author Comment

by:tenover
ID: 35210628
HA!  I completely forgot that I have a SQL server in my rack that is directly connected to a Dell MD1000 with two iSCSI cables.  Ther is another empty iSCSI card with two open ports in the MD1000.  There is also an empty iSCSI card on my physical ESXi server (which will host the virtual Exchange 2010 server).  The MD1000 has three empty drive bays.  Could I insert more drives into the MD1000 and hook up the extra iSCSI ports to the virtual server and have the Exchange server access those three new drives for external storage?  Almost seems too good to be true....LOL.
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LVL 16

Expert Comment

by:Auric1983
ID: 35210673
You'll have to check with DELL on that, the MD1000 is a DAS or Direct attached storage
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LVL 42

Expert Comment

by:kevinhsieh
ID: 35226481
Most people put Exchange DB on SAN. You can't put it on NAS (CIFS/NFS) if the Exchange server is going to talk to it directly. If you are going to run Exchange under VMware, VMware can use NAS and then it is okay. The Microsoft Exchange team has been pushing local disk for Exchange with Database Availability Groups because it is cheaper and they are claiming than SAN isn't needed for performance or availability. Most customers aren't buying that line of thinking.  
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