Store more: 4 NAS devices tested

Store more: 4 network attached storage devices tested



The storage with more: 4 NAS products tested
 NAS devices

 NAS reviews:

 HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s
 IEI NAS 4120A
 Network Appliance FAS250
 Snap Appliance Server 4500

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
The last year has seen prices tumble for network attached storage. We look at four of the best options to get some more storage on your network.

There's not much point in buying a product that is going to be adequate for your current needs since most likely your needs will expand before you know it; this is especially the case for storage. Employees need to store locally and share more data all the time and one way you can supply the demand is adding additional hard disks to your server. However this can be a tiresome task. It can mean powering down the server, running new data cables, installing I/O cards, and drivers.

An easier way to increase your data storage capacity is by using a Network Attached Storage device (NAS). NAS are specialised file servers for Ethernet networks. They are generally not used to run applications but can be used for backup. By simply attaching a NAS device to your network you can instantly increase your storage capacity by 1TB or more.

In this review we looked at four NAS units. Three of the devices used IDE disks internally, while one used Fibre Channel (FC) hard disk drives. All the devices tested had total storage capacities of 1TB and ran over a gigabit Ethernet connection.

The first thing we noticed about these new NAS devices was the price. They have come down dramatically compared to this time last year. Not only are they a lot cheaper, they're also faster and can store more data. To give you an idea, last year Snap Appliance submitted a 4400 Guardian, which cost a little over AU$13,000 and could store 475GB. For this review, Snap Appliance submitted a Snap Appliance Server 4500 that costs less than $6000 and can store 1TB of data. Or if we put it in terms of cost per GB the difference is $83 per GB compared to $6 per GB.

The best part is the NAS device doesn't need to be located within a server but can exist anywhere in a LAN. It's also generally accessible to clients and servers running different OS.

Primary operating systems
NAS devices typically run on a Windows or Linux operating system and few run their own proprietary operating system. NAS devices like the Network Appliance device boots from a CompactFlash Card while most other NAS devices boot from the actual hard disks. The primary OS resides on drive 0 and is mirrored on drive 1 while the secondary OS resides on drive 2 and is mirrored on drive 3. If the primary OS becomes corrupt, the device will attempt to boot from the secondary OS and if that is corrupt you have to resort to a restore DVD that will restore the system back to the factory defaults.

Web administration
Most NAS devices can now be configured from a Web browser. After configuring the NAS with an IP address from the console or provided software, you can launch a Web browser and set up the drive configuration, such as RAID levels. From here you can configure the following settings and more:

  • System settings: fate/time, e-mail notification, SNMP alerts, UPS, SSH
  • Network settings: network information, TCP/IP, DHCP, Windows networking, Apple networking, NFS networking, Web, FTP
  • Storage: RAID, devices, volumes, share, quotas, snapshots, directories
  • Security: share access, users, groups, Unix NIS, Windows
  • Maintenance: OS update, factory defaults, disaster recovery, antivirus, shutdown/reboot
  • Monitoring: status, SCSI info, volume usage, event log

HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s

HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s
The HP StorageWorks NAS 1000 is virtually the same unit as the Snap Appliance Server 4500. That's because it is: HP OEMs this product. The only major difference between the two is the price tag. You could buy an HP for around $14,000 or you could buy the equivalent Snap device for less than $6K. This is quite extraordinary to say the least.

The hard drives used were 250GB Maxtor IDE drives. HP uses approximately six manufacturers to supply its hard drives so you may end up with different hard drives from the ones we received.

Inside the unit was an identical floor plan of the Snap Server. The HP however was equipped with the faster 2.8GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor.

It took us a little longer than expected to get the HP running. HP doesn't include a utility like Snap that locates your NAS. Instead the user guide tells you to open up an Internet browser and enter the serial number of the unit as well as a specified port number. We were unlucky where someone else had used HP unit before us and had changed the defaults. We couldn't locate the NAS through the browser; instead we had to use configure the NAS from the console. With that said, you can configure all these NAS devices via the console.

The HP was surprisingly slower than the Snap Appliance device. Even though they were shipped with almost identical hardware, the difference would rest with the two OSes used. HP uses a Windows OS while Snap a Linux-based OS.

 NAS devices

 NAS reviews:

 HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s
 IEI NAS 4120A
 Network Appliance FAS250
 Snap Appliance Server 4500

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Product HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s
Price $9935.20
Vendor HP
Phone 13 23 47
Web www.hp.com.au
 
Interoperability
 
Futureproofing
Supports all standard protocols.
ROI
Relatively little expansion potential, improved by the external SCSIconnector.
Service
½
Expensive for its features andperformance.
Rating

IEI NAS 4120A

IEI NAS 4120A
This IEI device from Westan came in as the least expensive solution. You could virtually buy three of these units for one HP unit. We had never seen an IEI product before and after some research we found this device is made by ICP Electronics based in Taiwan.

The drive cradles on this unit are locked using a key. Each cradle has to be unlocked before you can pull a drive out. This is all well for improving security, but this sort of equipment should be tucked away from the public in any case, and it would waste valuable time if drives needed to be changed, particularly in an emergency.

The drive cradles don't slide out and push into place as smoothly as the other units. The interface used to connect the drives to the main board looks like an ISA type edge connector. It's a little clunky compared to the high-density D style connectors that the other NAS units use.

The IEI unit uses the same 250GB Western Digital IDE drives that are used by the Snap Server. Inside the unit was a 1.2GHz Intel Celeron processor with 256MB of RAM. The mainboard also has an extra memory slot.

The mainboard looked like a general-purpose server board. It had quite a few embedded components that a NAS unit wouldn't use like standard IDE connectors or a PCI slot. At the rear of the unit was a serial port, SCSI connector, and two gigabit Ethernet ports. The unit also has two redundant power supplies.

Setting up the IEI was a piece of cake. We were able to get this unit up and running faster than any of the others. All we had to do is configure its network settings from the LCD panel and open up an Internet browser and type in its IP address.

The IEI was the slowest NAS device at transferring small files (under 500MB) we can only suggest some more RAM for this device if it is to perform better in this area.

 NAS devices

 NAS reviews:

 HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s
 IEI NAS 4120A
 Network Appliance FAS250
 Snap Appliance Server 4500

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Product IEI NAS 4120A
Price $4779.50
Vendor Westan
Phone 03 9541 8888
Web www.westan.com.au
 
Interoperability
Supports all standard protocols.
Futureproofing
Relatively little expansion potential, improved by the external SCSIconnector.
ROI
Moderately priced for its features andperformance.
Service
Two-year RTB warranty with upgrades available.
Rating

Network Appliance FAS250

Network Appliance FAS250
T&B Editor's choice
The Network Appliance FAS250 (Fabric Attached Storage) was the largest unit we tested at 3RU and weights a hefty 35kg. The front panel is dominated by 14 drive bays. The drives are loaded vertically to house more drives.

To remove a disk you have to press down on its release mechanism and gently slide the disk out. The cradles are quite large and they don't come out very smoothly.

The FAS uses 72GB Seagate Fibre Channel (FC) drives. There is also an option to go for the 144GB FC hard drives that would increase the total storage capacity can to 2TB. This was the only unit to use FC drives and that partly explains the high price.

Located at the rear is a pair of gigabit Ethernet ports, a console port, a Fibre Channel port, which will enable you to connect this unit to a third-party Fibre Channel switch, and two redundant power supplies. There is also a FC switch that sets the Fibre Channel link speed to 1Gbps or 2Gbps.

From the rear you can also remove the CPU module. There are two pull handles that you have to pull outwards to release the 25cm CPU module. There is also provision for a second CPU. On this module was a BroadCom BCM 125 MIPS processor running at 600MHz and a single 512MB memory module. Also on there was a battery charger for an NVRAM card that wasn't fitted. On the back of the mainboard was a 128MB CompactFlash card that stores the FAS OS.

Getting the unit up and running could be made quicker and easier by using a utility similar to the one used by the Snap Server. Instead we had to use the console port to connect up to the FAS. After configuring the network settings of the FAS using Hyper Terminal we were then able to launch an Internet browser and further configure the FAS from there.

The FAS250 was easily the fastest NAS under test mainly due to the FC hard disks it uses. The FAS250 by default uses RAID 4. The Data ONTAP file system will not let you select a RAID configuration only the number of disks you want to use, it pretty much does the rest. During our testing we created a volume with two disks then later four disks to see if there would be a performance improvement. We didn't notice much of an improvement from the already fast transfer rates.

 NAS devices

 NAS reviews:

 HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s
 IEI NAS 4120A
 Network Appliance FAS250
 Snap Appliance Server 4500

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Product Network Appliance FAS250
Price Approx $35,000
Vendor Network Appliance
Phone 1800 027 722
Web www.netapp.com
 
Interoperability
½
Supports all standard protocols plus Fibre Channel and iSCSI.
Futureproofing
Excellent expansion potential from dual CPU, SCSI, 14 drive bays
ROI
½
Expensive but includes solid performance and extensive features.
Service
½
3-year 24 x 7 warranty.
Rating
½

Snap Appliance Server 4500

Snap Appliance Server 4500
Last time we looked at NAS units a bit over a year ago we received the Guardian 4400 from Snap Appliance. It seems Snap has scrapped the Guardian name and replaced it with plain old Server. The new Snap Appliance Server 4500 is a lot faster in terms of processing power and has a much larger storage capacity compared to the Guardian 4400. The Snap unit is actually an HP OEM product.

Inside is a single 2.4GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor with 512MB of RAM. There was also provision for two extra memory modules. There's a single power supply that has a pair of cooling fans and there's also one large fan that helps keep the CPU cool.

To gain access to the hard disks you have to remove the front facia, which can be done easily enough. The drive cradles have a smooth looking mechanism and possibly one of the best we have seen. The drives used were 250GB Western Digital IDE drives. We were quite surprised not to find Quantum drives in there.

Getting the Snap Appliance Server 4500 up and running was quite easy. The unit shipped with a Quick Start guide and despite it being quite basic was able to get us up and running in no time. The CD that came with the NAS included a utility called NAS Manager that enables you to locate the NAS unit and set the IP address for the unit. From there you can open up your browser and type the IP address of the NAS and configure it.

The Snap Appliance performed quite well in all our tests. Read transfer rates were just as good as any other NAS but its Write transfer rates were exceptional only being slower to the Network Appliance device which was equipped with FC hard disk drives.

 NAS devices

 NAS reviews:

 HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s
 IEI NAS 4120A
 Network Appliance FAS250
 Snap Appliance Server 4500

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Product Snap Appliance Server 4500
Price $5795
Vendor Snap Appliance
Phone 1800 027 722
Web www.snapappliance.com
 
Interoperability
Supports all standard protocols.
Futureproofing
Relatively little expansion potential, improved by the external SCSIconnector.
ROI
½
Well priced for its features and excellent performance.
Service
½
Three-year limited warranty, additional options available.
Rating
½
Specifications

Product HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s IEI NAS 4120A Network Appliance FAS250 Snap Appliance Server 4500
Vendor Hewlett Packard Westan Pty Ltd Network Appliance Snap Appliance
Phone 13 23 47 03 9541 8888 1800 027 722 1800 027 722
Web www.hp.com.au www.westan.com.au www.netapp.com www.snapappliance.com
RRP inc GST (AU$) $9935.20 $4779.50 Approx $35,000 $5795
Warranty and support Three years parts, one year onsite and one year carry-in Two years return to base with optional upgrades Three years 24 x 7 Three years limited with optional upgrades
Drive bays (total/free) 4/0 4/0 14/0 4/0
Drive manufacturer Maxtor Western Digital Seagate Western Digital
Drive size 250GB 250GB 72GB 250GB
Total (raw) storage 1TB 1TB 1TB 1TB
Drive RPM 7200 7200 10,000 7200
Disk connectivity IDE IDE Fibre Channel IDE
Network connection 2x gigabit Ethernet 2x gigabit Ethernet 2x gigabit Ethernet 2x gigabit Ethernet
CPU Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz Intel Celeron 1.2GHz BroadCom BCM 1250 600MHz
DualCore MIPS
Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz
Memory 512MB DDR SDRAM 256MB DDR SDRAM 512MB DDR SDRAM, 64MB NVRAM 512MB DDR SDRAM
NAS OS Microsoft Windows Powered OS and SAK 2.0 Linuxware v3.0 (Linux based) Data ONTAP (trademark) Linux based Guardian OS
Redundant Power N/A Yes Yes N/A
Protocol Support CIFS, NFS, NCP, AFP, HTTP, and FTP CIFS, NFS, NCP, AFP, HTTP, and FTP NFS, CIFS, VLD, HTTP, iSCSI, Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) CIFS, NFS, NCP, AFP, HTTP, and FTP
COM port for UPS Yes Yes No Yes

 NAS devices

 NAS reviews:

 HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s
 IEI NAS 4120A
 Network Appliance FAS250
 Snap Appliance Server 4500

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
How we tested

We first looked at the ease of setup for each NAS, paying particular attention to the following:

  • Discovery, connect to the device and log in
  • Disk array configuration, RAID 5 data volume setup and shares
  • Creation of user accounts
  • General administration

To test the devices, we set up small network in the Lab, comprising:

  • NAS unit under test
  • 3com SuperStack3 10/100/1000 Switch
  • Server with 4 1.5GHz Xeon processors, 2GB RAM, Intel Pro/1000 XT adaptor, Windows 2000 Professional SP2, and a 72GB Ultra 320 SCSI 10K HDD.

The server was used to simulate a typical user on a 1000TX LAN saving and retrieving files of various sizes to and from the NAS.

We then copied a series of files to and from each NAS from our client to look at common file transfer speeds using a variety of file sizes. Before we ran any test we restarted the NAS box as well as the Server box. Each test was carried out in the same order for all the NAS devices.

Write: 1 large file of 476MB

Write: 16 folders and 8850 subfolders containing 53,632 medium-sized files for a total of 38.4GB

We then copied the same files back to the server to calculate read speeds. We then took an average of the transfer speeds for each.

Interoperability
Will the NAS unit be able to connect to a good range of operating systems and protocols?

Futureproofing
Does the NAS unit have room to expand and redundant or swappable components?

ROI
The age-old comparison of price, performance, and features.

Service
What warranties and service contracts are available? Can you get prompt service at a reasonable price?

Test results

Test results

Sample scenario

Company: Clarke's Clerks. This company needs additional storage to cope with the rapid expansion of its e-mail and other storage needs.

Approximate budget: $40,000.

Requires: 1TB of total storage, either in one or two units, with gigabit Ethernet (preferred) or fibre channel connections.

Concerns: In addition to the performance of the storage unit(s), the ability to manage the unit(s) easily and to integrate with current systems such as directory servers will be very highly regarded. For maximum uptime, redundancy of disks, power supplies, and network connections will also be a consideration.

Best solution: When considering the scenario the Network Appliance FAS250 stood out, not only because it was blindingly fast but the special attention that was placed on redundancy. The FAS250 also ships with a comprehensive software suite that will help you manage and easily integrate with current systems.

Editor's choice

T&B Editor's choice
Network Appliance FAS250

With your storage requirements expanding all the time there is no point going for a product that will be adequate for the time being. That's why we have chosen the FAS250 as this months Editors' choice winner. Even though it's the most expensive NAS, its expandability and built-in redundancy make it an excellent choice.

For someone not quite having the 35K budget and likes the idea of NAS then you should look at the Snap Appliance Server 4500. It doesn't have a high initial price and it offers great bang for your buck.

This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
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About RMIT IT Test Labs

 NAS devices

 NAS reviews:

 HP StorageWorks NAS 1000s
 IEI NAS 4120A
 Network Appliance FAS250
 Snap Appliance Server 4500

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT

RMIT IT Test Labs
RMIT IT Test Labs is an independent testing institution based in Melbourne, Victoria, performing IT product testing for clients such as IBM, Coles-Myer, and a wide variety of government bodies. In the Labs' testing for T&B, they are in direct contact with the clients supplying products and the magazine is responsible for the full cost of the testing. The findings are the Labs' own--only the specifications of the products to be tested are provided by the magazine. For more information on RMIT, please contact the Lab Manager, Steven Turvey.

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