Netgear’s recent acquisition of Infrant Technologies moves it firmly into the consumer and small business NAS market but this is by no means its first attempt. It made a token effort over a year ago when it launched the Storage Central SC101. Now we have the SC101T, which brings Gigabit Ethernet into equation but also looks to remedy some of the shortcomings of its predecessor, save for Mac support, which is still absent.
These desktop boxes differ radically from standard NAS appliances as they employ Zetera Corporation’s SoIP (Storage over IP) technology. The SC101T accepts up to two SATA hard disks, which you source yourself and it uses a simple controller card which runs a DHCP client. Using the supplied Storage Central Manager utility you select the hard disks and create logical partitions which are coined ‘IP partitions’. This is the clever bit as the appliance gives an IP address to each partition making it appear to the network as a new hard disk. Each partition is then assigned a unique LBA (logical block address) range – the same as that used by hard disks to determine the physical location that data is either read from or written to.
The appliance watches network traffic and picks up any packets with a destination IP address that matches a partition. Each packet contains the data payload along with an LBA range, which tells it where that payload should be placed in that partition. From the client perspective all you need is a SCSI miniport driver, a filter driver which converts file system commands into IP traffic and the Manager utility.
There’s more to SoIP, as you can share each partition with other users or restrict access to the user that created it. The drive simply appears to each system as a new local hard disk and each partition can be password protected. Even better is the fact that partitions can be expanded on the fly into available space and you can even add another appliance to the network and expand existing partitions onto its hard disks. Mirroring is another possibility and these can be created across two partitions on the same drive, over two drives in the same appliance and even over two appliances.
The SC101T has clearly been designed to overcome the reported overheating problems suffered by the smaller SC101. It’s around twice the size and has large cooling grills on the top and underneath. It also has a small internal fan but we found the appliance quite unobtrusive on our desktop. Hard disk installation is also a lot easier as you simply remove the front panel and slide the drives into the bays where they mate with the combined power and SATA interfaces on the controller.