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How We Test Networked Storage Devices - Revision 4

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Updated 10/17/2012 - Added new backup device info. Updated some screenshots and information in Using Charts section. Removed Discontinued Benchmarks info.

What's New

• For Network Storage devices tested between 27 August 2010 and 28 May 2009, please see this article (V3).

• For Network Storage devices tested between 27 May 2009 and 30 December 2008, please see this article (V2).

• For Network Storage devices tested before 29 December 2008, please see this article (V1).

NAS performance continues its march upward. Unsatisfied with shrinking margins on lower-end consumer-grade products, companies like QNAP, Synology, NETGEAR and Thecus have pumped out 5, 6 and more bay products aimed at displacing servers from Dell, HP and others in some applications.

So our Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 based NAS testbed has been coming under pressure as these high-end NASes have been producing throughput closer and closer to its 125 MB/s limit. So it's time retire it and bring on the SmallNetBuilder V3 NAS Testbed.

We're also taking this opportunity to change and streamline our test benchmarks. We are retiring our long standing mainstay, iozone and bringing in a hand-picked group of tests from Intel's NAS Performance Toolkit.

The main reason for the change is that while iozone's ability to profile NAS throughput across many filesizes was interesting, it was only one view of NAS performance and took quite some time to run. With NASPT, we can run many different types of more meaningful NAS operation scenarios in the same or less time.

Along the same line of streamlining our testing, we're no longer going to run benchmarks with 4K jumbo frames. We found little performance difference with 4k jumbo frames used on the previous testbed and found the same thing while shaking down the V3 testbed. Today's fast CPUs, buses and Ethernet interfaces essentially provide higher networking performance without jumbo frames. So we'll put the saved time to good use on other projects.

Testbed Configuration

We wanted this one to last awhile, so have equipped it with an Intel Core i3-540 Clarkdale 3.06GHz CPU and dual Intel CT Gigabit NICs that can be teamed to test NASes with dual teamable Gigabit ports. The testbed also has built-in eSATA and USB 3.0 ports, in case we decide to more frequently test direct-attached storage.

Finally, there are plenty of PCIe slots including two PCIe 2.0 x16, one PCIe 2.0 x1 and two PCIe 2.0 x1. So when we need to occasionally accommodate a 10Gbps fiber interface card, we'll be able to.

On the software side, we've moved from Vista SP1 to Windows 7 Home Premium.

The V3 NAS Testbed machine summarized in Table 1 is capable of testing NASes with file transfer performance well beyond 125 MB/s when its aggregated Gigabit NICs are used.

Components
CPU Intel Core i3-540 Clarkdale @ 3.06GHz
Motherboard ASUS P7H57D-V EVO
RAM 2 GB G.SKILL Ripjaws Series DDR3 1600 SDRAM (F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL) [one DIMM of set used]
Hard Drives Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s (HD103SJ)
Two drives configured in RAID 0 array using onboard Intel RAID for file transfer testing

HITACHI Deskstar 7K160 80GB (HDS721680PLA380) for Win7 OS
Ethernet Intel Gigabit CT Desktop adapter (x2)
OS Windows 7 Home Premium
Table 1: NAS Testbed V3 configuration

Figures 1 and 2 show HD Tune write and read benchmark results on the RAID 0 array that will be used for File Transfer testing.

Figure 1: HD Tune write benchmark - Testbed R0 array

The array is made up of two Samsung HD103SJ Spinpoint F3 1 TB drives. I chose these drives due to their high performance, which is confirmed by the HD Tune plots.

Figure 2: HD Tune read benchmark - Testbed R0 array

The file transfer test will use only a small portion of a 500 GB partition on the RAID 0 array, so it should be capable of 200+ MB/s write and read rates when used with an aggregated Gigabit link.

Note that a separate 80 GB SATA drive is used for the Windows 7 OS. This drive is not critical because it is not used for the File Copy test and Intel's NASPT performance is not dependent on host machine hard drive performance.




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