Before this article, I had only heard of Qsan in passing or while researching competing NAS platforms. The fact is, Qsan is a relatively new company to the North American SOHO / SMB market but they are gaining ground quickly with their NAS and DAS products. Qsan reached out mid-June and offered up their two-bay entry-level platform for review, Let's see what it has to offer.
The XCube is the sub-branding behind the entry-level two and four-bay NAS platforms. These platforms are design for SMB and Workgroup use cases and offer a N+1 hardware design, meaning N for the given amount of 3.5" bays or large form factor storage and +1 for the 2.5" "cache" bay hidden behind the enclosure front. Moving into further hardware specifications, Qsan has designed the XCube platform to offer the latest in processor technology, the XN3002T in house packs an Intel Celeron Quad Core operating at 1.1GHz paired with 4GB of DDR3.
The firmware platform is based on the Linux Kernel with fine tuning and ZFS file system support. Qsan Storage Management 3.0 is the operating system for the XCube platform and our XN3002T. This offers powerful storage capabilities along with reliability and protection against data corruption. Features of the Qsan SM3.0 platform include a virtualization ready platform certified for VMware, Citrix and Hyper-V. Further, we have User Defined storage pools allowing you to configure a group of users based on their current workloads, smart auto-tiering allowing for quicker access to data and centralized data storage and file sharing with apps for all major platforms.
MSRP of the two-bay XN3002T comes in at $499.99 with a two-year warranty.
Qsan XN3002T NAS Appliance
Packaging and a Closer Look
Packaging is quite simple for the Qsan with subtle branding ques. We have a sticker to the right with model information and performance estimates.
The scope of delivery includes the power adapter, ethernet cable and key for opening the SFF expansion bay.
The front of the unit houses two drive trays, lockable while the left houses the power button, USB and backup button recessed in the chassis.
The backside gives access to dual gigabit ethernet ports, two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 followed up by HDMI, system reset and power input. There is a Kensington lock slot to the left.
Removing the drive trays, they are tool less for 3.5" inch drives but have screws included for use with 2.5" SSDs.
The backplane is SATA only setup for two bays.
Using the included green key we push a retaining clip into the chassis on the side of the unit allowing the removal of a door. This door tucks away the 2.5" SFF storage bay.
Along with the storage bay, the door conceals the second memory slot making it very easy to upgrade memory with this unit.
Test System Setup and Web Management
Tyler's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS Prime Z370 (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: Intel Core i3 8350K (buy from Amazon)
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance 32GB 4x8GB DDR4 3200 (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: Corsair Hydro H115i (buy from Amazon)
- Case: Corsair Air 540 (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Samsung 960 EVO 250GB (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: Corsair RM850x (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 (buy from Amazon)
- Wi-Fi NIC: ASUS PCE-AC88 (buy from Amazon)
- 10Gbe NIC: ASUS XG-C100C (buy from Amazon)
- Thunderbolt 3: ASUS Thunderbolt EX3 (buy from Amazon)
After connecting power and Ethernet, firing up the unit and going to the WebGUI setup address, we are greeted with the image above. This allows you to choose between quick or customized setup
Moving through setup, we are greeted with the storage menu, allowing setup of our storage pool and RAID mode.
Seen above, the desktop offers icons for File Management, Backup, Monitoring and Cloud Sync. Down below we have the dock where you can move shortcut or access the control panel.
Diving into the control panel, we have several rows within. These allow you to setup everything from network to maintenance and power, storage and users even Time Machine for macOS users.
General settings include, platform naming and data and time management.
Storage gives you access to disks, pools, and volumes along with setup of SSD Cache and iSCSI.
Moving to file sharing, we have setup of users, groups and folders.
Network services include CIFS, AFP and NFS along with FTP and Rsync.
The apps menu is quite sparse but does offer AV, SQL Server, and Web Server along with VPN and Media Library.
Backup options include snapshot, remote backup to another server or cloud backup. If you have a second Qsan appliance you can configure Xmirror with allows Qsan units to replicate on-the-fly.
The monitor allows a look at the hardware temps and resource usage.
Moving into desktop PC software, Qsan XReplicator is free and works with your Qsan NAS platform to enable automated backups of your data on any platform. You just have to choose a PC, Disk or Folder as the source.
After choosing what you would like to work with we move into choosing the actual data we want backed up. For me, I'm backing up an entire partition.
Destination chosen as the NAS.
Choose the folder within the Qsan.
Additional options include backup schemes, schedules, notifications and files or folders that should be excluded.
Benchmarks - Sequential Performance and Workloads
Single Client Throughput
HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player, 256kB reads
HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes
File Copy from NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads
File Copy to NAS - 64kB writes
In testing the Qsan, I decided to test with SSD cache as well. I ran each test three times to give the NAS a chance to cache data and recorded the results. I started with NASPT or single client testing, this gave us a green bar for standard testing and teal for SSD. As you can see the Qsan reached 110 MB/s for record and playback and 109 MB/s for file copy operations. With the cache, we saw a slowdown in video playback and no change for file copy or record.
RAID 1 was slightly different, the cache boosted performance in video record while playback lost slightly. File copy operations came in at 107 MB/s
Benchmarks - Sequential and Workloads
Our Sequential read/write workload is centered on 128K transfer sizes at QD32.
Sequential performance reached 117 MB/s read and 115 MB/s write for the Qsan. Adding in SSD cache, performance dropped 1 MB/s on read and 2 MB/s on write.
RAID 1 showed a larger performance loss with SSD cache, dropping from 118 MB/s read and 69 MB/s read while write performance was untouched.
Moving into workloads, we see a much larger difference using the SSD cache, upwards of a 2 or 3x performance bump depending on the workload.
RAID 1 showed similar performance, SSD cache giving web server alone a 8x performance increase.
Not being very familiar with Qsan products I am quite happy with overall performance. That said these aren't typical consumer units as they are missing much of the "app" based ecosystem we are used too. I would, however, put this platform right next to or maybe slightly higher than ReadyNAS for all out-storage. Qsan seems to offer a higher level of flexibility in its design with more backup options and a better filesystem. As for the user interface, I don't find it to be any more exciting or easy to use than something from Synology, Qnap or Thecus.
Build quality is fantastic, the plastics feel like they used high-quality materials and the design offers something new to look at past the typical metal box of many vendors. I enjoy the N+1 design and easy access to memory upgrades with the Qsan solution and tool-less drive bays are always a plus. Performance is top notch across all testing scenarios but the SSD cache does seem to alter performance negatively if it hasn't "warmed" your data. That being said, there is a significant benefit to using SSD cache if you do use any of the SMB workloads tested, at a minimum we saw a 2x performance increase. Adding to this XReplicator, it offers an automated or scheduled backup for your Windows PC, powered by Acronis. I do hope to see this expand into macOS in the future as it offers a higher level of granularity but for now, we do have Time Machine support.
The Bottom Line: If you are after a high level storage focused appliance, the Qsan XN3002T is your entry-level platform.
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