Open-E DSS V7 – definitely an improvement

Despite having serious problems with previous versions, we never gave up on Open-E’s DSS software – an integrated NAS/SAN software, Linux-based, with a browser-based management interface.

Recently version 7 was published. The most highlighted enhancement was in the area of fail-over clustering, which is not the primary focus in our current installation. Nevertheless we gave DSS V7 a test run to determine if two (from our point of view) major problems of the previous versions have been fixed:

  1. DSS V6 for too long used an old version of SCST, having a severe data corruption bug that drove us crazy until we found our way to work around this.
  2. With our 60+ fiber channel groups, several with more than one disk device, administering the  FC groups was no longer possible as the web client never completed (re-)loading the list of disk devices.

Our tests have been really promising: Both problems could no longer be reproduced in our test installation. Especially the SCST bug was a real pain, as our work-around had to be adopted for (and tested against) every DSS update – now we’ll be able to just (test and) install new versions without much overhead.

On the other hand, the problem of handling large numbers of FC groups and devices may just be postponed: With 15 groups and FC LUNs, it took around 10 seconds to display the list of available LUNs for a group. When we had created 60 FC groups and around 70 disk LUNs, that time went up to already 25 seconds – that’s half aminute waiting time whenever you click on a FC group. This delay makes working with that part of the browser interface a patience-straining experience, and even more, making changes to the disk assignments takes equally long per change. But to me it seems that the interface is, although slow, robust: V6 gave up much earlier and when exceeding the implied limit, it just never finished to load that LUN list.

Unfortunately, DSS v7 still is rather locked up by Open-E so that you cannot easily add your own software to the server, despite being simply a repackaged & enhanced Linux distribution. When I once inquired about shell access, protection of intellectual property was the argument given against that. I would more understand if their arguments would target potential support problems when running customer-specific software in their environment… and even despite “voiding the warranty”, I’d put my own backup software client on the server: Scanning 10.000s of files on the server is causing much less impact on other users than doing so via an NFS share.

All in all, to us V7 looks like an improvement. We’ll nevertheless have to take a closer look if those bug fixes justify the cost, but for anyone starting off new and in the need for a neatly integrated piece of software to handle NFS, Fiber Channel, iSCSI and Microsoft & Apple file sharing services, I can recommend DSS V7 without hesitation.

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