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Lenovo ThinkSystem DS6200 Review

As part of its biggest ever enterprise portfolio refresh, Lenovo announced seven new ThinkSystem storage arrays targeting a broad range of business applications. The DS2200 represents the entry point and offers SMBs a low-cost, highly available SAN solution while the DS6200 on review delivers a powerful and affordable all-Flash solution to mid-sized businesses.

The DS6200 has 24 SFF drive bays and is packed to the gills with features as along with enterprise-class storage virtualization services, it supports snapshots, optional asynchronous replication and a wide range of host connectivity options. However, the clincher is its automated real-time data tiering making it look even better value.

The dual active/active controllers are no lightweights either as they each sport a big 16GB of cache memory protected by a neat combination of super-capacitor and Flash memory. Designed to protect the cache contents during a power blackout, the super-capacitors have a quick recharge time so will be ready for active duty much quicker than a standard battery pack when power is restored.

Lenovo offers a controller with four 12Gbps SAS3 direct-attach ports but the model we have is the CNC (converged network controller) version. Their dual-personality SFP+ ports support 4/8/16Gbps Fibre Channel or 1/10-Gigabit iSCSI operations and can be configured in either mode or as a mixture of both.

Storage features

Standard features include support for 1024 virtual volumes with thin provisioning, snapshots and SSD read caches. The DS6200 is licensed for 128 snapshots and Lenovo’s FoD (Feature on Demand) upgrade service allows this to be extended to 512 and further to 1024.

For data tiering, the base license activates the Standard and Archive tiers where data is automatically moved between SAS and Midline SAS HDD arrays according to its usage patterns. The SSD Performance tier is enabled with an optional license (Part no. 01GV561) which has a list price of $3,499.

Asynchronous replication also requires a license and functions over iSCSI connections. The DS6200 can run volume replication jobs as often as every hour and supports remote DS series appliances plus Lenovo’s Storage S2200 and S3200 entry SAN arrays.

SSD read caches can be assigned to disk groups and are not part of the tiering process. The only feature we noticed that was missing from this product is a Volume Copy function.

Easy deployment

The appliance’s web interface is easy to use and very informative

The web interface’s quick start wizard ensures the appliance is ready in minutes. This runs through securing management access and configuring general system settings although we found host port assignments will require manual intervention.

The review system was supplied with all host port personalities set to iSCSI. We wanted to test over FC and this required a brief visit to the CLI (command line interface) over an SSH session to change them all to FC.

Storage provisioning is swift as the appliance supports two pools with one assigned to each controller. Lenovo included eight SSDs for our review so we created a four-drive RAID10 pool, or disk group, for each controller which the appliance automatically placed in the Performance tier.

You can leave the appliance to manage all data movement or select a tier affinity to force it to use the Performance or Archive tiers. Virtual volumes are created by choosing a disk group, adding a name and size and the number of volumes you want.

Our last task was to map the volumes to selected FC host ports. Note that the controllers function in ALUA (asymmetric logical unit access) mode so hosts that access volumes over a port on each controller will see one as active and the other as non-optimised and reserved for failover.

Expansion and management

Storage pools are simple to create and the DS6200 supports RAID1, 10, 5 and 6 arrays

A key feature of the DS6200 is its end-to end SAS3 support includes the expansion ports – many competing arrays only have 6Gbps SAS expansion ports. The DS6200 is a great choice if future expansion is a priority as it supports up to nine additional disk shelves taking the drive totals to 240 SFF or 108 LFF and capacities for one system of up to 3.68PB.

Overall, we found the web interface simple to use and very informative. The home page opens with a complete overview of all host ports, controllers and storage pools and hovering the mouse over any component pops up a window with more information.

The DS6200 snaps neatly into Lenovo’s XClarity Administrator which centrally manages and monitors your entire Lenovo infrastructure. We run this in the lab as a Hyper-V VM and were able to monitor the array and see its temperatures, power consumption and system alerts.

Super performance

Snapshots can be scheduled at regular intervals and make light work of data recovery

We created four 100GB virtual volumes with two assigned to each controller. For testing, we used four Windows Server 2016 rack server systems each equipped with QLogic single-port 16Gbps FC adapters with two connected to each controller.

Using host mappings, we ensured each server had a dedicated volume and used Iometer to test performance. Initial tests on one server returned impressive sequential read and write speeds of 12.3Gbits/sec and swapping to random operations saw read speeds remain the same and write speed fall to 7.6Gbits/sec.

We then ran Iometer simultaneously on all four servers and saw top cumulative sequential read and writes of 49Gbits/sec. Our random tests saw read and write speeds of 48Gbits/sec and 30Gbits/sec with Iometer reporting a mere 0.3ms average latency on all servers.

Dropping to 4KB Iometer transfer requests returned very high sequential read and write I/O throughputs of 388,000 IOPS and 115,000 IOPS. For random operations, we recorded cumulative rates of 228,000 IOPS and 114,000 IOPS with 1.2ms average latencies.

Conclusion

Mid-sized businesses looking for an affordable high-performance SAN array should seriously consider Lenovo’s ThinkSystem DS6200. It delivers an impressive range of data management features, its versatile and powerful controllers provide a good range of port choices and it won’t be beaten for speed and expansion potential.

9.2 Total Score

Mid-sized businesses looking for an affordable high-performance SAN array should seriously consider Lenovo’s ThinkSystem DS6200. It delivers an impressive range of data management features, its versatile and powerful controllers provide a good range of port choices and it won’t be beaten for speed and expansion potential.

Performance
9.5
Features
9
Build Quality
9.5
Usability
9
Value
9
PROS
  • Great FC performance
  • Converged controllers
  • Big 16GB controller cache
  • Automated data tiering
  • Excellent value
  • High SAS3 expansion potential
CONS
  • Nothing to see here
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