It's easy to say that one occurrence is a fluke or simply luck, but two is a trend.
Today we're looking at the second NAS to hit our lab with 10GbE networking. Actually, this is more like the fifth or six with 10GbE network capability, but 10G is trickling down from the high-end enterprise so fast that we are now able to test it for small and medium sized business products.
Just days ago we strolled through the latest QNAP 3.6 software and promised to take on QNAP's latest enterprise NAS product. The new TS-EC1279U-RP is a rack mount solution that pushes past entry-level and right into the middle of the enterprise market.
Given the competition in this area, names like Dell and HP, it would seem that QNAP is ready to tackle an entirely different market segment, one that's also quite profitable.
For businesses, QNAP's entry to this market should be met with a blast of enthusiasm. QNAP's products have excellent build quality, are enterprise stable and are capable of performing several server level operations at the same time. Best of all, the QNAP TS-EC1279U-RP doesn't break the bank.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
QNAP has two new units that are nearly identical, the TS-1279U-RP and the TS-EC1279U-RP, the latter we are looking at today. The difference between the two is the Error Correction and Control (ECC) DRAM. Out TS-EC1279U-RP shipped to us with 4GB of ECC DRAM, an Intel Xeon E3-1225 3.1GHZ quad-core processor and four gigabit Ethernet ports.
The TS-EC-1279U-RP on release was the flagship for QNAP's enterprise line up with 12-bays, but QNAP has since released a new 16-bay model. The new 12 and 16 bay units take QNAP to the upper SMB and even middle of the enterprise market. This is a new direction and puts QNAP in the same realm with many of the storage servers offered by Dell and other more established server manufacturers.
QNAP is making a big push in the medium sized business market and is really taking it to the competition. New features like 10GbE network capability are letting QNAP leverage their excellent software package at very high speeds.
The TS-EC-1279U-RP is a full on enterprise NAS, it doesn't even fit in the racks I use here in my office. It does fit in the full 42U enterprise rack in my garage so you will want to make sure your rack uses square holes with plugs and isn't the screw type.
At the time of writing we managed to find the QNAP TS-EC1279U-RP at Newegg for $3,500. Newegg was quite a bit lower than many of the sources we found on Google.
Recently we published an editorial that covered QNAP's amazing software package in detail. You can read about our experience here.
Here we get our first look at the QNAP TS-EC1279U-RP. QNAP didn't include a display panel, drive key lock system or front door. It's just enterprise through and through.
Even the power button and status lights are moved to the outside where a pull handle covers them.
Each side has a handle that you use to slide the NAS from the rack with. On the left side tucked away for protection is the power button and four status lights.
Each drive sled has a protective lock so you don't accidently hit the gray button that releases the latch. In this image the top drive is unlocked and the two bottom sleds are locked.
The TS-1279U-RP can use both SATA and SAS drives. This is uncommon on consumer or most small business NAS products and is just another feature that pushes this model deeper into the enterprise space.
Without the trays the QNAP looks more like a full server than a NAS.
The TS-EC1279U-RP is 20.47 inches long which is pretty typical for a rack mount unit. On the side we found the mounting positions for the rails that allow you to install the NAS in our rack. QNAP does not include the rails; you have to purchase them separately, which is a bit of a pain since you can't install the NAS in a system with the 'ears'.
The front of the NAS is impressive to look at, but it doesn't have any USB or external ports. All of the ports are found on the back of the NAS.
The two power plugs are due to the redundant power supplies. The system can run on just one so if a PSU were to fail the NAS will continue to operate.
In the middle is where you'll find the six USB ports (2x USB 3.0), two eSATA ports and two gigabit Ethernet ports.
The TS-EC1279U-RP ships with four gigabit Ethernet ports, the second are on a PCIe card. The standard configuration has a block off place for the second PCIe slot, but ours is filled with an Intel 10GbE network card.
QNAP TS-EC1279U-RP Internals
Looking inside the TS-EC1279U-RP is quite a treat. There are several custom trick pieces in the unit.
QNAP zip ties the 4GB ECC DRAM so it can't wiggle free during shipping.
There are two PCIe 8 lane ports, one filled from the factory and one ready for your 10GbE card.
One of the nicest pieces in the NAS is something you wouldn't expect. The NAS has a removable, hot swappable fan cage that you just pull up on to release.
The fans inside are pretty beefy and cool everything inside other than the power supplies.
Speaking of the power supplies, they are made by Delta Electronic, Inc and are 600 watt models.
A Marvell 88SE9125 SATA/SAS controller takes care of the storage duties.
The drive sleds are configured for both 3.5" and 2.5" form factor drives.
On the specification page we went over the included accessories, but here you can see them minus the four Ethernet cables.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, Cooler Master, LSI, Noctua, Seagate, Crucial and Corsair.
The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (NASPT) is a file system exerciser and analysis tool designed to enable direct measurement of home network attached storage (NAS) performance. Designed to emulate the behavior of an actual application, NASPT uses a set of real world workload traces gathered from typical digital home applications. Traces of high definition video playback and recording, office productivity applications, video rendering/content creation and more provide a broad range of different application behaviors.
- RAID Level Description
JBOD: Combine multiple drives and capacities into one drive.
RAID 0: Normally used to increase performance and useful for setups such as large read-only NFS servers where mounting many disks is time-consuming or impossible and redundancy is irrelevant.
RAID 1: Create an exact copy (or mirror) of a set of data on two or more disks. This is useful when read performance or reliability are more important than data storage capacity.
RAID 5: Use block-level striping with parity data distributed across all member disks.
RAID 6: Extend RAID 5 by adding an additional parity block; thus it uses block-level striping with two parity blocks distributed across all member disks.
RAID 10: A Stripe of Mirrors. Multiple RAID 1 mirrors are created and a RAID 0 stripe is created over these.
RAID 50: Combines the straight block-level striping of RAID 0 with the distributed parity of RAID 5.
RAID 60: Combines the straight block-level striping of RAID 0 with the distributed double parity of RAID 6.
Benchmarks - HD Playback
HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads
2HD Video Play - 2x playback
4HD Video Play - 4x playback
In order to get the highest performance out of our NAS we had to utilize an array of Corsair Performance 3 SSDs, eight of them in RAID 0 in the client system.
To date we've tested two 10GbE NAS products, the first was the Thecus N8900 and we're using that for a performance comparison for the QNAP TS-EC1279U-RP. The two units go back and forth in the charts for performance wins in the tasks asked to perform and with different levels of RAID.
The TS-EC1279U-RP performed very well across the board in our testing, but RAID 6 performance was down quite a bit compared to the Thecus N8900. The RAID 6 performance really dropped down even compared to the other RAID levels we tested. RAID 5 appears to be the best mix of redundancy and high performance, at least in these read tests.
Benchmarks - HD Record
HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes
HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously
2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously
In the write tests we once again see the QNAP TS-EC1279U-RP performing very well and in many of the tests it outperforms the Thecus unit.
Benchmarks - Content
Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes
Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes
Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB
The content tests, where very small files are read and written to the NAS, are always difficult for a NAS even with 10GbE Ethernet.
Here we see the RAID 6 performance come in line with the Thecus N8900 which is really good. Once again the two NAS fight it out for performance wins, but both show very good performance.
Benchmarks - Copy
Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads
Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB
File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads
File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes
The battle rages on in this last benchmark graph. We can't definitely call a winner based on performance, both NAS perform so well and have their strong and weak points.
One thing is certain though; 10GbE is able to increase the performance of most tasks and will accelerate your office productivity.
We tested the QNAP TS-EC1279U-RP with a single 10GbE connection today, but the Intel 10GbE card does not ship with the NAS. The default configuration has four gigabit Ethernet ports that can be trunked together to give a theoretical 480 to 500MB/s transfer speed. A single 10GbE port can double that speed and you can even trunk two 10GbE ports together and put your NAS on steroids.
There are so many aspects of the TS-EC1279U-RP that we didn't cover today. The software side alone was an eleven page spread in a separate article. On the hardware side we could do something similar because the possibilities are virtually endless.
Reaching deep into the bag there are some flaws with the TS-EC1279U-RP. The biggest is the optional, read: you have to purchase them separate, rack mount rails that are needed to install the NAS in your rack. Then there is the file system. The QNAP software performs best with EXT4, but ZFS or XFS would perform even better if offered.
Anywhere the hardware is lacking is quickly made up by the outstanding software. Just calling this unit a NAS is an understatement. Web server, mail server, file server, download station, audio distribution for your office and all of that is before you even spent five minutes with the manual. Then you can tack on the new buzz words, iSCSI with 256 targets, VMWare vSphere, Citrix XenServerm Hyper V with failover clustering - the list is impressive.
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