NAS Server Final Thoughts
My first and solemn duty is to remind everyone that relying on a collection of drives in any RAID configuration for data backup purposes is a huge error. RAID systems provide protection against loss of services, not loss of data. Several examples will illustrate the problem, I hope:
the drive controller goes bad and corrupts the data on all the drives in the array
the entire storage device is physically or electrically damaged by external forces
the entire storage device is lost, stolen, or destroyed
a single drive in a RAID 5 cluster dies and during the rebuild process, which puts higher stress on the remaining drives, a second drive fails
floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. (AKA El Niño, Derecho)
All these points lead to the inescapable conclusion that multiple drives in a common system, in a single location do not provide effective and reliable data backup. Throughout this review I’ve talked about high-availability systems, and the QNAP TS-870U-RP fits that description to a tee, especially when employed in a RAID 6 configuration. Even with two concurrent drive failures, your data is still available and accessible. The NAS device stays online the entire time while the failed drives are replaced and the array is rebuilt. That’s what RAID systems are designed to do. The inherent redundancy is not meant to serve as a backup file set. Remember, we’re not talking about losing data here, we’re only talking about the ability to keep working uninterrupted, if one or two drives should fail. Remember, “Time is Money.”
The QNAP TS-870U-RP is not a product that a lot of readers of Benchmark Reviews will ever contemplate purchasing. I know there are a few of you out there with day jobs that utilize this level of hardware, but 99.99% of the enthusiasts reading this don’t have a real justification for spending the kind of money that it takes to put eight HDD spindles in play. I know that hasn’t stopped some of us from buying overkill hardware in the past, though. Maybe, as hi-res video becomes the norm, it might make sense to invest in this level of capacity. Got a thousand Blu-ray movies you want to store for your home theater server, go for it? Got five thousand DVDs, you can do the same? If you don’t want to invest in eight HDDs right now, just load it up with three or four in RAID 5 and expand the capacity later.
Beyond the question of capacity, there is also the question of the overwhelming bandwidth that this kind of hardware is capable of pushing out the business end of its enclosure. The one thing that was made painfully clear to me in this review is: there is a small chorus of high performance devices singing the swan song for 1000BASE-T, as the network interface of choice. Maybe the new standard ought to be 10GbE, maybe it should be Thunderbolt, or maybe we’re ready to move over to fiber for system-level interconnects, but we are right now at the tipping point where common devices are overloading the current networking standard. You would think, that with Ethernet performance going up by a factor of ten every few years, that it would be well ahead of Moore’s law. Never mind being so far ahead of archaic spinning magnetic disks that it shouldn’t even be a contest. But no – put four or eight of those ancient mechanical devices in a box, with some SOTA silicon to support it and voila, bandwidth limiting in the extreme.
At the moment, it looks like 10GBASE-T is taking the dominant position in the 10GbE market. It has the advantage of running medium distances on CAT5e or CAT6 cables, which cuts down tremendously on the cost and complexity of implementation. Fiber will always have a place in the data center, but most small and medium size businesses have reasonably small installations, where the 55 meter cable length restriction for CAT5e is not an issue, and certainly the 100m maximum for CAT6 is even less of a limitation. Now that I’ve got a full 10GbE test bed in place, including SFP+ connections, I can really put a high-performance NAS like the TS-870U-RP through its paces. The results have been very satisfying; nothing like a 2x, 3x, 4x or 5x increase in performance to make you sit up and take notice.
So, what conclusions can we draw, particularly about this high performance, eight-bay TS-870U-RP Turbo NAS server? Click on NEXT PAGE to find out, and discuss…