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QLogic's SANbox 5200

Storage switch shows off easy install, strong management

By Randall Birdsall, Network World Lab Alliance, Network World
May 31, 2004 12:03 AM ET

Network World - Logic's new stackable storage-area network switch - the SANbox 5200 - that features 10G bit/sec interconnections begs the question of how well this architecture can stand up against a chassis full of Fibre Channel port modules.

In our tests, the SANbox 5200 offered effortless installation, very efficient management and interesting features, but only middle-of-the-road performance.

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QLogic markets its SANbox 5200 under a "simplicity" tagline, a term that is fitting, given its quick-start guide and configuration wizard. The guide was easy to follow and well organized. The detail provided in the configuration wizard makes the installation process easier by giving users the necessary technical background in clear, bite-size chunks.

Once the SANbox 5200 was installed and configured, we had to connect the test gear, a process that could use some improvement. The switch's port labels make it difficult to find specific ports. The switch supports beaconing - a diagnostic mechanism for locating a specific port in the SAN fabric - but only on a per-switch basis.

In the real world, our test gear would be replaced with host bus adapters and connections to other switches. This can pose a challenge to any Fibre Channel SAN switch because of interoperability issues that plague the SAN industry. QLogic offers an effective interoperation guide on its Web site.

After we configured the switch domain ID - a unique number that identifies the switch to the fabric - the switch required a reset for the changes to take effect. That's not normally a problem, but SANbox Manager didn't forewarn us, and went ahead and reset itself: All traffic on that switch unexpectedly stopped.

QLogic's bundled management capabilities are impressive. The overarching management application is called the SANbox Manager. Its diagnostic tool belt is especially well outfitted with features such as Fabric View - a real-time monitoring application that graphs throughput and errors on a per-port basis - and a searchable, filterable, sortable event manager. However, some of the events these tools reported could offer more detailed information.

The SANbox Manager's centralized management capability is a nice plus for monitoring a stackable switch, but the administrator still must configure the majority of settings one switch at a time. This could tie up an administrator when configuring or reconfiguring a larger deployment.

When configuring Fabric View options, the administrator has a dynamically constructed view of the fabric topology, including all switches and their inter-switch links.

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