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Let’s face it, IP-based storage has never been cheap or easy. But that’s
about to change, thanks to Open-E’s Data Storage Server line of products.

The company offers four products that are aimed at combining the flexibility
of IP with the commonality of storage, allowing integrators to build custom
network storage solutions that are both reliable and affordable. With Open-E’s
products, there are two paths to add storage capabilities to the network, iSCSI
and NAS. iSCSI support is handled by iSCSI-R3, while NAS is addressed via
NAS-R3. Data Storage Server (DSS) provides
both functions, and a free version of DSS
(called DSS Lite) brings a subset of DSS’
primary functions to the market.

Channel Insider took a look at Open-E’s DSS,
which offers the broadest spectrum of storage support from the company. DSS
is available via several channels, ranging from OEMs to VARs to distributors
and in several forms, ranging from preintegrated into storage appliances
to “build it yourself” modules, which are priced based on storage

Modules range in price from about $800 for support of as many as 4 terabytes
to $1,200 for support of as many as 16 terabytes. Open-E sent over a
preconfigured appliance for review, which was based on an Intel Storage Server
SSR212MC2 using Open-E’s internal USB dongle

While the hardware provided was impressive and offered terabytes of storage, we
chose to focus on what Open-E DSS actually
delivers to a business. After all, since DSS
is available as a USB module, the hardware
doesn’t really matter—integrators can pick and choose what components to use to
build their own appliance and eschew the prepackaged appliances available from
a multitude of vendors.

Integrators will find DSS a snap to set up,
literally. The product comes on a bootable USB
module, which can be installed internally on a server or appliance. Integrators
will have to make sure the selected system can boot from USB
and has USB 2.0 support. They will also want
to make sure the motherboard and NIC cards are supported by DSS,
which uses a proprietary operating system to boot from the USB
storage device and launch the DSS management

For those building their own systems, a keyboard and monitor will be needed for
the initial setup, after which administrators will be able to access the DSS
appliance via a headless mode using a Web browser. Preconfigured appliances can
be deployed in a headless mode from the outset.

Initial setup consists of little more than setting some network parameters and
other basic information. After that, all configuration and management takes
place using any standard browser. Administrators will need to log into the
device using the default account information and then define the storage
environment. Those steps will configure how RAID is to be used, definition of volumes,
backup options and the definition of shares, along with associated rights.

The capabilities, features and options available with DSS
could fill a book, but luckily the management interface proves to be intuitive.
Users will be able to quickly select what options to use, define hardware
parameters, set up shares, and enable backups and most any other feature. The
key word here is “simplicity”!

Configuring DSS to work with iSCSI proved to
be just as easy. If an administrator knows how to use the Microsoft iSCSI
initiator, then setup consists of answering a few basic questions. DSS
also works with iSCSI initiators from other vendors and is not limited to just
Microsoft environments.

Perhaps the most difficult decision faced by administrators will be whether
to go with NAS or select SAN-based storage,
and that choice will be determined by the needs of the network and associated
applications. In other words, that decision is already made by the time an administrator
gets around to installing a storage appliance, and it is advantageous to use an
appliance that can support either environment.

DSS offers a lot more than storage
functionality; the product now supports automatic failover, WORM capabilities
and NDMP. That combination of new features makes an Open-E DSS-based
appliance suitable for sites that need business continuity services and must
meet compliance requirements.

All things considered, Open-E’s DSS fits the
bill for those looking for a quick and easy way to get involved with the
burgeoning IP storage market. The company’s support of advanced options, simple
installations capabilities and hardware flexibility makes DSS
a top contender for custom storage solutions.