The lines between servers and storage units continue to blur as demonstrated by the Lenovo DX8200D. This box runs DataCore's SANsymphony software-defined storage platform to deliver up to 64TB of block and file storage in a 2U space.
For the DX8200D, the special sauce is in the DataCore software. SANsymphony makes it possible to present storage to the network consisting of direct-attached drives within the DX8200D and any other storage system on the network via the iSCSI protocol. Our test system was delivered with Windows Server 2012 R2 as the base operating system.
DataCore offers a variety of storage solutions to meet the needs of small-to-medium enterprises as well as big corporate deployments. Besides SANsymphony, products include the DataCore Hyper-converged Virtual SAN product specifically targeted at the virtualization market. The partnership with Lenovo presents a complete hardware and software solution that easily integrates into your existing infrastructure.
Lenovo DX8200D Hardware
Lenovo's DX8200D system as configured for our test included two Intel Xeon E5-2620 v4 CPUs plus 128GB of memory. Boot disks consisted of two 372GB SSD drives configured in a RAID-1 mirror.
Ten 930GB drives configured as two RAID-5 virtual drives give a total effective storage of 7.63 TB (see Figure 1). The chassis supports twenty-four 2.5-inch small form factor drives on the front and an additional two drives on the rear. Dual platinum power supplies provide an extra measure of redundancy to protect against failure.
On the networking front our system included three 10 GB Ethernet teams designated as the front-end, mirror, and back-end ports (see Figure 2). The idea here is to use the front-end ports to serve iSCSI to the network.
Back-end ports connect to other storage devices that SANsymphony manages. The mirror ports are used for replication to other SANsymphony nodes.
Memory on this platform gets used for both virtual machines and as a fast cache tier for the storage software. The system is offered with three basic configurations, with up to 768 GB of memory plus a Lenovo engineering tested and validated system design with memory speeds beyond Intel memory specifications.
DataCore and Lenovo Software
All storage functionality is provided by the DataCore SANsymphony software. SANsymphony takes control of local storage and external storage connectivity to build a virtualization layer across the board. The key here is the management of both local and external storage from multiple vendors which can be presented to consumers as a single resource.
iSCSI is the primary protocol used by SANsymphony to both present and consume storage. DataCore uses the Windows Server operating system as the foundation for their product and, as such, uses the iSCSI initiator provided as a part of the OS.
Windows Server can function as both an iSCSI target and initiator. SANsymphony provides the management interface to present storage for consumption, which is aggregated from all storage resources available to the host computer.
SANsymphony uses memory on the host machine for a storage cache. The amount of memory can be configured automatically or set to a specific value (see Figure 3). If you plan to use the host machine to provide Hyper-V services, you'll want to reserve sufficient memory for your virtual machines. This can greatly improve the performance of a system with spinning hard disk as its primary storage.
To test the external storage connectivity feature we used a QNAP TS-1685 system certified to work with the SANsymphony software. SANsymphony 10.0 supports Microsoft's Offloaded Data Transfers (ODX), which greatly reduces network traffic for any file operations on the same platform. This feature works great for things like virtual machine copying or cloning and moving files around on the same volume.
Lenovo provides an out-of-band management tool on its own network interface to manage the system remotely. The Integrated Management Module (IMM) provides access to a system information page that shows the status for all major components, including power and cooling, processors, and memory. From the IMM web page you can control system power and use the integrated keyboard, video, and mouse (KVM) capability to connect to the console.
The Lenovo DX8200D with DataCore SANsymphony software offers one of the most capable and flexible storage appliances on the market. Using iSCSI storage makes this solution work with all the major operating systems and virtualization platforms.
The management interface provides a wide range of options for grouping storage devices and presenting the storage for consumption. With multiple systems it's possible to configure this solution in a highly available and redundant configuration. Pricing depends on configuration with a low-end system starting at $39,999 for an 8TB ServerSAN system.
Paul Ferrill, based in Chelsea, Alabama, has been writing about computers and software for almost 20 years. He has programmed in more languages than he cares to count, but now leans toward Visual Basic and C#.