Desktop storage appliances tend to stop at eight bays. The QNAP TS-1079 Pro, however, tucks in two more beneath the usual eight, creating a remarkably compact 10-disk appliance with a raw capacity of up to 30TB.
Part of the Turbo NAS family of QNAP business appliances, the TS-1079 Pro is aimed at small companies where ease of management is a high priority and yet performance is still key. It can be bought ready-populated, but is mostly offered for sale empty with a recommended price of £1,969 (ex. VAT). That may put some buyers off, but we found it widely available at around the £1,600 mark.
You can, if you want, fit any set of 3.5in. or 2.5in. disks into the unit, using the hot-swap metal carriers supplied. For best results, however, enterprise-class drives with a high spin speed are recommended. These can be conventional SATA spindles or, if you're feeling rich, SSDs.
Support for the latest 6Gbps SATA 3.0 technology is also on offer here. SAS, however, isn't.
A dual-core Intel i3-2120 processor is employed to drive the appliance, supported by 2GB of DDR3 RAM and a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports for network attachment. An expansion slot at the back then allows these ports to be doubled or the unit upgraded to 10GbE networking for those with a compatible switch.
RAID comes as standard with support for JBOD plus RAID 0,1,5,6 and 10 arrays together with a variety of hot sparing options, including a global hot-spare whereby a single backup disk can be shared across multiple arrays. USB2.0/3.0 ports and a pair of eSATA interfaces also allow external storage to be attached.
Management is via the usual web interface and, as on most storage appliances these days, there's support for both NAS and iSCSI SAN (Storage Area Network) connectivity.
NAS is the easiest to configure with a default set of shares created for new volumes that can be accessed over mixed Windows, Apple and Linux networks. An FTP server is built in, volumes can be encrypted at source and access managed via both local ACLs and Active Directory or LDAP authentication.
The iSCSI side is a little more complicated, although there's a wizard to help and it's certainly no harder than on other appliances we've seen. The QNAP firmware also benefits form specific support for VMware, Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer, plus a 'virtual disk' option to connect to remote iSCSI targets and present them as local server shares.
Performance will largely depend on the disks used, the type of array and available network bandwidth. We tested using iSCSI and a RAID 5 array over a single Gigabit link, the TS-1079 Pro delivering throughput figures around the 140-150MB/s mark when configured this way. This could easily be improved upon, with QNAP claiming speeds of up to 1TB/s on a 10GbE network.
Although first and foremost a storage appliance, it's worth noting that the TS-1079 Pro can also host a variety of useful add-on applications. If you're expecting the kind of flashy media servers found on consumer products, however, you'll be disappointed. Instead, QNAP bundles a more conservative set of business-oriented options, including web and database servers plus network antivirus protection.
And if you don't need ten disks, you can get much the same appliance in an 8-bay format and as an even more scalable rack-mount product that can accommodate up to 12 disks.