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Updated 9/24/2010: PKG info

Cisco NSS300 Smart Storage Series

At a Glance
Product Cisco NSS300 Series (NSS322, NSS324, NSS326)
Summary Intel Atom D510 RAID SATA NAS family with Gigabit Ethernet and many serving options including RADIUS.
Pros • RADIUS server
• 5 year warranty including drives in populated systems
• Priority support options available ($)
Cons • No network camera support
• Does not accept QNAP QPKGs for add-on apps
• Plugins still a work in process
• No bundled client backup software

I've already covered Cisco's new NSS300 NAS line pretty well. First with a comparison to the QNAP NASes that form their nuclei [QNAP Probably Behind Cisco's New Small Business NASes], then with performance tests of the NSS322, NSS324 and NSS326.

So in this review, I'm just going to try highlight some of the "value add" that Cisco brings to the party so that you can decide for yourself whether to buy these or their QNAP versions, i.e. the TS-259 Pro, TS-459 Pro and TS-659 Pro.

Feature Summary

The NSS feature set is summarized in the Figure 1 table taken from the NSS300 family data sheet. It shows features essentially equivalent to those in QNAP's V3.3 firmware. The only QNAP feature that I could find that Cisco doesn't support is the Surveillance Station support for recording and viewing network cameras.

NSS family feature summary
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: NSS family feature summary

Cisco has reorganized the QNAP interface a bit (Figure 2), bringing the Status information up from the bottom and separating User and Group admin from Share and Quota management.

NSS family admin interface
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: NSS family admin interface

If you want a closer look at the differences in how Cisco and QNAP have approached organizing the admin interfaces, use the links below to bring up screenshots.

Cisco QNAP
Status, Administration, Disk Management System Administration, Disk Management
Network Shares, Network Services, Applications Access Right Management, Network Services, Applications
Backup, External Device Backup, External Device, System Status

Unique Features

A key differentiating feature from the QNAPs is the RADIUS server. Figure 3 shows the settings page, where it's important to note the limited number of 802.1x authentication options. The NSSes support authentication only via PAP, EAP-TLS/PAP and EAP-TTLS/PAP.

Cisco NSS300 RADIUS settings

Figure 3: Cisco NSS300 RADIUS settings

I didn't think this was a problem until I tried to set up authentication of a Win 7 netbook connected via an Ethernet port provided by an Atheros AR8131 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet controller to a NETGEAR GS108T switch. I was able to (I think) get the NSS and GS108T properly configured, by adding a RADIUS client (Figure 4) on the NSS and entering the NSS' info into the Security > RADIUS screen of the GS108T.

Cisco NSS300 add RADIUS client

Figure 4: Cisco NSS300 add RADIUS client

I then had to enable the Wired AutoConfig service on the netbook, which added an Authentication tab to the Atheros adapter's network properties. Figure 5 shows the authentication options presented, with only one (Intel: EAP-TTLS) matching those available from the NSS.

Atheros AR8131 authentication options

Figure 5: Atheros AR8131 authentication options

Unfortunately, no matter how much I futzed with the settings, I couldn't get the network to successfully authenticate. After skimming through Cisco's How to Use RADIUS on Cisco Smart Storage app note, I think the problem was my inability to download a Certificate Authority (CA) certificate from the NSS. The instructions in the app note didn't help though, and neither did any online Windows help.

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