NAS (network-attached storage) and iSCSI are two storage technologies ideally suited to the SME and the Classic 340 from Tiko Corporation amalgamates them neatly together in a smart package offering particularly good value. There’s much more to this low profile rack system as along with the standard diet of NAS features it also supports NDMP (network data management protocol) allowing it to be accessed by compliant backup software products such as Computer Associates ARCserve.

Value is a key factor with the 340 as it costs substantially less than similarly equipped storage appliances offered by Hewlett Packard or Dell. Instead of using the increasingly popular Windows Storage Server 2003, Tiko has opted for a Linux kernel which it has customised to fit on a single 64MB flash memory module.

Supplied as a compete Supermicro package the 340 offers a very good hardware specification. The SC813MT 1U chassis looks after a P4SCT+ motherboard which comes equipped with a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processor and 512MB of PC3200 SDRAM. Yet again we see SCSI being pushed aside in the storage department as the 340 sports a quad of 250GB Hitachi Deskstar Serial ATA (SATA) drives for tasty total of 1TB. The motherboard provides hardware RAID capabilities with the embedded Marvell four port SATA controller supporting striped and mirrored arrays. However, this should only be used to provide the disk interfaces as the OS is designed to look after all RAID functions and also adds RAID-5 fault tolerance to the menu.

Installation is a cinch as you simply point a web browser at the appliance’s default IP address and access it securely over HTTPS via the nicely designed management interface. It’s worth taking a time-out here to understand Tiko’s storage concepts as these offer some valuable features if used correctly. The appliance is supplied with all four drives available as separate units and these need to be configured as RAID groups. Multiple groups can then be placed into Volume groups which are in turn carved up into volumes to be made available to the network. The main advantage here is that capacity can be dynamically expanded simply by adding a new RAID group or using up any free space.

Local backup is supported as you can install a SCSI adapter and add a local tape drive. We tested this with an Adaptec Ultra2 card and an HP Utrium-2 tape drive which worked fine. You can run full and incremental backup operations directly from the administrative interface but these can only be fired up on demand as no scheduling facilities are provided. iSCSI options are minimal as CHAP authentication isn’t supported and all you can do is select a device or group and use the Export function. However, this does make for a simple process as target naming is handled automatically. A word of warning here as a locally attached tape drive will appear as a storage device that can be exported. It will become available as an iSCSI target but after logging on from a test client we watched this process cause fatal errors on the appliance which required reboots.

The 340 supports CIFS/SMB, NFS and AFP file sharing protocols allowing Windows, Unix, Linux and Macintosh clients to use it. Security is also good as authentication can be via ACLs (access control lists) or Active Directory and you can apply quotas at the group or user level to strictly control storage usage. Disk space and volume usage can be closely monitored from the web interface and alerting facilities extend to issuing emails and SNMP traps if faults are detected. You also get a bunch of real-time graphs showing network activity and storage utilisation.

Slotting the appliance into a Gigabit Ethernet network we saw a mixed bag of performance results. Over a standard Windows share the open source Iometer returned a fast raw throughput of 76MB/sec using 100 per cent sequential read operations and 64KB transfer request sizes. For iSCSI testing we used a Windows Server 2003 system with Microsoft’s freely available iSCSI initiator software v1.5. Performance was less impressive as Iometer reported only 57MB/sec when logged on to a single exported drive.

Considering the level of features for the price the Tiko Classic 340 looks a good candidate for network storage in the SME. The local backup tools need a scheduler and iSCSI features are basic but it is still offering an impressive shared storage proposition teamed up with a generous storage capacity.

OUR VERDICT

The Classic 340 proves that NAS appliances don’t need to be so costly. It does have a few rough edges but we’ve yet to see any other appliance deliver 1TB of raw capacity, excellent storage management features and iSCSI and NDMP support as standard at such a reasonable price