Closer Look: QNAP TS-870U-RP Turbo NAS Server
The QNAP TS-870U-RP has more capacity than most NAS units in the market; that’s just the nature of its target market and design specs. The eight bays can theoretically hold 32TB of data, in JBOD or RAID 0 modes, with today’s state-of-the-art 4TB drives installed in each bay. The bottom line with any high performance storage solution is that the number of drive spindles in play is more important than almost any other factor, assuming that everything else is based on reasonably modern technology. When you combine the higher level of performance with the greater flexibility for online RAID capacity expansion & online RAID level migration, the additional cost of the extra drive bays looks like a bargain instead of conspicuous consumption. What initially looks like overkill in a NAS system might just be the very thing that saves the day some years down the road. I imagine the TS-1270U-RP will be at least as popular in the IT world, since it provides twelve bays of storage capacity in the same 2U form factor.
The QNAP TS-870U-RP shares many of the same features as the current TS-x79 models, but some changes have been made internally to reduce cost. The TS-x70 series is meant to provide high performance on the low end of the business class series. There are quite a few similarities to the TS-879U-RP model that Benchmark Reviews tested last year. There are 8, 10, and 12 bay units available, in both tower and rack mount formats. The size and weight of the TS-870U-RP are substantial: 89mm(H) x 482mm(W) x 534mm(D), and 22 pounds without drives installed. Each HDD you install will add about 1-1/2 pounds, depending on your choice of drive. Most users will probably be looking at 2, 3, or 4TB drives for a NAS unit like this, and they’re heavier than most.
Very few people with anywhere near that much data are going to want to live without it for any length of time, so a RAID configuration that includes some redundancy is undoubtedly called for. Multiple SATA 6Gb/s drives can be installed as:
- a single disk
- JBOD (Linear Disk Volume)
- RAID 0 (Disk Striping), RAID 1 (Disk Mirroring),
- RAID 5 (Block-level striping with distributed parity),
- RAID 5 + Hot Spare,
- RAID 6 (Block-level striping with redundant distributed parity),
- RAID 6 + Hot Spare,
- RAID 10 (Striped (RAID 0) array whose segments are mirrored),
- RAID 10 + Hot Spare
RAID 5, 6, & 10 configurations have the option of a hot spare, which decreases MTTR but also decreases overall device capacity. The most common choices are going to be RAID 5, 6, or 10, depending on what type of data is primarily stored on the device. Despite its popularity, RAID 5 suffers from write performance limitations in large multi-user databases. Most people running that type of application used to be limited to direct-attached storage; it really was a necessity for that type of work. RAID 10 eliminates this problem, at the expense of capacity, but for some uses it’s a much better solution. RAID 6 offers some additional redundancy, allowing for continued operation even with two simultaneous drive failures, with no additional performance hit and only one additional drive. This option is very popular because if one individual drive fails in a RAID 5 implementation, the array instantly starts operating like a RAID 0 configuration, which has NO redundancy. It stays in that vulnerable state until the array is rebuilt, which is a slow process that generally taxes the system to the max, and can take several hours to complete. More than once, I’ve seen that situation go South; we lost the whole array and had to restore from tape backup, which meant lost work and a lot more downtime.
Each drive can be formatted with FAT, NTFS, EXT3, or EXT4 file systems. All Intel-based QNAP NAS units offer the additional option of AES 256-bit encryption and some of the units in the TS-x79 series support the recent AES-NI additions to the Intel64 instruction set. The Celeron CPU in the TS-870U-RP does not have this capability, and I’ve learned that it’s a waste of time to try using volume encryption with a system doesn’t have AES-NI support. At least one vendor has implemented folder-based encryption, where you can limit the amount of data that gets encrypted to specific folders in the data structure. If only a small portion of your data needs it, you can enjoy a balance of performance and security that isn’t available on the all-or-nothing units. Our tests on all QNAP systems have utilized EXT4-formatted disks without encryption.
QNAP uses a fairly simple steel-framed tray to hold each drive on the TS-870U-RP, which is a common part across much of the product line. In the rack mount models, each tray slides in with the HDD in the horizontal position and locks firmly into place with the lever on the front. Key locks are included to secure the trays in place, which may or may not be a security requirement for you. The drive trays easily accommodate 2.5″ drives without any additional hardware; just use the correct mounting holes located on the bottom surface. QNAP does not recommend mixing 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives in the same enclosure, and they also offer some small form factor units that are specifically designed for 2.5″ drives. Those models are less expensive than the full size units, so it’s worth investigating them if handling 2.5″ SATA drives is what you’re interested in. There are some definite advantages to using that form factor in specific cases, as I outlined in my review of the Patriot Convoy 425XL SAS/SATA RAID Enclosure. The trays are labeled with the chassis slot number, which is a big plus, even though it sounds like a small thing. They are all physically identical and you can mix and match them all you want, until you build a drive array and then you had better remember which one goes where. If you mix them up the NAS won’t recognize the array, and worst case you could end up destroying data as you try to figure out which drive is which.
The 2U chassis height of the TS-870U-RP is tall enough to house three rows of 3.5″ drives, which is exactly how the companion model, the TS-1270U-RP is configured. With (only!) eight drive bays in this model, there is enough room at the top of the front panel for an LCD display, but that’s one of the things that got left off, in order to reduce the price of this series. With the display, almost all the basic setup variables can be configured from the front panel. Without it, it’s only configurable through the browser interface. To be honest, I don’t miss the display much. On the front surface of the right rack mount handle are the ON/OFF power button and LED-illuminated icons for System Status, presence of a 10 GbE interface, LAN activity, and presence of an eSATA device. Each of the hard drive bays also has two LED indicators on it as well, showing HDD activity and error status. Green means the drive is present and OK, flashing Green means the drive is being accessed, and Red means there’s an error. There are no USB or eSATA ports located on the front of the TS-870U-RP Turbo NAS; they’re all found on the rear panel.
There are no ventilation holes on the sides, top, or bottom of the QNAP TS-870U-RP Turbo NAS chassis. The only entry point for cool air is through the front of the drive trays; it passes over the HDDs and is then exhausted out the rear of the unit. The fan assembly is a modular unit, with two separate fans mounted to a removable panel, and is controlled by the motherboard. In order to keep things cool when needed and quiet the rest of the time, the fan speed is heavily modulated. I haven’t paid much attention to fan noise in the smaller NAS models, as it was never really noticeable during my daily use. The TS-870U-RP is a corporate beast though, and the fan noise was always there, even when running at idle speed. Just one more clue that this is not a unit designed for home use. The overall size of the unit is significant, as you can see below (with a 12″ ruler, for scale). The thin profile (2U height) is a bonus, and when mounted in a 19″ rack is the only dimension that really matters. The unit is intended to be mounted on sliding rails, which are available from QNAP. You can’t support something this heavy with a couple of bolts in the rack mounting ears.
Looking at the back panel of the TS-870U-RP, you can see most of the hardwired I/O points. Starting on the left are two eSATA ports. To the right are two stacks of USB 2.0 and 1000BASE-T Ethernet jacks – a total of four USB ports and two RJ-45 jacks for the standard GbE connections. Next up are twin USB 3.0 connectors, in their customary blue plastic livery. There are no USB ports on the front panel; all of them are here, on the back. Continuing to the right, there is a single, full-sized HDMI video port, followed by the small hole that guards the reset button from accidental actuation. Two levels of reset capability are provided, Basic System Reset (hold for 3 sec), and Advanced System Reset (hold for 10 sec). Leaving the I/O panel and moving to the right, are two half-height (Low Profile, if you prefer) expansion slot covers. They line up with two x8 PCI Express expansion slots on the main board. The primary use for these expansion slots is for optional NICs, and we are going to use one of them for a 10GbE adaptor, which is available from QNAP as an option for many of their high-capacity models. On the far right are the IEC inputs for AC power, and the small cooling fans of the two power supplies.
The two redundant power supplies are held in place by thumb screws, for a tool-less hot swap, if needed. U-shaped handles are on pivots, to help you pull them out and slide them back in. The electrical connections are made with a high-current card-edge connector on the back of the module, which engaged and disengaged easily when I tested it. The power supplies are each rated for 300 watts, which is enough to power the unit continuously, so there’s no specific time limit on how long you can run the NAS on one PSU. There is still a need for UPS power, which most data centers will have already. The small green LEDs on the back of the PSUs light up when the system is active.
Now that we’ve had a thorough tour of the exterior, let’s do a complete tear-down and see what the insides look like. The next section covers Insider Details.