Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Companies looking for a scalable network file storage appliance should consider Dell Inc.’s PowerVault 775N, a NAS system that runs Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Storage Server 2003 software platform.

Next page: Click here to read the full review

Companies looking for a scalable network file storage appliance should consider Dell Inc.’s PowerVault 775N, a NAS system that runs Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Storage Server 2003 software platform.

Targeted at midsize enterprises and departmental file storage needs, the PowerVault 775N network-attached storage appliance is the high-end product in Dell’s lineup of PowerVault storage systems and is the first Windows-powered NAS appliance we’ve tested that runs Windows Storage Server 2003.

The PowerVault 775N, released late last year, leverages the capabilities introduced in Windows Storage Server 2003 to provide better file-serving performance. These include increased resilience, due to the VSS (Volume Shadow Copy Service), and load balancing options, as well as better manageability and iSCSI support for easier integration with IP data transport environments.

Windows Storage Server 2003’s VSS provides point-in-time snapshots of changes made to NAS data and lets IT managers quickly restore lost data on demand. Although VSS does not replace tape backup, it can save IT managers valuable time by restoring data significantly faster than tape. Windows Storage Server 2003 can support 64 shadow copies per volume.

The PowerVault 775N’s powerful clustering support will allow it to scale better than previous versions of the appliance: up to 16 terabytes with eight Dell PowerVault 220S/221S SCSI arrays or to 40 terabytes with Dell/EMC Corp. Fibre Channel arrays.

While Windows Storage Server 2003 Enterprise Edition provides clustering support for as many as eight nodes, the standard system does not come with clustering or support for Fibre Channel arrays. Customers can elect to have the enterprise version of the operating system factory-installed for an additional cost of $1,600.

The PowerVault 775N competes with enterprise storage systems from Network Appliance Inc. and other Windows-based NAS filers such as Hewlett-Packard Co.’s StorageWorks NAS 9000s. The PowerVault might have the edge in price, but Network Appliance’s FAS900 Series offers a highly optimized microkernel operating system and better scalability.

The PowerVault 775N system we tested is available now for about $13,000 in a 2U (3.5-inch) rack-mount configuration with a 3U (5.25-inch) PowerVault 220S external SCSI array, for a total storage capacity of more than 500GB. The 775N has dual 2.8GHz Intel Corp. Xeon processors, 1GB of double-data-rate synchronous dynamic RAM, an Ultra320 RAID controller, dual embedded Gigabit Ethernet ports, and three PCI-X slots for expansion and extra network cards.

The PowerVault 775N can support five internal hard drives. Dual, redundant power supplies are optional; each additional power supply costs $250.

The PowerVault 220S can hold 14 Ultra320 hard drives in capacities ranging from 18GB to 146GB each, to provide a maximum storage capacity of 2 terabytes per array. The 220S we tested has 14 36GB 10,000-rpm drives and is priced at $6,250.

An entry-level PowerVault 775N is priced at $4,400 with a single 2.4GHz Xeon, 512MB of memory and two onboard 18GB hard drives for the operating system.

As with other PowerVault NAS appliances, the PowerVault 775N can be outfitted with optional tools such as Veritas Software Corp.’s StorageCentral SRM (Storage Resource Manager) and Eset Software LLC’s NOD32 anti-virus plug-in.

StorageCentral SRM provides advanced storage management capabilities such as directory quota and file screening, while NOD32 provides integrated virus protection without a performance impact. StorageCentral’s SRM is priced at $99 per system, and NOD32 is priced ranging from $40 for a single system to $280 for 10 licenses.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at