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IP SANs may be making big inroads into the SMB network storage market but move down to the desktop level and your choices suddenly become severely limited. Thecus has been making the most noise here as it delivered iSCSI support over a year ago with its N5200PRO RouStor appliance which offers an interesting mix of NAS and iSCSI in the same box. Its latest i5500 is a pure IP SAN appliance so there’s no NAS support as its hard disks can only be accessed as iSCSI virtual volumes.
The i5500 uses pretty much the same chassis as the N5200PRO so you get a very well constructed appliance with room for up to five SATA hard disks in removable and lockable carriers. The review system was supplied to us by Ultimate Storage fully kitted out with a quintet of 1TB Seagate SATA drives but you can purchase the system diskless and add your own as required. The system has three network ports at the rear with a Fast Ethernet port for dedicated management access whilst your iSCSI targets are presented over the two Gigabit data ports.
The LCD display panel at the front provides basic information about the appliance status and allows you to change the default IP address of the management port. Installation is simple enough as you can point a browser at the IP address as displayed or use the RAID Finder utility to locate the appliance on the network. Your first job is to set up the data ports which can have static or dynamic addresses although we’d recommend the former as you don’t want these changing unannounced.
The appliance has a fixed iSCSI node name but also has options for using an iSNS (Internet Storage Name Server) as well. Before going any further it’s worth familiarising yourself with the iSCSI implementation used by Thecus as the i5500 only advertises a single iSCSI node name.
When a host initiator logs on it sees one target and under this will appear LUNs (Logical Unit Numbers) for all the virtual volumes it is allowed to see. To control access to each volume you can assign specific initiator names to each one and also use CHAP authentication. If you decide to use this note that only one CHAP account is supported and as this is applied at the node level all hosts must provide the correct user name and secret to access the appliance.