Thecus N8900 or connecting NAS via 10 GE

Introduction

External Design

Hardware

Starting up and extension modules

Web-interface review

Command line interface review

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

On the pages of the FOXNETWORK testing lab’s site there have been reviews of network storages with two and four discs, eight-disc NAS’s and even a twelve-disc SAN storage. All these tests are united by the use of Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. Today in our lab there’s an eight-disc Thecus N8900 storage; however the thing that makes this test stand out is the use of a 10 Gigabit Ethernet interface. Now that we’re not confined by the performance of several GE-connections – let’s see what this NAS is capable of!

External Design

Thecus N8900 has a horizontal 2U case standard for rack-mounted devices. The storage dimensions are 632х480х88 mm.

The upper lid, the bottom and the side walls are quite featureless. The only thing worth mentioning is pins and holes in the sides for attaching rails.

The front panel is hidden behind a pulldown ornamental grate. The panel itself displays eight slots for SAS/SATA hard drives, an LCD display, two USB 2.0 ports, five LEDs of the device status, seven buttons for managing the storage and a sunk RST button for resetting user configurations to defaults.

On the rear panel there’re two SURE STAR TC-550R 550 W power units that are part of the TC-550RVN2 fault-tolerant block; three GE interfaces, four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, one eSATA interface, one DB-9 COM-port, one HDMI-interface and three audio-jacks (Line IN, Line OUT and MIC IN). The HDMI-interface is intended for connecting N8900 to projectors and TV-sets for immediate display of multimedia contents, however at the moment it can only be used for following the device booting process. Generally, this feature in a device of N8900 class seems dubious, but as it’s done – let it stay.

It’s worth mentioning that on the rear panel there’re seven places for installing extension boards but three of them are already occupied: the eSATA port, two USB 3.0 ports and a RAID-controller without external ports.

Developing N8900, the Thecus Company seems to have taken great efforts to correct its earlier faults: here we don’t see the problems we discovered in the N8800+ model – the rails are standard for mounted servers and allows placing the storage even in a fully packed rack. While the door needs slightly more space to be fully opened, now this is not a problem as the storage can be partly pulled out before opening.

Now let’s look inside N8900.

Hardware

As is traditional for Thecus, all interior space is divided into several sectors each with its own purpose: one for discs, another for coolers, the third for power units and the fourth biggest one – the motherboard and add-on cards. Air is pumped through the device by two quickly changeable 70х70х25 mm coolers.

RAM is presented by two Transcend 4G DDR3 1333 DIMM CL9 boards with sixteen Transcend TK483PCW3 chips. It’s worth saying that there’re four slots for installing additional RAM on the motherboard, meaning that the amount of RAM can be increased by using free slots providing they are fully and correctly pinned out and there aren’t any other restrictions.

The device firmware is stored in duplicated 1 Gbyte Afaya MDS7VJM001GBPCAA modules working on two Samsung K9F4G08U0D flash-memory chips managed by a JMicron controller.

On the motherboard there’re PCI-E slots: one X1, one X4, two X8 and one X16. The X1 and X16 are already occupied, though. In the first one there’s a USB 3.0 controller based on a NEC D720200AF1 chip; the other is taken by a RAID-controller for SAS/SATA discs. The above-mentioned RAID-controller is built on an LSI LSISAS2008 chip that has eight SAS/SATA interfaces.

The CPU functions are performed by second generation 3.3 GHz Intel Core i3-2120 and a chip labeled E78190 01 YH1 is the south bridge. Unfortunately, we failed to find detailed information about it.

Now let’s examine the motherboard itself. The I/O controller is Fintek F71889ED. A Realtek ALC262 chip is responsible for sound; a Pericom PI3VDP411LSR controller provides the operation of the HDMI-port. The network segment is represented by three gigabit Intel WG82574L controllers. On the other side there’re two Pericom PI3PCIE2415 modules which provide the PCI-E bus operation.

Now that we’re through with the hardware, let’s move on to studying Thecus N8900 software features.

Starting up and extension modules

Thecus N8900 network storage is sold fully operational; the only thing to do is to install the discs and create a RAID. We certainly always recommend installing the latest firmware version before starting the device operation. When the article was being written it was version 2.01.01. To upgrade firmware manually, one has to turn to the Firmware Upgrade point in the Administration group of the web-interface and to choose the previously downloaded file with new firmware. The whole process takes about two minutes.

Besides the manual mode of firmware upgrade, there’s a semiautomatic way that requires preliminary registration of the device with the help of the Online registration point in the System Information group.

Besides standard features in the firmware itself, there’re also free extension modules that can help to substantially broaden basic functionality.

The Module Installation and Auto Module Installation points in the Application Server group allow the user to install add-ons he wants. We chose one such module Access Guard to run a test installation. This module is relatively new; it allows restricting access to the storage based on the client’s IP and MAC addresses (separately for each network interface). Certainly, if the storage and the client are in different network segments separated by a router, it makes access restriction based on the MAC-address quite useless; however, we consider this module handy.

We decided to check Access Guard real operation for which we created a rule prohibiting all ICMP-traffic and applied it.

However, to our bewilderment, the rule had no effect. Then we prohibited connection via TCP. To no avail – we readily managed the storage via the given interface. Naturally, we reported the problem to the vendor. The Access Guard module is new, so we hope that all malfunctions will be corrected very soon.

The operating system on N8900 is 64-bit, consequently, it’s recommended that installed modules were built with the same processor word.

Now let’s study the device web-interface.

Web-interface review

To access the web-interface of the storage, one has to connect to the WAN/LAN1 port on the rear panel and to go to 192.168.1.100 in the browser. Naturally, the computer IP-address must belong to the 192.168.1.0/24 network. To enter, type your password which is by default admin.

After entering correct account data the user gets to the device home page. The NAS web-interface is available in fourteen languages.

As N8900 functionality is very similar to the features of Thecus N8800+ which we described earlier, we’re not going to review the device web-interface in much detail and will only stop at the most interesting items of the menu to the left.

The System Information group gives the administrator information about the storage model, its uptime, running services and temperatures of the main elements; allows registering N8900 with the vendor and looking through and managing the device log. Above all other functions Thecus N8900 can work as a Syslog-server saving messages sent by other devices in the net.

Thecus N8900 can not only synchronize with an external NTP-server via the internet, but also provide exact time for devices in the local net. The corresponding configuration is available in the Date and Time point of the System Management group. Also in this group the user can configure notifications about the events happening to the device sent via e-mail, upgrade firmware, manage the device on/off schedule and set the parameters of SNMP and the web-interface.

The System Network group is for configuring the operation of network interfaces. Here you can specify IP-parameters, enable or disable Jumbo frames, set the parameters of load balancing with the help of link aggregation. There’re six different ways of aggregation: Load Balance, Failover, Balance-XOR, 802.3ad, Balance-TLB and Balance-ALB. It’s worth mentioning that some of these options require corresponding support from the switch.

With the help of the points in the Storage group the user can get information about the installed discs, manage RAIDs and folders, stack storages and specify iSCSI parameters. The Thecus Company seems to have decided to strengthen its products security and to provide administrators with additional means of limiting access to information stored on N8900. Among these new features we can mention a new tab LUN ACL that allows explicit listing of nodes that have access to the storage via iSCSI. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find how to disable this function, so every time a new node will initiate connection to N8900, the administrator will have to specify its IQN manually.

Users are administered with the help of the points of the User and Group Authentication group. Thecus N8900 has Active Directory support.

Network protocols via which the user can get access to data stored on N8900 are configured in the Network Service group.

iTunes and other add-ons are configured with the help of the points in the Application Server group. We have already considered this group in the previous section.

Thecus N8900 network storage is intended for corporate use. Although it doesn’t have control module redundancy, the drive with a built-in operating system and user settings is duplicated. Data copying from the main memory card to the secondary one is managed in the DOM Backup point of the Backup group. Also with the help of this group the administrator is able to save or recover access lists to files and folders stored on the RAID. Besides, N8900 allows user data synchronization by means of Rsync.

A printer and a UPS can be connected to the storage ports. The operation parameters for these devices are presented in the External Device group – the only group whose menu is not translated into Russian.

When the review had already been completed, we received a patch for the current firmware version. This update has tiny size (504 bytes) and is intended for activating the high-availability function. After installing the patch we discovered a new point High-Availability in the Storage group. With the help of this item the administrator can back up the whole storage, provided, naturally, there’s another N8900 available. This function has always been available in top-end models (N12000 and N16000), but now the vendor seems to have decided to add this option to some of low-end models as well. This feature will become officially available to ordinary users in the next firmware version.

Here we finish our review of Thecus N8900 web-interface.

Command line interface review

To get access to the device command line it’s necessary to install an additional module HiSSH. The login is root, the password is the same as for the user admin in web-interface. A quite new Busybox of version 1.16.1 is used in the system. The operating system version can be found out by means of either the command uname -a or by reading the file /proc/version.

login as: root
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.'s password:
N8900:~# busybox
BusyBox v1.16.1 (2011-12-13 18:12:23 CST) multi-call binary.
Copyright (C) 1998-2009 Erik Andersen, Rob Landley, Denys Vlasenko
and others. Licensed under GPLv2.
See source distribution for full notice.
Usage: busybox [function] [arguments]...
or: function [arguments]...
BusyBox is a multi-call binary that combines many common Unix
utilities into a single executable. Most people will create a
link to busybox for each function they wish to use and BusyBox
will act like whatever it was invoked as.
Currently defined functions:
[, [[, addgroup, adduser, arp, arping, awk, basename, cat, chmod,
chown, chpasswd, chroot, chvt, clear, cp, crond, crontab, cryptpw, cut,
date, dc, dd, deallocvt, delgroup, deluser, df, diff, dirname, dmesg,
dnsdomainname, du, dumpleases, echo, egrep, eject, env, ether-wake,
expr, false, fgrep, free, freeramdisk, fsck, fuser, getty, grep,
gunzip, gzip, halt, head, hexdump, hostname, hwclock, id, ifconfig,
init, insmod, ip, kill, killall, killall5, length, ln, logger, login,
ls, lsmod, md5sum, mdev, mkdir, mkfifo, mknod, mkpasswd, mktemp,
modprobe, more, mv, netstat, nslookup, openvt, passwd, pidof,
pipe_progress, poweroff, printenv, printf, ps, pwd, raidautorun,
readahead, readlink, realpath, reboot, renice, reset, rm, rmdir, rmmod,
route, sed, seq, sleep, sort, split, stat, strings, stty, sync, tail,
tee, test, time, top, touch, tr, traceroute, true, tty, udhcpc, udhcpd,
uname, uniq, unzip, uptime, usleep, uuencode, vi, watch, wc, wget,
whoami, xargs, yes, zcat
N8900:/# uname -a
Linux N8900 2.6.36 #1 SMP Tue Dec 13 18:11:11 CST 2011 x86_64 GNU/Linux
N8900:/# cat /proc/version
Linux version 2.6.36 (root@FC12-27) (gcc version 4.4.3 20100127 (Red Hat 4.4.3-4) (GCC) ) #1 SMP Tue Dec 13 18:11:11 CST 2011

It was a bit surprising to find Red Hat here.

With the help of the command ps let’s see what processes are running at the moment. The results as well as the catalogues /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin and /usr/sbin contents we have put into a separate file. The utility top displays the data of the working processes current performance.

Mem: 361284K used, 7712040K free, 0K shrd, 14852K buff, 163976K cached
CPU: 0% usr 0% sys 0% nic 100% idle 0% io 0% irq 0% sirq
Load average: 0.10 0.08 0.05 1/128 18877
PID PPID USER STAT VSZ %MEM %CPU COMMAND
1682 1 root S 92848 1% 0% /img/bin/agent3
3991 3971 root S 119m 1% 0% /opt/apache/bin/httpd -k start
4124 3971 root S 118m 1% 0% /opt/apache/bin/httpd -k start
3990 3971 root S 117m 1% 0% /opt/apache/bin/httpd -k start
3989 3971 root S 117m 1% 0% /opt/apache/bin/httpd -k start
3993 3971 root S 117m 1% 0% /opt/apache/bin/httpd -k start
3992 3971 root S 117m 1% 0% /opt/apache/bin/httpd -k start
12702 3971 root S 117m 1% 0% /opt/apache/bin/httpd -k start
3971 1 root S 112m 1% 0% /opt/apache/bin/httpd -k start
5126 1 root S 79092 1% 0% /opt/samba/sbin/smbd
5128 5126 root S 79092 1% 0% /opt/samba/sbin/smbd
4288 1 root S 72000 1% 0% /opt/cups/sbin/cupsd -C /opt/cups/etc/
5129 1 root S 64204 1% 0% /opt/samba/sbin/nmbd
16987 16830 root S 34400 0% 0% stond: root@pts/0
16830 1 root S 27524 0% 0% /usr/sbin/stond
5382 1 root S 17972 0% 0% /opt/ntp/bin/ntpd -c /etc/ntp/ntp.conf
5207 1 rpc S 16804 0% 0% /opt/bin/rpcbind
16989 16987 root S 11260 0% 0% -sh
4390 1 root S 10880 0% 0% /app/bin/udpr
4383 1 root S 9288 0% 0% /bin/sh /img/bin/check_fan_lan.sh

Now let’s go to the catalogue /proc and have a look at the files that are located here and learn the operating system’s uptime and its average load, get the information about the CPU used and RAM capacity. The same data about the operating system load can be got via the utility /usr/bin/uptime.

N8900:/# cd /proc
N8900:/proc# cat uptime
3520.97 14051.46
N8900:/proc# cat loadavg
0.06 0.07 0.05 1/129 17961
N8900:/# /usr/bin/uptime
00:14:17 up 1:15, load average: 0.01, 0.06, 0.04
N8900:/proc# cat meminfo
MemTotal: 8073324 kB
MemFree: 7712652 kB
Buffers: 14844 kB
Cached: 163952 kB
SwapCached: 0 kB
Active: 126424 kB
Inactive: 93952 kB
Active(anon): 55516 kB
Inactive(anon): 48088 kB
Active(file): 70908 kB
Inactive(file): 45864 kB
Unevictable: 3184 kB
Mlocked: 3184 kB
SwapTotal: 2096112 kB
SwapFree: 2096112 kB
Dirty: 0 kB
Writeback: 0 kB
AnonPages: 44812 kB
Mapped: 12592 kB
Shmem: 60032 kB
Slab: 18528 kB
SReclaimable: 5452 kB
SUnreclaim: 13076 kB
KernelStack: 1056 kB
PageTables: 4760 kB
NFS_Unstable: 0 kB
Bounce: 0 kB
WritebackTmp: 0 kB
CommitLimit: 6132772 kB
Committed_AS: 158696 kB
VmallocTotal: 34359738367 kB
VmallocUsed: 95624 kB
VmallocChunk: 34359639924 kB
DirectMap4k: 6144 kB
DirectMap2M: 8273920 kB
N8900:/proc# cat cpuinfo
processor : 0
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 6
model : 42
model name : Intel(R) Core(TM) i3-2120 CPU @ 3.30GHz
stepping : 7
cpu MHz : 3300.173
cache size : 3072 KB
physical id : 0
siblings : 4
core id : 0
cpu cores : 2
apicid : 0
initial apicid : 0
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 13
wp : yes
flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx rdtscp lm constant_tsc
arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good xtopology nonstop_tsc aperfmperf pni pclmulqdq dtes64 monitor ds_cpl vmx est tm2 ssse3 cx16 xtpr pdcm sse4_1 sse4_2 popcnt xsave
avx lahf_lm arat epb xsaveopt pln pts dts tpr_shadow vnmi flexpriority ept vpid
bogomips : 6602.36
clflush size : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes : 36 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management:

The information about “processors” 1, 2 and 3 was deleted since it is the same as for processor 0.

To reveal the list of available file systems and types of encryption is possible from the files /proc/filesystems and /proc/crypto. The contents of these files we’ve decided to show detachedly.

The file /app/version contains the information about the installed firmware.

N8900:/# cat /app/version
2.01.01

This finishes our brief review of the command line interface functions. Let’s switch to the testing section.

Testing

As usual our first test is to detect the device booting time under which we mean the time interval between switching power on and receiving the first echo-reply via ICMP. Thecus N8900 boots within 80 seconds which is considered to be normal for this range of devices.

Our second standard test was the device security check for which we used the utility Positive Technologies XSpider 7.7 (Demo build 3100). The testing process was conducted with the minimum working services that meant the increase of open ports number after the installing of a new plug-in or service. All in all nine open ports were found: TCP-80 (HTTP), TCP-111 (RPC Unix), UDP-111 (RPC Unix PortMapper), UDP-123 (NTP), UDP-137 (NetBIOS Name), TCP-139 (NetBIOS samba), TCP-443 (HTTP SSL), TCP-445 (Microsoft DS) and TCP-631 (HTTP). The most impressive data are given below.

Now let’s turn to the most interesting part of the section – the storage performance test via the utility Intel NASPT 1.7.1. To test the performance we decided to install an additional 10GE NIC for the net infrastructure to stop being a narrow place in our tests. We chose Thecus C10GT network card with SFP+ module Gigalink GL-P03MM, that was placed in both the tested PC and the storage. C10GT card is not suitable for work with N8900 and it’s out of the list of compatible NICs since the card size doesn’t let it be mounted in the case, that is why it can’t be used in the enterprise, but in our testing that was quite usable. We just didn’t close the lid of the storage. As disks we chose the Seagate drives ST2000DM001. The main parameters of our testing stand are shown below.

Component PC
Motherboard ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z
CPU Intel Core i7 2600K 3.4 GHz
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 Corsair 16 Gbyte
NIC Intel 82579V/82583V
Thecus C10GT
Operating system Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

As usual we decreased the available RAM to two Gbytes according to the Intel recommendations. This decrease was performed with the help of msconfig utility. If we carry out tests without such memory decrease, the cashing effect will boost some tests (Content Creation, Office Productivity or DirectoryCopyToNAS) to the values of 300-1200 Mbytes per second which is not plausible.

We made up our minds to find out with what file system N8900 works faster, so we created the arrays RAID0 and RAID1 which we consistently formatted into the file systems EXT3, EXT4 and XFS. The connection was performed with the help of Samba. The results showed that to gain more work efficiency it’s essential to use EXT4 file system that is why all the experiments which followed were made using EXT4.

For each type of the RAID-array we conducted a data access speed test while connecting via Samba and iSCSI. It must be specified that the device used was formatted into NTFS and FAT32 file systems.

We would like to explain the absence of the «DirectoryCopyToNAS Throughput» test at iSCSI connections. We find the results inadequate and decided to leave out them not to confuse the readers. Furthermore we must point to the changes that the vendor introduced in the data storing method of the iSCSI block device. In the elder models of network attached storages Thecus divided the available volume of RAID-array into the major file system and the domain of storing the iSCSI data. In N8900 the main section with one file system out of three (EXT3, EXT4 and XFS) occupies the entire available disk space. iSCSI data are stored as one big file in a folder which means that the performance of iSCSI will depend on not only the file system being used, but also on the way the section is formatted on the RAID-array.

We couldn’t skip the storage ability to create encrypted disk arrays. On the diagram below you can see the compared speeds of access to data situated on the open and encrypted RAID0 arrays and EXT4 file system.

Thecus N8900 has two USB3.0 ports and allows this number to be increased if needed. Via Samba we decided to test the access speed to the external hard drive Transcend StoreJet 25M3 with the capacity of 750 Gbyte connected through the mentioned interface. The disk was formatted into two file systems: NTFS and FAT32.

The high speeds on the diagram are presumably connected with the storage data cashing.

All the results given above we got using the additional 10GE NIC. Evidently, we decided to compare the access speeds with the use of 10GE connection and two Gigabit Ethernet interfaces. We balanced the load between two GE interfaces by means of iSCSI Multipath function that we have previously used in our testing laboratory. As we can see from the diagram below, to unveil all N8900 potential is possible only with 10GE connection or by using some more sophisticated load balancing schemes.

This brings us to the end of the testing section. Let’s make conclusions.

Conclusion

We are satisfied with the tested NAS Thecus N8900. It is the fastest model with eight disks that we have ever seen. SATA and SAS disk support makes it a more interesting solution to be used in enterprise networks. The advantages of the storage are enumerated below.

  • High data access speeds
  • The possibility to mount additional network cards (including 10GE)
  • SATA and SAS drives support
  • The possibility to widen the functions by installation of free additional modules
  • Security against network attacks
  • The possibility to network interfaces aggregation and stacking several storages Redundant power supply
  • The possibility to backup the whole device

Unfortunately, we can’t help identifying the weak points of the device.

  • The web-interface and the vendor’s site translation is not full
  • Nonoperability of Access Guard module

At the moment of making up the article the average price of Thecus N8900 without disks in online shops of Moscow was 90000 rubles.

The author and the editorial team would like to thank the Tayle Company for the equipment provided for testing, and the digital store DNS for SATA disks used in the tests.

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