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Performance Test - Vista SP1 File copy

My new test suite includes filecopy tests between the Vista SP1-based NAS testbed system and the NAS under test and Figure 12 holds the results for RAID 0 write. This comparison includes a second single-drive Marvell Orion-based system (the Buffalo LinkStation Live LS-CHL) because I had the data. But it also shows the similarity in performance between two Orion-based NASes.

As expected, the ReadyNAS Pro is the clear performance winner. But the Atom-based MSI Wind PC isn't too shabby, coming in at 56 MB/s.

Filecopy JBOD, RAID 0 write performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

Figure 12: Filecopy JBOD, RAID 0 write performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

The read comparison in Figure 13 has similar results and rankings, except for the Thecus M3800. I first thought it was a data entry error, so went back and rechecked my tests. But for both RAID 0 and RAID 5, both with and without jumbo frames, read performance with a Gigabit LAN connection is consistently 2X write speed for the M3800!

Filecopy JBOD, RAID 0 read performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

Figure 13: Filecopy JBOD, RAID 0 read performance - 1000 Mbps LAN

Closing Thoughts

I don't think I'm going to declare a clear winner here between the VIA C7 and Intel Atom. It looks that they are pretty evenly matched for performance and generally in the same class as the Geode LX800.

Keep in mind, however, that the performance of a DIY NAS can vary greatly with the choice of operating system, RAID block sizes and other tunings that can be performed, especially with open source distros. I made no attempt to squeeze the most performance out of any of these products tested and your results could be better...or worse.

That said, the MSI Wind PC is clearly a more cost effective way to build a two-drive NAS capable of producing write and read speeds in the 30 - 40 MB/s range than the ARTiGO A2000. As I write this, you can pick one up for around $140, while the going rate for the A2000 is $299. I think that for the extra $150 or so, I can live with having to kludge in the second drive.

The other thing I have gleaned from this exercise (and my testing of many, many other NASes) is a general feel for what different CPU platforms can produce for NAS performance. So at the risk of making gross generalizations that will be quickly proved wrong by readers much smarter than I, here are my broad rules of thumb for classifying NASes based on the different processor families compared:

  • Marvell Orion based NASes will generally produce throughput in the mid-to-high teen MB/s
  • NASes using the VIA C7, Intel Atom or AMD Geode will provide read/write performance in the 30 - 40 MB/s range
  • When you move up to NASes based on Intel Celeron or Dual-Core or Freescale MPC854XE, you can see speeds of at least 50 MB/s and more like 70 MB/s.

The above speeds are those obtained with iozone testing and exclude caching effects on both the NAS and client system. File copy speeds, which do include cache effects and a mix of small and large file sizes, especially using Vista SP1 on the client side, can be much higher, as shown by the 100 MB/s results obtained with the NETGEAR ReadyNAS Pro.

So if you're looking for a low-cost way to build a dual-drive NAS, you can choose a motherboard using an Intel Atom, VIA C7 or AMD Geode CPU and be pretty certain of getting better than 2X the performance you can get from any (current) off-the-shelf NAS.

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