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Performance Test

Both systems were configured with 1 GB of RAM and had Ubuntu Server 8.10 installed on a 2 GB USB flash drive. I checked only the Samba server option during installation and then added the mdadm Linux RAID utility and Webmin for browser-based admin. See the instructions from the Atom-based NAS article if you need help with the install.

I tested both RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations, using a recommended 32 KB block size with each, but with only a Gigabit Ethernet LAN connection. I didn't bother testing at 100 Mbps, since I knew both chipsets could produce better than 12.5 MB/s throughput. I also didn't test with jumbo frames, mostly because I didn't want to spend the time figuring out how to set it up via the Ubuntu command line.

I had previously said that I was going to try using Ubuntu Desktop instead of Server, the next time I did a DIY test. But after some quick Googling, I didn't find any instructions for installing Desktop to a flash drive, then setting up a separate data RAID volume. So, in the interest of time, I went the way that I knew.

I entered the results into the NAS Chart database so you can compare them against other products. But since I used the new NAS test bed and procedure keep in mind that the results aren't directly comparable to those in Build Your Own Atom-based NAS or Atom vs. Geode: Which Makes a Faster, Cheaper NAS? or most other products in the database.

It turns out, however, I have a good mix of NAS platforms among the products that I have tested with the new testbed. So I was able to generate the informative write comparison plot shown in Figure 8. (Note that all systems were configured in RAID 0 for this plot, except the Cisco/Linksys which was tested in its factory single-drive configuration.)

The systems in this plot are the NETGEAR ReadyNAS Pro (Intel E2160 Dual-Core), Thecus M3800 Stream Box (AMD LX800 Geode), Cisco/Linksys Media Hub (Marvell 88F5182 "Orion" Soc) in addition to the VIA (VIA C7-D) and MSI (Intel 1.6 GHz Atom) boxes.

RAID 0 write performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

Figure 8: RAID 0 write performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

Concentrating on file sizes 256 MB and higher to get past cache effects, the ReadyNAS Duo turned in the highest performance, which it should, since it's the most expensive system represented in this comparison! And it's no surprise that the Marvell Orion-based Cisco/Linksys turns in the lowest performance, since it is uses a low-cost SoC.

But the interesting comparison is among the C7, Atom and Geode. The Atom-based MSI Wind PC comes in slightly faster than the VIA C7-based ARTiGO, although both have speeds in the 35 to 40 MB/s range. But both edge out the Geode-based Thecus, which stays below 30 MB/s.

The read story shown in Figure 9 is a bit tougher to sort out among the Geode, Atom and C7. The MSI and VIA boxes again sort of track each other including a significant drop in speed once they hit their 1 GB RAM size. But the Geode-based Thecus M3800's throughput stays nice and steady at 50+ MB/s from filesizes of 256 MB on up. I suspect that this could be due to OS and other tuning in the M3800, since it is running an entirely different OS configuration, but that's just a guess.

RAID 0 read performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

Figure 9: RAID 0 read performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

Moving on to the RAID 1 write comparison (Figure 10), the NETGEAR and Thecus products drop out since I ran RAID 5, not RAID 1 tests on them. Both the VIA and MSI NASes chug along in the 30 MB/s range, while the Cisco/Linksys can only manage in the low teens.

RAID 1 write performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

Figure 10: RAID 1 write performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

The RAID 1 read plot (Figure 11) shows a similar story, with the VIA and MSI systems clearly beating out the Cisco/Linksys. Once again, however, throughput on both really takes a hit once the Gigabyte of RAM in the VIA and MSI systems is exceeded.

RAID 1 read performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

Figure 11: RAID 1 read performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

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