Before we dive into the final thoughts section of this review, I want to share some latency numbers from a set of new tests we've worked on for the last couple of months. Many of the tests we run in the regular review at this time are half-duplex; we're either reading or writing data but not doing both at the same time. The multiclient test is the exception, along with a few tests from NASPT. In the chart above, we see some mixed workload tests on products we've tested recently. The iXsystems FreeNAS Mini was the only product to tame latency in all four of the tests. The SSD cache is really an optional add-on, but one that I would highly recommend the end-user implement before the final deployment. The SSD cache brings the latency down to very low levels over iSCSI.
Often times when looking at products built with off-the-shelf components, we tend to look at the hardware price rather than the true value of a product. Every component in the FreeNAS Mini is available on the market, and an end-user could easily piece the system together with little effort. If you go that route, it doesn't mean you have a FreeNAS Mini; instead, you have a collection of parts that you purchased with warranties spread across several different companies, and the support lines would hang up on you ten minutes after you muttered the words FreeNAS five or six times. There is price and then there is value.
Comparing the diskless iXsystems FreeNAS Mini ($995) to other NAS products isn't easy. The Mini has four external drive bays, but it also has two internal 2.5-inch bays, making the system a six-bay NAS with cache. Very few NAS products support SSD caches, so we can't find an apples-to-apples comparison. Premium five and standard six-bay NAS products get into the $800+ range, ship with 2-4GB of system RAM, and with lower spec'd Intel Atom processors. The hardware advantage has to go to iXsystems.
Then there is the software, add-on packages, ease of use, and other considerations. This is a more complicated topic because user experience comes into play. Not everyone is ready for the wizard-less world of configuring a real server, with user permissions, groups, and so on. It's not that FreeNAS is difficult to configure, but it's different. Any user buying a NAS for the first time will go through the same growing pains regardless of the manufacturer.
Performance wise, I think we saw today how impressive a properly configured FreeNAS system is. With the cache drive, the Mini breezes through the enterprise workload with ease and makes the other products on our chart look entry-level. The single-user performance is also impressive, aside from a corner case where the system should have done a bit better. In our multiclient test, the system scaled well when we gave it a significant workload. From a pure performance take, we have to recommend the FreeNAS Mini because it is a superior product.
PRICING: You can find the iXsystems FreeNas Mini (8TB) for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.
United States: The iXsystems FreeNas Mini (8TB) retails for $1,495.00 at Amazon.
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