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: 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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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Netgear Ethernet Networking Infrastructure

One of the more integral components in any lab is its traditional Ethernet networking infrastructure connecting servers, storage, networking and related components. While high-speed interconnects such as 10/40GbE, Infiniband or Fibre Channel might be the primary production links for storage or other means, gigabit is still needed to make all that gear manageable. For every switch, server or storage array, the management or KVM ports are required for day to day upkeep. This article covers what makes the StorageReview Test Lab tick when it comes to Ethernet fabric.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Studio Photography of Large Equipment

Behind the scenes at StorageReview, we go to great lengths to offer detail-oriented photography you see published in reviews. To make this possible, we have an on-site studio where we can shoot devices as small as micro-SD cards and as large multi-shelf storage arrays. This setup includes three main components; a large light tent, a dSLR camera and a ton of continuous lighting... 1000 watts of CFLs or roughly 65,000 lumens. Those compnents along with some heavy lifting make our images possible.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Smart Cooling

As the StorageReview Test Lab continues to grow in terms of testing capacity and testing load at any given time, the cooling requirements and associated costs balloon as well. With 2,000-6,000 watts of compute activity throughout the week, or about 7,000 to 20,000 BTU of heating capacity, the costs just to cool the space can get quite hefty. The approach we've taken to address HVAC in our lab and building not only helps save us money, but literally heats our building during the heating months. While our needs may not be representative, most small data centers that start as telco rooms then grow into a rack or more of compute and storage, can have similar problems. 

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Mellanox SX1024 Switch Configuration

In today's look into the StorageReview Lab, we are working on the initial configuration of a new Mellanox 10/40Gb Ethernet switch, the SX1024. Offering 48 10Gb SFP+ ports and 12 40/56Gb QSFP+ ports, it adds an immense number of ports to our top-of-rack connectivity for high-speed storage arrays and host connections. To get the switch up and running in our lab environment, we make a number of changes from the stock shipping configuration, which in most cases is a blank switch.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: On-Site Testing Toolkit

At StorageReview, almost all reviews on the site are tested with hardware in our own lab on-premises in Cincinnati. As we grow and expand to testing larger storage systems, the need for proper on-site testing equipment grows. Rather than use gear supplied by a vendor for in-lab visits, we prefer to keep as much control as possible in these environments to ensure data reliability. Of course taking our lab on the road isn't possible, so we've endeavored to create the next best thing, a mini-lab built around an EchoStreams Innovative Solutions very short depth 1U dual-proc server that is easy to transport between locations.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Bulk SSD Secure Erasing

When reviewing large batches of SSDs for a certain project, the time always comes where to get back to a clean state, a bunch of SSDs need to be secure erased. This process can't be overlooked, since depending on the workload, not putting a drive back into its factory fresh condition can cause problems switching between workloads. In this lab tip we've documented how to secure erase SSDs by streamlining the process. We've created bulk erasing scripts for Linux server environments, which handle up to 23 SSDs at a time in a Supermicro SuperStorage Server 2027R-AR24NV.

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