In the enterprise markets, its common practice to have servers arranged into a rack with ease of access and to also increase density in a given set of floor space. The list of features and specifications that we see in the enterprise sector do always trickle back down through the lower levels and its no surprise that in the SMB sector we do see rackmounted solutions available after all small business are well, small and so can be their floor space.
Just over a couple of moths ago, we took a look at QNAP’s TS869 Pro 8-Bay desktop NAS and we were very impressed by its high levels of performance pushing the boundaries of theoretical bandwidth to the next level. The TS869U-RP is next up the rankings over the TS869 Pro and on paper they are very similar systems, both powered by a dual core 2.13GHz Atom CPU, 8 bays, same software and dual gigabit LAN amongst a few lesser features. Critically where the NAS we’re looking at today differs, is apart from the obvious rackmount capability, we also have redundant power supplies, 2GB of DDR3 RAM and far superior cooling.
As far as rackmount systems go, this is one of the first stepping stones into the enterprise level markets, where we find systems powered my more and more powerful Pentium class and Xeon CPUs. Don’t think however that this is going to be lacking speed, with it loosely based on the TS869 Pro desktop NAS, it inherently gains the respect that we found from its desktop counterpart.
On a side note, you may notice that our testing methodology, we have upgraded our network infrastructure and so all NAS systems now connect through on of Netgear’s GS724TPS gigabit managed switches instead of connecting directly to our storage test bench. The reasoning behind this is due to replicating real world setups and by this 99.9% of the time any network server typically connects to the network through a switch and by us now having a high level switch we can give the best real world results that we can.
Before we get on to what comes with the NAS, you will note that we don’t have any images of the box. At this level, NAS offerings are not something that need jazzing up and so the plain brown box that it’s shipped in is all you would see. Opening up the shipping box, on top of the server and its padding is a smaller box containing the accessories. The first things we find in here are a quick installation guide, companion CD with software to find and configure the NAS, a set of keys for the drive trays and two sets of screws for securing 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives.
Digging further into the box we also find two CAT5e cables and two kettle leads for reasons which we will see shortly.
Taking the system out of the box, we don’t need to expect anything fancy design wise as this would be lost once installed into a rack. The TS869U-RP will fit into any rack starting at 650mm deep, although we do note that the rails required for installation are not included with the system and are purchased separately. For those that don’t know, racks are measured in a standard unit (U) and a systems size is determined by how many units it takes up. A switch for example is one of the thinnest items you can fit into a rack and so is regarded as 1U, whilst the NAS we’ve got here is twice as thick taking up 2U in space.
Starting from the left hand side of the NAS, on both of the mounting arms, there is a single screw hole for securing the system into a cabinet without it rolling out on the rails of its own accord.
In the middle of the system there is a set of drive status LEDs, link activity and power/status LEDs. Just to the right of these we can see the power button.
To the far right hidden behind the gloss front panel is a blue LCD display like we see on other QNAP systems and like other systems we also have two buttons for navigation through the OSD.
With this system built into a 2U design, we find space to house eight drive bays, four above four using lockable drive trays similar to those in the desktop models of NAS.
Moving around to the back of the system, the TS869U-RP features dual-gigabit LAN, four USB2.0, two USB3.0, two eSATA ports a reset button to clear any system passwords and last of all to display outputs which are reserved with no function.
With this being a rackmounted system for the higher end of the market, its no surprise that we find redundant power supplies. Each PSU is independent of the other so in the event that one fails or the power to delivery to one fails, the other continues to run ensuring the greatest uptime possible. Typically we would find one PSU connected directly to the mains and the other through a UPS providing backup power and the event of a power cut.
Lifting the lid off the system, and taking a look inside, we can see that everything is minimalistic with only a few wires running around to serve power to the motherboard and then to the two fans in the midrib of the chassis.
Powered by a 2.13GHz dual core Intel Atom CPU, the NAS comes as standard with 2GB of RAM, which can be expanded up to a total of 4GB. The systems OS is run from a 512MB flash DOM.
Keeping the amass of cables to a minimum and also in the long run reducing manufacturing costs, the motherboard connects directly to the SATA backplane in a single connection.
Running a large array of drives in a confined space will naturally generate a fair amount of heat and so to keep the system cool, two high CFM fans are located in the mid rib of the system pulling air in from the front and over the drives then pushes this over the motherboard and out the rear.
In general a NAS box is just an external hard drive caddy that is attached to your network rather than by USB or even Firewire. Because of this we can find a whole host of other features and utilities bundled into them giving them the leading edge over the other options available on the market.
|CPU||Intel® Atom™ 2.13GHz Dual-core Processor|
|DRAM||2GB RAM (Expandable RAM, up to 4GB) NOTE: 1. The system memory can be increased to maximum 4GB by installing an additional 1GB or 2GB SO-DIMM RAM module. 2 .For the information of RAM module installation and compatible NAS models, please refer to the QNAP RAM Module Installation Guide|
|Flash Memory||512MB DOM|
|Hard Disk Drive||8 x 3.5” or 2.5” SATA 6Gb/s, SATA 3Gb/s hard drive or SSD NOTE: 1. The system is shipped without HDD. 2. For the HDD compatibility list, please visithttp://www.qnap.com/en/index.php?sn=3877&lang=en|
|Hard Disk Tray||8 x Hot-swappable and lockable tray|
|LAN Port||2 x Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet ports|
|LED Indicators||Status, LAN, HDD 1, HDD 2, HDD3, HDD4, HDD5, HDD6, HDD7, HDD8|
|USB||2 x USB 3.0 port (Back: 2) 4 x USB 2.0 port (Back: 4) Support USB printer, pen drive, USB hub, and USB UPS etc.|
|eSATA||2 x eSATA port (Back)|
|Buttons||Power, Reset, Enter, Select|
|Alarm Buzzer||System warning|
|Form Factor||2U, Rackmount|
|Dimensions||89 (H) x 482 (W) x 534 (D) mm 3.50 (H) x 18.98 (W) x 21.02 (D) inch|
|Weight||Net weight: 11.02 kg (24.29 lbs) Gross weight: 19.26 kg (42.46 lbs)|
|Power Consumption (W)||Sleep mode: 56.6W In Operation:74.7W Power-off (in WOL mode): 1W (with 8 x 1TB HDD installed)|
|Power Supply||Input: 100-240V AC, 50/60Hz, Output: Redundant 300W|
|Secure Design||K-lock security slot for theft prevention|
|VGA||Reserved VGA interface for maintenance|
|Fan||2 x quiet cooling fan (7 cm, 12V DC)|
Powerful All-in-one server
When testing a device of this sort, the system that we use to test with is not a major factor in its performance. The performance of the NAS box comes down to the network its running on and its own internal hardware. With a device of this sort having so many different applications, Intel’s NASPT software covers all the bases and also gives us a set of results that we will be able to utilise and therefore give a benchmark against other similar systems in the future. Intel NASPT (Network Attached Storage Performance Toolkit) performs its test by transferring varying sizes and quantities of data to and from the device based on twelve different scenarios.
As part of the testing, the NAS is connected to our core network through a Netgear GS724TPS managed gigabit switch and then to our test bench to give the best real world setup test that we can.
The system that we use to run the Intel NASPT software does require us to drop the memory right down to 2GB as any more than this leads to data caching and therefore skews the results from the NAS box.
Following on from this we test the NAS box performance under each of the RAID options that it has available, to show, depending on the end users needs, the relational differences in speed from the drive and thus one can decide which particular RAID configuration will be best for them.
HD Video playback is a read test, where a single 2Gb file is read in 256kB blocks sequentially from the drive. This simulates where a 720p HD video is being watched across the network to a media player on the other end.
In the first of our test variables, we find a set of results very similar to the desktop TS869 system, with the RAID10 array just nudging in front with 95MB/s.
2x HD Video Playback works with exactly the same data set as the first HD Video test, however this time the same content is streamed twice from the NAS box simulating two simultaneous streams being made to external media players.
We are fully aware that JBOD falls behind when trying to handle multiple streams simultaneously and thus is where RAID comes into play. We find a balanced set of speed across the arrays with RAID10 just in front again with 99.4MB/s whilst RAID0 is only just behind with 97.8MB/s.
In the same way that the 2x Video Playback streams to the equivalent of 2 external media players at the same time, the test here doubles that again upto a simulated 4 media players.
In a similar fashiod to the 2x playback test, the 4x playback is favoured greatly by both RAID10 & 0, both topping out at 104MB/s.
The HD Video Record test is as the name suggests a write test to the NAS box. A single 2GB file is written to the device in 256kB blocks sequentially to the disk.
This one one of two tests where we can see how far the NAS is able to push things, and true to its word, the TS869U-RP takes the speeds close to the limit with a super fast transfer rate under RAID0 of 129.6MB/s. we do see that JBOD is only a fraction behind along with RAID10.
The HD playback and record test now put the drive under the same single record and playback tests as before, but now at the same time. This will factor for the quick changes needed to switch between reading and writing two large blocks of data across the network to the device.
Presenting the drives with both read and write operations is naturally favoured by the RAID0 array with its capability for higher sustained speeds, thus we see speeds topping out at 95.1MB/s.
For content creation, Intel have simulated access to via video creation applications. This is made up of 98 files with 12MB reads and 14MB writes in varying sizes of blocks. The activity is predominantly non-sequential with the majority of access time made up of writing to the drives. There are quiet periods of read/write activity interrupted with busy periods to present a difficult workload on the drives.
As we would expect, the parity driven arrays do suffer with this type of test and we see RAID10 & JBOD perform on par with each other but just a little behind RAID0 with 13MB/s.
The office productivity simulation is very similar to the content creation, with a total of 607 files written to and read from the drive. A total of 1.4GB of data is written to and read from the drive with a close balance between each made – the majority of write access is made up of 1kB writes.
Office productivity again doesn’t favour the parity arrays as well for pure speed, with RAID10 then JBOD and RAID0 taking the top places.
This test quite simply put copies a single large file from the test system to the NAS box to show how well the system can sustain a single write speed. The 1.4GB file is copied to the drive and written in 64kB blocks.
File copy to NAS is one of a few tests where we can really see how well the system can do, pushing bandwidth to the limits. Whilst this system hasn’t set a new high for us under a single connection, achieving 132.6MB/s is not bad going.
File copy from the NAS works in exactly the same way as the copy test, however it works in the opposite direction. The single 1.4GB file is read off the NAS in 64kB blocks.
Pulling that data back from the NAS, we found a spread of results ranging from 71.7MB/s under RAID6 right upto 88.5MB/s under RAID10. RAID1 and 0 were only a fraction behind.
In the directory copy to NAS test, a directory tree representing that of a typical commercially available office suite is copied to the NAS to trace the bulk copy of a complex directory. A total of 2833 files making up 247MB are moved but the file sizes vary considerably with an average size of 41.4kB. Due to the varying sizes of the files, only around 50% of the writes are sequential.
The increased number of drives here helps the RAID0 array with the larger number of small writes that are made to the file system with speeds just under 25MB/s.
In the same way that the file copy from NAS traces the same file back across to the test system, the directory copy from NAS does exactly the same but to the entire directory that it copied across previously.
Similarly to when writing data to the NAS, when pulling it back, the increased number of drives allows for a boost in speed with speeds topping out at just under 25MB/s.
Last of all is a test based around a photo album. When a photo album is viewed on screen, only the images that you see are loaded from the drive and so when you scroll through the album, the new images have to be fetched and read. The album here contains 169 photos with varying file sizes based on the size, quality and detail in the image. Reading the files in a photo album puts an unusual read load upon the drive as the metadata is read, a thumbnail constructed and finally the image viewed.
RAID arrays typically work better with larger amounts of read data and not smaller files and reads so as expected the test results are very similar across the range with speeds varying from 13.1MB/s to 15.7MB/s.
With this being our first glance into the rackmount market, QNAP have given us a great entry level view as to what is available. As we have seen , the performance that we have seen here from the TS869U-RP is very much on par with its desktop counterpart, the TS869 Pro. As you would expect, there is only a limited amount of detail we can go into the systems design as rackmount systems are generically all of the same scale and dimensions. The little touch of the gloss black strip along the front adds a little highlight to the system, but also conveniently hides away the screen from view when its not in use.
The key focus on any system is it performance. Right back at the start of the review, I said that was expecting this to perform on par with the TS869 Pro due to their losely similar specifications and even given the fact that we now run all test data through our core network, the performance offered is bang on where I expected it to be. Naturally as more concurrent connections are made and in larger deployments when more powerful systems would and may be required with higher models of rackmount and desktop systems offering up both Xeon CPUs and in some cases 10GBe connectivity as well for extreme levels of performance on respect to what we have seen to date.
One point that we have noted here is that the rails required to mount the NAS into a suitable cabinet are not included and have to be purchased separately. This is one thing that we would expect to be supplied, however with a few slight variations in rack design, selling these separate does allow for the right combination to be ordered together.
When we look at the price compared to the desktop equivalent, the jump is quite substantial, however rackmount systems are on a completely different level to SOHO and entry level SMB systems with them offering the obvious rackmount capability but other important features such as redundant power supplies for mission critical environments where uptime is vital.
On the whole I’m very impressed with the TS869U-RP and granted there is the downside that you have to buy the required rails separately. For SMB users that want to consolidate all their data into a single point and at the same time reduce their spacial footprint by perhaps for the first time investing in rackmount servers, the TS869U-RP is a great entry level step onto the rackmount NAS market.