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The storage industry has far more than its fair share of acronyms and just when you thought manufacturers had made up enough, along comes Zetera Corporation with SoIP (Storage over IP). This storage networking technology certainly look to offer some significant benefits over common or garden NAS appliances and Netgear’s Storage Central SC101 is one of the first consumer products on the market to utilize it.
Firstly, we’ll take a closer look at SoIP as it is a remarkably simple yet potentially powerful solution.
The SC101 accepts up to two hard disks and uses a simple controller card that runs a DHCP client. From the bundled Manager utility the user splits up the physical drives into logical partitions of any size which Zetera calls ‘IP partitions’. The reason for this is that the appliance assigns an IP address to each partition making it appear to the network as a new hard disk. These partitions are assigned a unique LBA (logical block address) range – as used by real hard disks to determine the physical location that data is either read from or written to. The appliance listens to the network traffic and picks up any packets with a destination IP address that matches a partition. The packet contains the data payload along with an LBA range, which tells it where that payload should be placed in that partition. All the client system requires is a SCSI miniport driver, a filter driver which converts file system commands into IP traffic and the Manager utility that enables it to locate appliances and attach partitions.
Compared with NAS appliances SoIP technology offers a number of advantages. Each partition can be shared by any number of users and appears to each PC as a local hard disk. Access can be restricted to the user that created the partition and shared partitions can be password protected. If the drive has available space then you can increase the capacity of a partition at will and without affecting resident data. In fact, you can add another appliance to the network and use its hard disks to increase the size of a partition. Called spanning this is a feature normally only found on big business storage products. Mirroring is another possibility as you can create a partition on one drive and have it mirrored to another in the same appliance.
The SC101 itself is a compact plastic box that is supplied as an empty unit. The front panel is removed easily with a coin and behind this is a pair of bays that accept 3.5in. IDE hard disks. The SC101 only supports ATA-6 drives and you’ll also need to change the jumper settings to the Cable Select position. With the front cover removed you slip the drive into the bay and plug in the power and interface cables.