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Updated 9/3/2009: Corrections, clarifications from Sans Digital

Sans Digital EliteNAS EN104L+

At a Glance
Product Sans Digital EliteNAS 1U 4 Bay Intel Atom Dual Core Linux NAS + iSCSI Rackmount Server (EN104L+)
Summary Intel Atom 330 based four drive RAID 5, 6, 10 NAS with root access and console connections.
Pros • NFS, AFP, SMB/CIFS protocol support
• Supports multiple iSCSI targets and initiator
• Multiple RAID volumes
• Root access via telnet, SSH, h/w console
Cons • Poor documentation
• No eSATA
• Buggy backup features

There has been some curiosity in the SNB Forums, particularly among the DIY crowd, about how a NAS using an Intel Atom 330 might perform. I was going to order up an Atom 330-based board and do a reprise of Build Your Own Atom-based NAS with it. But when I saw Sans Digital' EliteNAS EN104L+ announcement, I figured I could save myself some time and just review a store-bought product.

It turns out that Jim Buzbee's review of Sans Digital's MobileNAS MN4L+, pretty much also covers the EN104L+ functionally. So for details of what it's like to set up and use the EliteNAS, I refer you there. I'll just be touching on construction details, its iSCSI and backup features that weren't covered in the previous review and, of course, how it does in the Performance department.

The rackmount EliteNAS series is summarized in Figure 1, which I copied from Sans Digital's website. There are actually four 1U four-drive models: two using Atom 330s and two using Xeon 3040s.

NOTE: The "B" designates the black case option. The EN104L+ is the silver case version.

EliteNAS family

Figure 1: EliteNAS family

If you're looking for media serving features or Torrent downloading, look elsewhere. The EliteNAS series is strictly business-only.

Key features:

  • Network file sharing via SMB/CIFS, NFS, AFP
  • Hot-swappable JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10
  • Multiple volume support
  • XFS and Reiser drive formats
  • Volume space can be allocated among SMB/NFS/AFP shares and iSCSI targets
  • FTP (anonymous and user)
  • HTTP / HTTPs file and admin access
  • Joins NT Domain / Active Directories for account information
  • iSCSI target and initiator
  • User quotas
  • Email alerts
  • Logging
  • Network Backup: Hourly, daily, weekly or monthly networked backup to rsync targets; optional compression
  • Volume snapshots schedulable daily, weekly, monthly

Some features you might be looking for, but which aren't offered are:

  • eSATA ports
  • Online RAID expansion and RAID level migration
  • Bundled client backup software
  • Web-based remote access service
  • USB print serving
  • UPS shutdown synchronization

Internal Details

Figure 2 shows the EN104L+' interior. There is plenty of room for the processor board, which is an off-the-shelf Supermicro X7SLA-H. It includes an Intel Atom 330 Dual-Core 1.6GHz, Intel 945GC chipset (GMCH North Bridge, ICH7R South Bridge) and two Realtek RTL8111C-GR Gigabit LAN chips for the dual Ethernet ports.

Inside view
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: Inside view

Sans Digital fills one of the two DIMM memory slots with 1 GB of DDR2 RAM, but the board can handle two 2 GB DDR2 533/400MHz DIMMS for a total of 4 GB. You can also use DDR2 667, but it will run only at the 533 MHz bus speed.

Figure 3 is a nice board shot I took right from the Supermicro board manual. The only detail you are missing from the real board shot is the 2 GB DOM module that holds the Linux OS (Linux 2.6.18-128.1.10-i686-x6) inserted into the blue IDE connector at the bottom of the photo.

Main board
Click to enlarge image

Figure 3: Main board

Figure 4 shows the complement of rear panel ports, which unfortunately, doesn't include eSATA.

Rear panel ports

Figure 4: Rear panel ports

Jim's review noted that although the MN4L+ provided root-level access, any changes made do not survive through reboot. The EN104L+ probably shares this limitation even though it also provides a login prompt via telnet or SSH.

The noise level coming from the total of six fans isn't bad as rackmount servers go. But I still rate it as high. You would not want this in your office unless you really like fan whine. Power consumption measured 53W with four Hitachi HDT721010SLA360 Deskstar 7K1000.B 1 TB SATA drives installed. There are no idle drive spindown or scheduled shutdown / startup features.

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