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Breaking the 750 MB/s barrier

In parts 1 through 4 of this series, we discussed 10GbE networking basics, built up a software toolkit, reviewed 10GbE NAS performance, and took a close look at SMB3 networking advancements. In this penultimate installment, we’ll look over a plug and play 10GbE NAS solution and build up an Adobe CC editing workstation capable of exceeding 750 MB/s over 10GbE networks.

Before we get started, let’s look at how all of this can be integrated into your existing network. There have been several questions related to MacOS workstations and possible network configurations posed over at Cinevate’s blog. Here are two possible network configurations. The first is very similar to what we are using at Cinevate.

Switched 10GbE network example

Switched 10GbE network example

The direct connect setup below would not require purchasing a 10GbE switch in cases where only two 10GbE connected workstations were required, and your NAS or server had a dual port 10GbE NIC installed.

Unswitched 10GbE network example

Unswitched 10GbE network example

Buy a NAS, or build a server?

If you do decide to purchase a 10GbE NAS to share your video projects, you’ll still need a fast 10GbE equipped editing workstation. But you certainly won’t need to build your own server. In Part 3 of this series, I reviewed QNAP's TS-470 PRO, but recommended an 8-bay (or more) NAS to fully take advantage of 10GbE network speeds.

For those with an existing equipment rack system, I’d suggest starting with the QNAP TS-EC879U-RP or TS-879U-RP, which have room for 2 optional PCIe cards. One card can be added for 10GbE (2 ports) and optionally, another to connect additional enclosures like the REXP-1200U-P. These drive enclosures allow you add much more storage without adding another NAS.

I had a chance to test out QNAP’s TS-870 Pro NAS fully populated with eight Hitachi 4 TB drives, which returned some very impressive performance numbers. This NAS performs extremely well and at a price that should make you stop and question the value in building your own server. If you are looking for warranty and support, QNAP has proven to be excellent in this department. Regardless of what brand you choose, make sure the NAS hardware is sufficient for your bandwidth needs.

QNAP TS-870 front

QNAP TS-870 front

On the back view of the TS-870 Pro, you can see I’ve connected both 10GbE and 1GbE interfaces as per the wiring diagram above, integrating the NETGEAR 8 port 10GbE switch as well as our older 1GbE equipment. You can connect both ports to your switches and configure them for redundancy, or link aggregation in the NAS network configuration.

QNAP TS-870 rear

QNAP TS-870 rear

Multiple NAS network connections will not magically increase network performance for a single connection to the NAS, but can increase overall bandwidth to clients as network loads increase. This behavior potentially changes if the NAS is running Windows 2012 Storage Server, which can aggregate network ports transparently to increase single connection speeds.

Part 4 (SMB3) of the series covers this behavior in some detail. For a NAS running Linux based software (almost all of them), a single SMB3 connection to Windows 8.1 was limited in my testing to ~ 740 MB/s. You would likely see a lower number with MacOS / SMB2, or Windows 7 or earlier.

In the following tests, the TS-870 Pro NAS shows impressive ATTO results with 8 drives configured as a RAID 5 array and ATTO queue depth set to 4.

QNAP TS-870 Pro SMB3 vs. iSCSI performance

QNAP TS-870 Pro SMB3 vs. iSCSI performance

A typical Windows 8.1 large file copy/paste shows writes to the TS-870 PRO at ~ 550 MB/s and reads at ~ 740 MB/s fully loaded with hard drives and configured in RAID 5. Using Intel’s NASPT tool, the results of “real world” application traces are shown.

QNAP TS-870 Pro Intel NASPT results

QNAP TS-870 Pro Intel NASPT results

In the case you are working exclusively on the MacOS platform and looking for a plug and play solution, a 10GbE NAS along with workstation 10GbE network cards from companies like Small Tree (who supports the Intel X540 cards) is all that would be required. If you’re looking to put your own Windows based 10GbE server or workstation together, read on.

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