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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2 Responses to Open-E DSS V7 – definitely an improvement

  1. Todd Maxwell says:

    This is true that we use SCST and the versions that had this older SCST build was back in 2010. DSS V6 releases that are current no longer have this issue due the fixes we implemented and we developed some new improved process and procedures within the company to improve additional stability features like the IO Error detection with the Active/Passive in DSS V6 and Active/Active with the DSS V7. The SCST issue could be anyone’s problem back in those days using the older build of SCST with FC and with the virtual HBA’s in XEN cluster. Concerning the slow loading of the GUI when there is a high number of FC Luns in the range of 70+ this is also being addressed.

    The SCST issue is long gone now but we do watch it very closely and test longer.
    We are looking to add some shell access to the future releases of the Open-E product line, once we have completed a secure method to protect our scripts and GUI, as you can understand if we dont then engineers at Open-E will be on the street :). We want to allow all customers more flexibility and access to the shell but developers need to complete the project with the DSS V7.
    I thought it would be a good effort on our end to contribute to this blog and hope to inform others that we do recognize it and address it without hiding from it.

    Feel free to contact any of our Open-E offices to talk to an engineer if you need any additional information about this topic or any other information.

    All the best,
    Open-E

    • jmozdzen says:

      Todd,

      thank you for taking your time to comment, I really appreciate that!

      We were able to reproduce the SCST problems latest in mid-2011 – with the original SCST code itself. Our final, fixing patch was added to SCST HEAD in June 2011. So unfortunately, it’s not that long ago that this problem was solved. On the other hand, we didn’t re-test all subsequent DSS V6 releases, as we usually only update when we actually have a problem to fix. So I cannot tell when Open-E started shipping sufficiently recent SCST versions in the V6 series. We have tested V7, and as stated in the article, the fix seems to be included 🙂

      And no-one wants to see the engineers on the street, for sure. But it’s like with those (German) DVD intro clips against copyright violation: Being the lawful buyer, I cannot skip those clips to get right to the movie, while those using rips can do easily. Now who’s facing the impact? Same with DSS: Those who try enough will eventually get into the system, as is the case with any system you can physically control. But those influenced most by the hurdles are those who, by buying the software, already expressed their support for Open-E.

      Nevertheless, as an existing customer who most probably will take money in his hands to buy V7, I thank you for the ongoing support and hope you will keep up the good work!

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