For this product review, my lab environment consisted of the following:
- one domain controller (DC) running Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition
- one HP Color LaserJet 2840 (LJ2840) multifunction printer installed on the server
- one Mac desktop computer, running Mac OS X 10.5.8 with Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 and OpenOffice 3
- one 100Mbps Ethernet switch
For a production environment, ExtremeZ-IP is supported on Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003, Windows Storage Server, or a Windows-based network access server (NAS). You can also install ExtremeZ-IP on Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP Pro, or Windows XP Embedded-but this is only recommended for test environments. The minimum hardware recommendations are a Pentium 6 processor and 1GB of RAM.
After reviewing the ExtremeZ-IP website and documentation, I came up with a series of tests I wanted to use for my evaluation. I started by installing my server. To this, I added a shared folder containing additional folders, some with large movie files and other folders with a couple thousand images. I also installed the LJ2840 on the server. Next, I installed ExtremeZ-IP's 21-day trial software, which added the service ExtremeZ-IP File and Print for Macintosh, as well as two Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) volumes. (ExtremeZ-IP refers to its AFP shared folders as volumes.) The last step to get my server going was to install Windows Search on the server and add the new folder to the Windows Search indexing list. (ExtremeZ-IP uses the Windows Search indexes for its integration with the Spotlight search tool in OS X.)
Installing the ExtremeZ-IP application on the server couldn't be any easier; you just run the download and click Next until it finishes. You might want to bind the Mac to Active Directory (AD) through the Directory Utility, located on the Mac under \Applications\Utilities. This way, your users will be able to log on with the same AD credentials that they use everywhere else, and you won't have to manage a bunch of local accounts.
With ExtremeZ-IP comes an application to simplify access to shared volumes and printers. The application is called Zidget, and you can install it from http://<server IP address>:8081. Zidget must be installed per user or deployed with some type of network deployment tool. After it's installed by an administrator, any user can run the installation and will be given the option to add Zidget to his or her dashboard. Zidget gives users an easily accessible list of printers and ExtremeZ-IP volumes from the Mac dashboard. From the server, I was able to specify the PPD file (Mac printer driver) and create a shared printer using the ExtremeZ-IP application. Back at the Mac dashboard, from Zidget, I expanded the location where I knew the printer was located and double-clicked the printer to install. My test print job came out without any issues.
It was practically self-explanatory to create an AFP-shared volume from the ExtremeZ-IP administrative console. Likewise, I had no problem accessing the volume from Zidget or using the Connect to Server feature from the OS X Finder application by entering afp://192.168.1.222/ExtremeZ-IP-Share. (My server's IP address is 192.168.1.222, and the folder I was sharing was named ExtremeZ-IP-Share.) From this volume, I copied a single file of 526MB to the Mac in about 52 seconds. After re-mapping the same volume with SMB (i.e., smb://192.168.1.222/ExtremeZ-IP-Share), I copied the same 526MB file from the server to the Mac but this time in about 65 seconds. I tried a similar test with a folder containing about 7.6GB of images; again, the ExtremeZ-IP (AFP) source was faster: 33 minutes versus 38 minutes for the SMB share. One thing to keep in mind is that just because you use ExtremeZ-IP to create a volume doesn't mean you automatically have a corresponding SMB share. ExtremeZ-IP uses AFP to share folders-so if you want your Windows users to access the same share as your Mac users, you need to share the same folder again, but using the standard Windows sharing steps. Unless your Windows client computers are running AFP as a networking protocol, they won't be able to see or access the ExtremeZ-IP volumes.
In addition to performance improvements around file sharing, I tested the volume restriction capabilities of ExtremeZ-IP. In the volume settings, there are two attributes for controlling access: Volume is read-only and Allow guests to use this volume. You can also assign a password to the volume and limit the number of users. However, as with Windows SMB shares, the NTFS permissions are in effect and the most restrictive settings will apply. ExtremeZ-IP volumes must be on a drive formatted with NTFS.