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Introduction

Iomega 200rl

At a Glance
Product Iomega StorCenter Pro 200rL (34208 [3 TB])
Summary Four drive rack-mounted RAID 5 NAS for server rooms
Pros • Hot-swappable drives
• High performance
• Smooth RAID recovery
Cons • 9K only jumbo frame support
• Very basic logging
Extremely noisy
• Bugs and missing features

Iomega has long based its SMB NASes on Windows' Server operating systems, with the current crop using Windows Storage Server 2003 R2. This approach brings some cost disadvantages, but also the advantage of being more user-friendly to those who have been accustomed to running WSS on their own iron.

The 200rl series uses the same hardware as the Windows-based 200r series, but runs Debian GNU/Linux instead. This is Iomega's first foray into using Linux on its business-class NASes and, as we'll see, there are still some rough edges to be smoothed out.

The 200rl is packaged in a 1U 19" rack format that's about 22" deep. The unit is long and heavy enough that you won't be hanging it in a rack using just the front mounting ears. So Iomega includes a pair of brackets to tie the rear end of the NAS to a rack's back rails.

The four drives are mounted on trays that have a lever for easy insertion and removal, but are not lockable. Each tray has integrated light pipes (2 and 3 in Figure 1) to communicate status info.

Figure 1: Drive indicators

The front panel indicators and rear panel connectors are described here and here in the slideshow. I have to say, however, that I didn't like the front panel controls much. For some reason, I had a hard time telling the difference between the red and green modes of the System Status Indicator.

The power switch is also too fiddly, requiring a less-than-three second press to initiate a normal shutdown sequence. But since there is no audible or visual feedback to acknowledge the shutdown command, I was left to wait 30 seconds or so each time to be sure that the 200rl had heard my command.

This poorly-designed control also resulted in a botched RAID 5 rebuild when I tried to see if I could shut down the system during a rebuild and have it resume when I turned it back on. Because I was waiting for some sort of acknowledgement of the shutdown command, I held the power button too long and did a forced shutdown. So I was "trained" to use the web admin GUI to do safe and reliable system shutdowns.

By the way, I later retried the shutdown-during rebuild-experiment using the GUI to shut the system down. Despite the "RAID rebuild in progress; please do not shut down" warning in the Event Log, the system let me shut it down! The system restarted ok and appeared to work ok. But the Disk Management Status messages seemed to indicate that the system had to make a few attempts at restarting the rebuild before it successfully restarted. It's probably better that you not restart during a rebuild and Iomega should make firmware changes to ensure that the 200rl doesn't let you.

The rear panel has connectors for attachment of a console monitor, keyboard and mouse (both PS/2 and USB). While it's nice to be able to watch the Debian console messages fly by on boot, that's not really why the connectors are there. (By the way, although you get a login prompt, the obvious root login username / password combinations I tried were unsuccessful.) It turns out that if you kill the system and need to do a full restore, you'll need to attach a console plus a USB CD drive.

I had the occasion to need to run a system restore after the improper shutdown described above. But I didn't have a USB CD drive handy and had to wait for Iomega to send one out. I suggested to them that it would be a hell of a lot easier to run the recovery process from a flash drive and they agreed. But, for now, you'll need a USB CD drive to do a system recovery.

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