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The SANcube is a big cube stuffed with huge hard-drives with a FireWire interface. However, more than one person can use it, so files don’t
need to be moved from pillar to post.
This sharing is a function of the Accelware software, designed by ATTO, for Micronet. Accelware mounts the volume, or volumes, and allows data to be shared with other users. The version of the SANcube we looked at is one of the smaller models. It has three hard-drives totalling 135GB of unformatted storage. It also has two FireWire ports, and, unlike normal drives, each port
can be connected to a different Mac. Micronet has also announced a massive 450GB version for four users.
The ability to share access to a
fast drive is not new-Fibre Channel has offered this for years. Unfortunately,
Fibre Channel is very expensive, and
is mostly used for high-end, video-broadcast editing. The SANcube offers similar functionality at a cheaper price.
The software can configure the cube any way you like. If each drive is formatted separately, you can give private-volume access to each of the two people connected, and share the third drive. The users connect to the SANcube via 4.5-metre FireWire cords. Unfortunately, the shared drive can only be written to by one person at a time. This means you must use the software to change access privileges when copying files to other users.
Even with this time-wasting, it still cuts transfer times for big files to virtually nothing. You don’t actually need to copy the file at all, just give the other user access to it. Even when you do need to write to the SANcube from an internal drive, it’s lightening fast. All three drives can even be formatted as a single RAID array, which makes it even quicker. Because incoming data is spread across each drive in turn, you’re unlikely to over stretch the available bandwidth. If you have a drive fast enough to trouble the SANcube – which we don’t – Micronet claims transfer rates of up to 33MB per second are possible. The bigger 270GB and 450GB models use dual buses to make the theoretical maximum-transfer rate 65MB per second. But, it’s unlikely you’d achieve this speed.
The look of the SANcube adds to its appeal. It sits in a box approximately ten-inches cubed. Obviously cubes have had a renaissance since the G4 Cube was announced, but Micronet is already showing prototypes for the SANcube as early as January 2000.
The comparatively bulky SANcube dwarfs the G4 Cube, but, is beautiful compared to most other FireWire drives. There is a circle of LEDs that flash in different ways, depending on what the SANcube is doing – it’s of no use, but adds to its charm.
The capacity of this “smaller” model is enough for almost anybody. You can fit almost two hours of digital video on here, or enough MP3s to play continuously for 100 days. If that isn’t enough for you, choose the 450GB model – which will hold a year’s worth of MP3. The SANcube will also speed file-transfers more than Gigabit Ethernet.