What started out as just playing around in the lab turned into a full on assault to find the fastest file system for use on Thecus NAS products. I have already started performing the same type of testing on a QNAP NAS that uses EXT3 and EXT4, but the results are not as significant as the XFS file system is on the Thecus hardware.
What we have discovered could really be a game changer for people shopping for a NAS server and looking to get the absolute highest performance in regards to transfer rates out of their long term storage systems. No one likes to wait for file transfers to complete and with XFS it appears that you can achieve very high data rates with fewer drives. XFS also seems to take the performance hit out of RAID 5 and RAID 6 arrays.
Many people that I know who purchase or are looking to purchase a NAS are looking to start out with three or four drives in RAID 5 and look to build upon the array as their storage needs increase. A three drive RAID 5 array has historically meant a compromise in data transfer performance, but with XFS it appears that is no longer the case in many tests. There are always going to be certain scenarios that are slower than most like the working with Windows Photo Album or dealing with many small files and in those cases we didn't see much of an improvement between the default EXT3 and XFS file system.
It is troubling to see that what appears on paper (errr, monitor?) as the most advanced file system, ZFS , is also the slowest performing by a large margin. From reading online and other resources it appears that ZFS has several strong features that would make it ideal for mission critical installations where your data would need the absolute best protection, but for many users a standard RAID 5 array will do the trick.
I applaud Thecus for providing stuck wide spread options when it comes to the file systems offered with their NAS products. As I stated earlier already, the QNAP systems I have looked at and run here only offer two, EXT3 and EXT4. As we have seen, the two EXTs are not going to provide you with as high of performance, especially when using only a few drives.
In the reviews of future NAS products we are going to have to put more of an emphasis on the types of file systems offered. It is quite amazing to see just how much of an impact this easy to setup option has on performance.
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