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The appliance comes out of the box configured with all four drives in a RAID-5 array although you can opt for mirrors or stripes and up to two arrays are supported. It also offers all its capacity as a single virtual volume so you initially have only one target presented to your host systems. To create multiple virtual volumes you need to activate Buffalo's LVM (logical volume manager) feature which allows you to determine the size of the volumes and their number but as we found during testing LVM will hit performance noticeably.
Some security controls are provided as you can restrict access to specific volumes with a user name and password which will be requested by the connection tool. A mutual authorisation feature is also provided which we assumed was for implementing CHAP authorisation to selected targets but this failed to work. You can also limit access to selected volumes using their IP addresses.
Note that any configuration operation at all requires the appliance's iSCSI service to be stopped using the soft button at the top of the web interface. Great for stopping anyone making accidental changes to existing arrays or volumes but it does mean that all host computers currently connected will be kicked off whilst changes are being made.
It's at this stage that we found configuration a frustrating experience as Buffalo's user guide is barely worth the paper it's printed on. It doesn't even mention the LVM feature and pays scant attention to the user access controls. The on-line help in the web interface isn't much better and looks untidy and unfinished. We asked Buffalo a number of questions about these features but received no timely responses.
To test performance we started with a single virtual volume and LVM disabled. With a Boston Supermicro 3.2GHz Pentium D workstation logged on we saw the Iometer utility reporting a reasonable raw read rate of 56MB/sec over Gigabit Ethernet. Copying a 690MB video clip between the appliance and the workstation returned read rates of 43MB/sec but the RAID-5 array hit write speeds with these dropping to only 15MB/sec. With LVM enabled we saw Iometer reporting a much reduced raw read rate of 44MB/sec. We then created a pair of virtual volumes and logged two workstations onto them where Iometer reported a cumulative read rate of 37MB/sec for both systems.
Buffalo's first foray into IP SAN territory leaves a lot to be desired. The appliance is easy enough to install and deploy but there's work still to be done on the web interface, the user guide is unhelpful at best and if you want multiple virtual volumes you'll have to accept a performance hit.