Intransa has released a new and improved version of its IP storage system, IP5500. It doubles capacity and connectivity compared to its IP5000 predecessor (reviewed by Techworld here. Instead of four controllers it can have eight, meaning it can now scale from 2TB up to around 50TB, a leap from the 2TB to 24TB range of the IP5000.

In our review of IP5000 in September, we hightlighted as a major disadvantage that its average data rate of 106Mbit/s couldn't possibly compete with Fibre Channel for raw performance. It appears though that IP5500 can. Intransa says it is 80 per cent faster, making a rate of 190Mbit/s seem practical. Paul Silver, Intransa’s European general manager, claimed: "We compared the IP5500 in house to an $800,000 Fibre Channel-attached EMC CX700 and it was generally faster or slightly slower."

The IP5500 lists at $70,000 which implies you could get the same performance for less than a tenth of the CX700's price. It is fault-tolerant with active:active failover between the hot-swappable storage controllers as well as load-balancing between them. Power supplies and fans are duplicated. A 16-controller model is promised, "within six months", taking it to a 100TB capacity.

What about Serial ATA drives? Silver told us: "We’re waiting for the version 2 SATA spec." Version 2 will produce 300Mbit/s bandwidth, double that of version one. However, ATA drives are less reliable than SCSI drives, so the IP SAN drives need to be in RAID arrays for safety.

New drives plugged into the IP5500 are automatically recognised and added to the storage pool. Snapshots can be taken with the management software and used for a tape backup, tying up fewer system resources.

Intransa is a relatively small and new company. If you have a strong need for a SAN, can’t afford the Fibre Channel "tax", can bear the ATA drives’ reliability level, and understand that accessing servers need the additional TCP/IP processing done then perhaps the IP5500 should be on your radar screen.