NAS has traditionally been the weapon of choice for small business network storage but trantec's PROVIGO 210 Mini-SAN looks to deliver a very interesting alternative. This compact appliance utilizes Zetera's Z-SAN technology which, since its launch back in 2005, has only had minimal exposure in the UK with Netgear's SC101 and SC101T. The situation hasn't been helped by Netgear as although Zetera would very much like to get into the business network storage market the Storage Central products have been aimed primarily at consumers. transtec brings a lot more features to the table as the Mini-SAN appliance has room for a quad of hard disks fitted in hot-swap carriers. On review is the model equipped with four Seagate Barracuda 250GB SATA drives and its low price tag puts it direct competition with a wide range of NAS appliances. transtec offers a good choice of capacities with the 4TB model fitted with the latest 1TB Hitachi drives and costing an unbelievably low £1,149 ex VAT.
However, one of its main targets is iSCSI (Internet SCSI) as Zetera claims that Z-SAN is a more cost-effective alternative for building an IP SAN. At this price point, iSCSI can't hope to compete as the only appliance we've seen in the sub-£1,000 area that supports this technology is Adaptec's single drive Snap Server 110. We've discussed the Z-SAN technology at great length in our review of the Netgear SC101T where it essentially allows you to create logical hard disks which are called ‘IP partitions'. These are each assigned an IP address and appear as local hard disks. Each client system needs a SCSI miniport driver, a filter driver which converts file system commands into IP traffic and the Manager utility that is used to create and manage partitions.
Installation is a simple process where all components are loaded via a single utility. However, one component you must have on your network is a DHCP server as this is critical to Z-SAN operations. The appliance has a simple controller board, which itself requires an IP address and this also applies to each hard disk. Note that you cannot assign fixed IP addresses to any component. As each IP partition is created this is also assigned a dynamic IP address and this is one of the biggest bones of contention with the Mini-SAN as multiple appliances and partitions can take a large number of addresses. During testing we used a pair of appliances and saw them consume over twenty IP addresses.