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NAS Reviews

{mospagebreak toctitle= Introduction}

Introduction

Infrant ReadyNAS NV+

At a Glance
Product Infrant ReadyNAS NV+
Summary Update of multi-talented four-drive TeraByte-capacity RAID NAS
Pros • Supports RAID 0,1,5 and "XRAID" automatic RAID system
• Up to four SATA drives
• Gigabit Ethernet with 4K and 8K Jumbo frames supported
• NFS, AFP, Active Directory support
Cons • Still not quiet enough for living room use

At a Glance
Product Infrant ReadyNAS 1100
Summary Update of 1000S with 12" deep chassis
Pros • Supports RAID 0,1,5 and "XRAID" automatic RAID system
• Up to four SATA drives
• Gigabit Ethernet with 4K and 8K Jumbo frames supported
• NFS, AFP, Active Directory support
Cons • No LCD status panel

Infrant continues to evolve its ReadyNAS product line with two new members. The NV+ is a tweak of the NV that we reviewed just about a year ago, while the 1100 is an update of its 1000S, with a redesigned 12" deep chassis (vs. the 1000S' 18"). Both the NV+ and 1100 come bundled with a 5-user license for EMC's Retrospect for Windows and Macintosh client backup software as a sweetener.

All of Infrant's ReadyNASes share a common RAIDiator firmware base, with a feature set that is essentially the same as that described in the NV review. So I'll just point out the differences in the products from their predecessors.

The most visible difference on the NV+ is its LCD panel, which most helpfully displays the NV+' IP address, along with boot and drive status. It's a nice touch, but I didn't find myself using it that often.

Both the NV and NV+ use Infrant's IT3107 Storage processor, have 256 MB of DDR RAM and 64 MB of onboard flash. The 1000S and 1100 use Infrant's IT1004 Storage processor, which Infrant described to me as "not better, just different", have 512 MB of DDR RAM and 64 MB of flash (the 1000S' flash is a Compact Flash card).

ReadyNAS 1100 chassis

Figure 1: ReadyNAS 1100 chassis

In addition to the similarities with the NV+, the 1100 has some differences. It has two 10/100/1000 switched Ethernet ports (for convenience...there is no routing function) and six (!) 1.5" fans instead of the one large one that the NV+ has. But even with that many fans, I was surprised at how quiet the 1100 was, once it settled down after its noisy fan calibration routine.

I should note that the work that Infrant has been doing on the NV+ (and NV) to quiet it down results in a lower noise level for the those products. But, to my ear, the NV+ still would be noticeable in a quiet living-room setting.

The NV+ and 1100 come set to use Infrant's patent-pending Expandable RAID (XRAID) mode, which automatically adjusts RAID level and formatted capacity to match the available drives. If you're old-school, however, there is a procedure involving power cycling and the reset switch that allows you to switch to manual control of RAID level.

{mospagebreak toctitle= More about the 1100}

More about the 1100

Although it doesn't have redundant power supplies, it does have all its innards (except for the drives and connection backplane) on a module that's easily removable by undoing two screws and lifting two latches. Figure 2 shows an overview of the module and Figure 3 a closer view of the processor board.

ReadyNAS 1100 module
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: ReadyNAS 1100 module

The IT1004 processor is under the heatsink with a 512 MB DDR SODIMM to its right. Over on the left, that looks like a naked USB flash key perched over a Vitesse VSC8210 Single Port 10/100/1000BASE-T PHY (with another next to it for the other Ethernet port). A VIA VT6212 4-port USB 2.0 Host Controller handles the interface for those ports and the Atmel 29LV512 provides 64 KB of flash. I'm not sure what the smaller flash is for, since the main 64 MB of flash is on the USB key.

ReadyNAS 1100 board
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Figure 3: ReadyNAS 1100 board

Hardware documentation for the 1100 is pretty sparse, limited to a single page printed "poster" with no PDF version included on either the supplied CD or downloadable from Infrant's Support page. A few of the hardware niceties are reset buttons on both front and rear panels, Backup button (same function as on the NV and NV+), USB 2.0 port and power switch. The removable drive trays are the same robust design used on the NV and NV+.


Performance - 100 Mbps LAN

IOzone was used to check out the file system performance on both the NV+ and 1100 (the full testing setup and methodology are described on this page). Tests were run only in the default XRAID mode—which with four drives is essentially RAID 5—with 100 and 1000 Mbps LAN connections. The gigabit-connected tests were run with both jumbo frame capability disabled and with 4k jumbo frames.

To ensure connection at the intended speeds, the iozone test machine and the units under test were manually moved between a NETGEAR GS108 10/100/1000 Mbps switch for gigabit-speed testing and a 10/100 switch for 100 Mbps testing.

NOTES:

  • Firmware version tested:
    NV+: v3_01c1-p4
    1100: v3_01c1-p6

  • Drives used (supplied by Infrant):
    NV+: four Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3400620NAS 3.0 Gb/s 400GB 7200RPM SATA, 16 MB cache
    1100: four Seagate Barracuda ES ST3250820NS 3.0 Gb/s 250GB 7200RPM SATA, 8MB cache

  • Keep in mind that the maximum raw data rate for 100Mbps Ethernet is 12,500 Kbytes/sec and 125,000 Kbytes/sec for gigabit

Figures 3 and 4 show write and read results respectively with a 100 Mbps LAN connection. Included in the plots for comparison are the original Infrant NV, Thecus N5200 and Synology CS406—all four-drive RAID 5 NASes.

The NV+ does a bit better than both the 1100 and original NV for 100 Mbps writing, but the Thecus N5200 does better than both.

100 Mbps LAN RAID 5 write performance
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Figure 4: 100 Mbps LAN RAID 5 write performance

100 Mbps read is more of a horse race for 256 MB and larger file sizes. Note also that absence of the downward-sloping curve characteristic on the N5200 when reading.

100 Mbps LAN RAID 5 read performance
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Figure 5: 100 Mbps LAN RAID 5 read performance

Performance - Gigabit LAN

Switching to a gigabit LAN connection removes a performance constraint, but only the Thecus appears to be able to really make the most of the higher-bandwidth LAN connection for writing. The rest of the pack stays clustered below the 100 Mbps LAN 12,500 Kbyte/sec line, with the NV+ once again besting the 1100.

1000 Mbps LAN RAID 5 write performance
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Figure 6: 1000 Mbps LAN RAID 5 write performance

Switching over to read spreads things out and speeds them up a bit. The NV+ and 1100 trade positions on file sizes up to 256 MB and then the NV+ comes out on top for 512 MB and 1 GB files. The Thecus N5200 once again displays the highest performance for smaller file sizes and drops off for larger. Like the Thecus, the Synology CS406 also shows decaying speed as file sizes increase, but consistently comes out last in this group for gigabit reads.

1000 Mbps LAN RAID 5 read performance
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Figure 7: 1000 Mbps LAN RAID 5 read performance

Enabling 4k jumbo frames provides a slight performance boost, but doesn't significantly change the rankings for gigabit writing. The NV+ seems to be helped the most for larger files.

1000 Mbps, 4k jumbo frame LAN RAID 5 write performance
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Figure 8: 1000 Mbps, 4k jumbo frame LAN RAID 5 write performance

Jumbo frames actually appears to lower performance for the NV+ and more so for the 1100. The original NV, however, gets a boost for smaller file sizes, as does the Synology, which again comes in lowest in ranking.

1000 Mbps, 4k jumbo frame LAN RAID 5 read performance
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Figure 9: 1000 Mbps, 4k jumbo frame LAN RAID 5 read performance

Closing Thoughts

Infrant hasn't done anything earth-shattering with either the NV+ or 1100. Both represent minor tweaks of current products, with the more significant makeover done on the 1100 from the 1000S. And since at the heart of all ReadyNASes beats the RAIDiator firmware, you get the same feature set, no matter which model you choose.

The NV+ is a slight improvement over the NV, with most of the value coming in the Retrospect backup client bundle. Since both the NV and NV+ use the same processor and have the same memory, I suspect that the performance difference I saw is more due to better drives in the NV+ and newer firmware than anything else. So with the lowest price at time of review at $831 for a driveless NV+ and $517 for an NV, you might be better served by using the $300 to buy drives.

As for the 1100, I was surprised to see it consistently beaten by the NV+, even with the 1100's larger memory. But, once again, the NV+ drives with 16 MB of cache vs. the 1100 drives with 8 MB could be the deciding factor. But even if performance were equal, at slightly under $1000 for a driveless 1100, you have to really want or need the rack-mount form factor to justify the almost $500 premium over a naked NV.

Don't get me wrong. I still think that Infrant is one of the best overall RAID 5 "prosumer" NASes available, with a user interface and feature set that the other guys are still trying to catch up to. But competitors seem to be moving faster on performance improvement than Infrant, with Thecus especially focused on being the fastest. If Infrant wants to add that claim to its marketing collateral, it needs to get cracking.

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