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Buffalo has traditionally had a very strong presence in the desktop Network Attached Storage (NAS) market with its TeraStation products offering a good range of storage features for the price. It now turns its not inconsiderable gaze on IP Storage Area Networks (SANs) with a view to delivering an iSCSI appliance for small businesses.
Historically, IP SANs have been aimed more at larger businesses looking for a more cost-effective alternative to expensive fibre channel SANs and these types of appliances have commanded a high price when compared to standard NAS appliances. The latest TeraStation Pro II iSCSI aims to provide the same services but at a much more affordable price point.
Buffalo has taken the simple expedient of commandeering its standard TeraStation Pro II NAS appliance and customising it for iSCSI operations. Consequently, you get the same 500MHz Marvell Orion SoC (system on chip) partnered by a modest 128MB of SDRAM memory. The system on review is the 1TB version and came equipped with a quartet of 250GB Samsung SATA hard disks.
Bear in mind that although the hard disk carriers are removable they not hot-swappable. Instead, Buffalo uses a quick swap feature where the drive carriers have a combined SATA/power connector cable that must be unplugged manually from the rear of the drive. Buffalo advised us that for failed drives it provides a next day replacement service and will send out a new unit complete with carrier.
The TeraStation iSCSI is offered as both desktop and rack mount appliances but it's important to note that neither offer standard NAS services. The firmware has been re-jigged for iSCSI operations only and does not support any normal file sharing protocols. The Thecus' N5200PRO RouStor is a completely different beast altogether as it combines NAS and iSCSI operations simultaneously and allows you to choose how you want to present its storage to the network.
Prior to installing the appliance you need to download the latest iSCSI initiator software from Microsoft. However, once you've done this you don't need to touch it anymore as Buffalo provides a simple hard disk connection tool which configures it for you. It automatically searches the network for the iSCSI appliance, adds it to the initiator as a new portal and logs on to available targets. It's a nice touch but once you get the hang of basic iSCSI operations it's easy enough to configure the initiator yourself.