Using a Sun Fire x4500 as an Enterprise Vault Server

I gave a presentation at Symantec Vision yesterday which discussed ways of using Sun's server and storage products to deliver solutions for Symantec Enterprise Vault. The presentation focused on using Sun StorageTek 5000 NAS and Sun StorageTek SAM (aka SAM-FS), and in one section I discussed using a Sun Fire X4500 Server (aka Thumper) as Archival Storage by configuring it with SAMBA and SAM-FS and using it as "NAS". We had this set-up at our booth at the event for people to come kick the tyres.

One thing that I didn't discuss in my presentation was the possibility of installing Microsoft Windows onto the Sun Fire x4500 and using it as a Vault Server. This is something I have tested & benchmarked in the lab, and it worked very well, but discussing it was out of scope for the session I was presenting. It was interesting that people from two Symantec/Sun resellers came up to me after the presentation and asked me about the possibility of doing just that. The answer was yes, this can be done, is supported, performs very well and is very cost effective. No certification is required because Sun Fire x4500 is a server with lots of disks in it and Symantec don't certify server platforms with Enterprise Vault, they certify Microsoft Windows releases.

Before going any further, let's review the Enterprise Vault Solution architecture when using NAS. This is shown on page 11 of of this paper. At a minimum, one database server, one vault server and one NAS appliance are required. In contrast, when using a Sun Fire x4500, a separate database server is still required, but we don't need any NAS connected to the Vault Server for Vault Stores as the internal storage of the Sun Fire x4500 is huge (24 TB RAW made up of 48 x 500 GB SATA-II drives).

Now looking back a few months to when I did this work:

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2 SP1 was installed on the Sun Fire x4500 and then Enterprise Vault. I configured 6 disks into a software RAID-5 logical volume using the Windows Logical Volume Manager and ran some standard Enterprise Vault performance benchmarks provided to me by Symantec. (Six was not a magic number of disks, it just seemed a sensible number to use.)

Suffice to say, it went like the wind, archiving at nearly two times the rate of a fast NAS appliance when archiving the same data to it...a good result. To be fair, using local storage will have boosted performance vs NAS, and the extra CPU power and memory in the Sun Fire x4500 vs my normal Vault Server (a two CPU Sun Fire v40z) will have given the application a significant boost...but still a good result.

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