The StorageReview In The Lab series examines the behind the scenes and inner workings of our Cincinnati-based enterprise test lab. The content is designed to take a look at the equipment, software and tools that keep the lab going, with an eye toward helping IT administrators get new ideas while also seeing the challenges faced by a growing IT organization.
by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: VMware HCIbench Hands On

VMware's VSAN group recently announced a free storage performance testing tool for Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI), the HCI benchmark or HCIbench. While stressing traditional arrays with I/O or bandwidth tests is fairly well understood, applying synthetic tests to HCI gear requires a careful approach and a steep learning curve. With traditional storage infrastructure you setup your I/O generator of choice with a given workload profile, point it to some LUNs and let it rip. Hyperconverged testing requires a large-scale approach where many VMs (often 10-64) simultaneously apply that workload across multiple vDisks, at the same time… not to mention collecting all of that data when the task finishes. This type of approach is needed to adequately stress the platform and move closer, although not equal to, a real-world production setting. As you might imagine this is hard for experienced reviewers to accomplish and can be impossible for many end-users to complete in a reasonable time frame. VMware’s HCIbench helps make this testing process much easier and lets anyone who can deploy a pre-built VM test as well as an independent reviewer test HCI better.

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by StorageReview Enterprise Lab

In The Lab: Xitron XT2640 Precision Multi-Channel Power Analyzer

Power consumption is front of mind when it comes to designing, building, and running a datacenter. Not only does power usage eat into IT operations budgets, there are many other influences power consumption has as a larger part of the IT infrastructure. The StorageReview lab is no different. Not only does our testing at times draw huge amounts of power (think the Griswold household when the Christmas lights went on in Christmas Vacation) but we want to know how much power everything we plug in draws. If we test a storage device that out performs all other in a given segment, it is nice to point out if it draws more power than Godzilla’s atomic breath, putting a more complete cost of ownership profile together.

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by StorageReview Enterprise Lab

In the Lab: Seek thermal camera

The Seek thermal camera is an ultra-portable thermal imaging camera attached to, and managed by, newer generation Android and iOS mobile devices and is an ideal alternative for consumers or small-to-medium sized businesses that do not want to spend thousands of dollars on professional cameras. Working in both complete darkness and daylight, the Seek thermal detects the infrared light that is emitted by objects and uses the collected data from over 32,000 thermal pixels to create a visible image on the smartphone. The thermal sensor of the Seek has a resolution of 206 x 156 pixels and features a 36° field of view, which is more than enough for our use cases. It also comes in an XR model, which stands for “Xtra Range”, allowing users to see objects at greater distances with adjustable focus and a narrower 20° field of focus.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Remote Desktop While On the Go

Mobile remote access is something many labs need to work with when it comes to keeping tests operating smoothly, where physical access to the server isn't feasible. In the StorageReview Test Lab we work with remote access on a daily basis to keep our many tests operating smoothly, although a desktop or notebook isn't always the closest platform within reach. At times, be it in the grocery store or picking the kid up from daycare, work calls with sometimes exciting problems to quickly sort out. This is where an iPhone or iPad with an RDP app comes in to save the day and keep the lab operational. To that end we've used a number of RDP solutions, with Jump Desktop being at the top of our list.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Dell PowerEdge 13G R730 Cluster

For organizations leading the way with the business-critical solutions, technology refreshes are a fundamental part of doing business. Leading-edge applications can't wait for legacy infrastructure; be it storage, interconnect, or compute related. The StorageReview Lab faces the same fundamental issues as application workloads become larger and more intense to take advantage of the newest generation of storage and networking products. Last week we took delivery of a dozen Dell PowerEdge 13G R730 servers specifically earmarked to test the latest virtualization and latency-sensitive workloads that face tier zero storage. 

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by StorageReview Consumer Desk

In the Lab: Upgrading the Netstor TurboBox to Thunderbolt 2

In our latest In the Lab Series we will be upgrading our TurboBox (NA211TB-LD) from Thunderbolt 1 to the newest Thunderbolt 2 technology, which we reviewed back in October of 2013, using the company's Thunderbolt 2 upgrade kit.  The Netstor TurboBox is an slick looking external PCIe enclosure that offers storage expansion through a Thunderbolt connection (10Gb/s originally and 20Gb/s with an upgrade) using its equipped three PCIe slots and four 2.5" bays; which support both SSDs and SAS/SATA HDDs. Users also have the option of adding a RAID card to the TurboBox, which allows for multiple RAID configurations. The TurboBox is equipped with a 250W power supply alongside a fan as well as an abundance of ventilation located on the front and back of the high-end aluminum enclosure. The Netstor TurboBox is primarily targeted towards mobile users looking to expand on local storage options, including creative professionals who require incredibly fast transfer speeds and need to offload data quickly for sharing and editing of their work. Switching to Thunderbolt 2 technology will further increase the performance of the TurboBox, enabling more efficiency in enthusiasts' workflows.

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by Kevin OBrien

In The Lab: AXIS Security Cameras

Axis is a leader in the video surveillance market, distributing a wide variety of cameras for use cases as broad as there are buildings and people to protect. In the StorageReview Lab we use several models of Axis cameras paired with a Synology NAS and Surveillance Station 7 to provide visualization of our space both while we're on premesis via flat panel in the lab, or remotely via Synology's mobile apps. What follows is a overview of the cameras in place, their core strengths and how they are part of the overall security strategy for StorageReview. 

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by Kevin OBrien

In The Lab: Dell UltraSharp 32" 4K Monitor

The Dell UltraSharp 32 Ultra HD Monitor (UP3214Q) is designed for video editing, animation, application and game development as well as other use cases where having fine detail on your monitor is imperative. With a native resolution of 3840 x 2160, four times as much space as 1080p, the UP3214Q has exceedingly high pixel-density, allowing us to see the smallest of details in GUI, videos, and images. The Dell 4K monitor also features PremierColor technology, which provides reliable, true-to-life color as well as factory-tuned Adobe RGB and sRGB modes; all without requiring extensive calibration.  In addition, the UP3214Q also works well in dark areas due to its color depth of 1.07 billion colors. The monitor itself is 31.5 inches with a 176°/176° viewing angle, allowing us to have ample room for most of interface and monitoring needs. In addition, digital workspace management is aided by the Dell Display Manager’s Easy Arrange feature, allowing users to easily display windows side by side. The monitor also enables us to quickly and easily adjust it when needed using the tilt, swivel, and height-adjust functionality.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Preparing a NAS for FIO Tests

One of the frequent routines we go through in the NAS Test Lab (1GbE) is preparing a variety of consumer SOHO and small enterprise NAS platforms for benchmarking. While this is sometimes brought up in individual reviews, the testing process behind the scenes allows us to put each system's best foot forward with an infrastructure in place that doesn't interfere with that goal. To that end in this glimpse into the test lab we show you how we go about configuring one of the systems that recently went through our benchmarking process.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Giving Client SSDs an Edge in Enterprise

There are many factors that differentiate client SSDs from enterprise SSDs. One of those attributes is the amount of over-provisioning (OP) an SSD has. Over-provisioning on a flash device is the amount of space reserved for controller background activity; less OP means greater capacity with slower write performance, while more OP means less capacity and better sustained write performance.

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