Using NetApp Disk Shelves as a JBOD

NetApp DS14mk2

One of the questions I am asked many times is about what type of disk storage (JBOD) can be used for CCIE Storage studies.  There are many that can be used.  I prefer to use something that is public loop and has SFP interfaces.  I also prefer to use something that supports multiple loops and allows the partitioning of those loops so you can effectively have one box do the job of two.

I have written about how I like the Xyratex RS-1600-FC2 boxes.  These are in fact what NetApp OEM’ed for the DS14mk2 shelves and you can find them on ebay, craigslist, and other places.  Now I must caveat that I have not used one of these in this capacity myself, however, it’s in fact a JBOD so there is no reason it should not work.

One of the things that the NetApp Filers do however is they do write some custom information to the first sector of the disks.  You will want to zap that information.  Easiest way is to just attach the shelf to a linux fibre card or you could do this with Windows if that is what your comfortable with.  Using Linux, follow the guide here:

Which explains nicely how to setup a basic Linux FC card, zap the first part of the disk using dd, and also has some great information on  using the Linux LVM.

I am a huge fan of Linux, and I definitely like it more than Windows.  However, I must say that during my lab studies all my initiators were Windows.  This just makes sense to me, as the windows has easy to download iSCSI initiators, FC stacks/drivers, tools, RADIUS and TACACS tools, etc.  Sure, you can track all this down on Linux but likely the books your studying with are going to assume you are using Windows.  Now, that aside, I do prefer to do low level maintenance tasks using linux, such as zapping the drives as described by

I do not know if the LRC’s in the NetApp shelves are as feature rich as you would find on the RS-1600-FC2.  On the DS14mk2 you may find them with ESH modules or the newer ESH2 modules.  The ESH2 modules support auto-terminating FCAL.  Other than that I am not sure if there are any important differences for someone trying to use it as a JBOD, but personally I would look for a DS14mk2 with ESH2.

What about the DS14 (non-mk2)?  Well, these should work just fine as well.  These have copper interfaces, and so you would need to use a MIA, but I don’t see why in the end you would not be able to get it to work just fine, and you can likely find it cheap.

I do not know much about whether any of the DS14 (mk1 or mk2) have the DIP switches that allow you to break into multiple loops and set various tasks.  My thought is no they don’t.  Just looking at the ESH’s they look to be single loop devices (1 in, 1 out), but if you find out otherwise, please post here.  Good Luck!

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