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Technical Details

Review: NETGEAR SC101 Storage Central
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Although both the Ximeta NetDisks and the SC require installing an application to make drives appear in My Computer like directly-connected USB, IDE or SATA drives, that's where the similarity ends. The SC is based on "Z-SAN" technology from startup Zetera. You can get Zetera's basic pitch on their site and download a whitepaper for even more background.

Updated 10/15/2005
However the short story on Z-SAN is that it uses IP-based (Internet Procotol, not Intellectual Property) techniques to provide functions that are more like those available with much more expensive Storage Area Networks. These functions, which include capabilities like mirroring (RAID 1) and the ability for defined drives to span multiple physical hard drives or even SC's, are accomplished by peer-to-peer IP multicast communication among controllers in each SC, instead of expensive, centralized SAN controllers. While this sounds pretty complicated, it's all hidden from view behind a simple management application (more later) that includes wizards to guide you through the most often used configuration steps.

The hardware itself is kept simple, as evidenced by the fan-less case design shown in Figure 1. The case is actually an extruded aluminum box with heat-sink fins on top and bottom and slip-on plastic side panels. The heat sinks are needed to dissipate heat from up to two 3.5 inch hard drives that can be slid into the enclosure.

Figure 1: SC101 case
(click image to enlarge)

This design is simple, but it should be noted that since there is not a full metal wall separating the two drive compartments, only the left-hand drive (viewed from the front) has the opportunity to have its metal shield in contact with the SC's case for effective heat transfer. Perhaps in recognition of possible heat problems, Zetera told me that an upcoming firmware release will add an idle time drive spin-down feature.

Figure 2: SC101 main board
(click image to enlarge)

The controller board is relatively simple (Figure 2) and attached to the rear panel. Those are the two IDE drive cables you see attached to the board, which is based on a Texas Instruments TNETV2005 125 MHz MIPS processor. The other components on the board are Flash, RAM and an Ethernet PHY for the single 10/100 Ethernet port.

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