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iSCSI Gaming - NAS Storage for Your Massive Game Files (Page 2)

By Chris Ramseyer from Jun 4, 2019 @ 10:00 CDT

Hardware and Software Configuration

NAS Setup and Configuration

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We chose to use an Asustor NAS because they deliver excellent iSCSI performance for gaming. Asustor systems use a small amount of system memory for cache, and that increases random small block size performance. We also like the SSD cache features that allow users to use one SSD for read cache and a second SSD for write cache.

The Asustor AS7010T is easy to work with, as you will soon see.

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The first thing you want to do is configure the NAS for a static IP address. Your iSCSI configuration is based on the IP address of the system so you don't want it to change. While setting up the static IP address, go ahead and configure the system for jumbo frames with either 9000 or 9014 MTU. We will do this on every network component in the change from the PC, to the switch, to the NAS. This reduces the header overhead for the network traffic.

We use iSCSI instead of a Windows shared folder for a couple of reasons. The first reason is simple; it works on every games we've tried. Some games will not play when installed to a network-shared folder. With iSCSI, the local system sees the drive exactly as it would local storage. There is a disk ID number (we will look at that later on this page.

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iSCSI sounds like a complicated term. Thankfully setting the transfer protocol up is very easy. In the four images above, we setup iSCSI on our Asustor AS7010T system. The configuration uses a 3TB space for your games but is a thin provision so the space will automatically grow when you need to install more than 3TB of data.

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For best performance, we want to enable the AS7010T's SSD cache feature. This system allows us to mix and match HDDs and SSDs. We chose to use eight Seagate IronWolf Pro 12TB HDDs and two SanDisk Extreme PRO 240GB SSDs in a read + write cache configuration to accelerate both incoming and outgoing data. This system allows us to cache the large block size sequential data. Most NAS will not accelerate sequential data but Asustor allows users to uncheck a box to speed up those files.

Switch Setup and Configuration

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Your router or managed network switch should have a setting to enable jumbo frames. If one network hop does not have the MTU set, the entire chain will drop to the lowest setting. This is a screenshot from a managed Netgear switch similar to the one we tested here. Here, the setting says Maximum Frame Size and we use the largest available, 9216.

While in the switch, it's good practice to assign it a static IP address.

PC and Windows Setup and Configuration

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iSCSI is already embedded in all modern Windows PCs but you don't see it unless you look for it. Press the Windows button to bring up the search and type 'ISCI'. This will instantly pull up the iSCSI Initiator.

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Again, the screen you've never seen before will intimidate you but I promise this is very easy. The next step is to put in the IP address of your NAS that you previously configured. In this case, we're using 10.0.0.107. A confirmation box will open saying you are connected. Just click the Done button.

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Next move over to the Volumes and Devices tab. Press the Auto Configure button and the LUN (the storage volume) will mount. This should stay mounted even after you restart or shut down your PC.

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To your PC, mounting an iSCSI LUN is the same as installing a new local HDD. You must go into Disk Management (shown above) and configure the drive. Finally, you assign it a drive letter.

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When the drive letter is set, the storage volume appears in your My Computer/This PC area exactly like local storage.

Software Installation

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At this point, you just need to install the software. This isn't limited to just games but all software. You do need to change the drive letter to direct the software to the D:// drive and not the normal default C://.

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When you install Steam on the D:// drive, it will automatically install the game files there. With EA's Origin, you must manually change the drive letter from C to D for every game.

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