• United States
Neal Weinberg
Contributing writer, Foundry

QLogic SAN switch

Jun 15, 20043 mins
Data CenterSAN

* The Reviewmeister has been out playing in the SANbox

The Reviewmeister has been out playing in the SANbox – that’s the Qlogic SANbox 5200, a storage-area network switch that offered up effortless installation, very efficient management and interesting features, but only middle-of-the-road performance.

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.

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.

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.

Most notable among the SANbox 5200’s architectural features is support on each stackable unit for four 10G Fibre Channel ports. This feature enables effective stacking, thus eliminating the need to steal from the 16 2G bit/sec ports for inter-switch links (ISL) and thus reducing the overall number of switches you need.

SANbox 5200 had another noteworthy feature called I/O StreamGuard. When a device logs on to a SAN fabric, it generates a notification of a fabric change that must be propagated to and processed by other devices, causing a small interruption to the fabric. This notification is critical when the state of a storage device changes, but it is unnecessary for hosts and servers accessing storage. I/O StreamGuard suppresses such host notifications, staving off this expected drop in throughput.

Also noteworthy is QLogic’s pay-as-you-go licensing approach for the SANbox 5200. Users can license the use of four ports at a time, allowing for more detailed scalability.

On a single-switch unit, we measured line-rate throughput, and latency results registering less than 10 microsec, when sending bidirectional traffic between port pairs. Under the more grueling mesh tests, however, where data from each port is sent in a round-robin fashion to all other ports, there was a performance drop-off.

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