Thecus N16000PRO

Introduction

External design

Hardware

Firmware upgrade and setting-up procedures

Web-interface

Command line

Testing

Conclusion

Introduction

More than two years passed since our test lab hosted a top-scale NAS by Thecus company, N16000. Today, once again, we received a rack-mounted NAS with 16 disks, N16000PRO, which is the high-end model in N16000production line. In this review we will focus on the performance characteristics of the device. And, running forward a bit, we would like to inform our readers that after submitting this material we are planning to publish two articles more which are associated with the today's device this or that way. However, let's take our time and talk about everything in the right order.

External design

Thecus N16000PRO NAS is a standard rack-mounted device (3U). The device is fitted with railings (included in the box) used for rack mounting. The case of the device has the following dimensions: 133x440x662 mm. Side, upper and bottom panels are not remarkable at all.

The HDDs are installed through the front panel which is covered with a perforated door that has an LCD and buttons used for managing the device. Unfortunately, the door cannot be opened without pulling the device out from the rack a bit. We don't believe it's a good idea.

Apart from 16 bays used for mounting full-size 3.5" SATA and SAS HDDs, there are power ON/OFF and reset buttons, sound OFF button, four LEDs indicating the device status, and two USB 2.0 ports located on the front panel.

The best part of the rear panel of N16000PRO model is a ventilation grate. The NAS is fitted with two PSUs, 700W each. Apart from it, there are three Gigabit Ethernet network interfaces, four USB2.0 ports and two USB3.0 ports, HDMI interface, three audio slots, one serial interface, and two eSATA ports.

Now let's have a look at the insides of the case of the model under review.

Hardware

The interiors of N16000PRO are divided into three unequal parts: one used for disk installation, another one used for installing the PSUs, and the CPU, if it may be called this way.

The storage system Thecus N16000PRO is powered by 3.4 GHz Intel Xeon E3-1275 CPU.

Two DDR3 Transcend 656273-0468 cards, 4 GBytes each, perform functions of RAM. The cards are powered by Samsung K4B2G0846D chips.

Booting of the OS is carried out from one of the two SATAII modules, whilst the second one is used for backing up. These modules are powered by JMicron JMF605 controller that supports two Samsung K9F4G08U0D flash memory modules. This way the memory capacity of every booting module is 1GByte.

Support of USB3.0 ports is carried out by separate CU30N Ver 0.2 card, which is powered by Renesas D720202 chip.

Connection of HDDs is done using a special RAID controller powered by LSI 500002730 LSI SAS 2008 chip that supports up to eight SATA/SAS lines. Since the maximum number of HDDs that can be installed into N16000PRO is 16, the vendors decided to solve the shortage of lines using a SATA/SAS switch which is located on a separate card very close to the HDDs.

Three Intel 82574L chips that are located on the motherboard of the data storage system are responsible for operation of the network infrastructure. Fintek F71889 module performs functions of monitoring.

Support of analogue sound and HDMI port is carried out by Pericom PI3VDP and Realtek ALC262 chips.

Certain information about the hardware of Thecus N16000PRO NAS can be obtained even without opening the device. One simply needs to enter Hardware Information sub-group in System Information group in the device web-interface.

That is where we bring the review of hardware components of the device to a conclusion and pass on to examining its software capabilities.

Firmware upgrade and setting-up procedures

Upon the first-time access to the device one must use any modern browser to get connected to the IP address assigned to a certain network interface. Thecus N16000PRO NAS assigns IP addresses to the interfaces automatically. Information about them is shown on the LCD located on the device front panel.

Once the administrator has successfully accessed the device, s/he will need to create a RAID array and format it. The above-mentioned must be performed in RAID Management sub-group, Storage group.

Upon creation of the array one will need to choose the discs which will be included in it as well as the file system and a range of additional parameters.

It'd be fair to notice that it takes few minutes to create a RAID array in N16000PRO model, which makes this model really distinctive from all the others that we reviewed previously. Once the RAID array has been created, one can start upgrading the firmware and using the NAS.

Firmware upgrade is carried out in Firmware Upgrade sub-group, System Management group of the web-interface. The administrator needs to choose a file with the new firmware version and click on Apply button.

The whole firmware update process takes a bit more than two minutes and does not require any technical proficiency from the administrator.

The latest firmware versions support semi-automatic firmware upgrade. One can upgrade the firmware this way only if the device has access to the Internet. However, we were a bit puzzled at the explanatory message that the vendor decided to fit this feature with. It says that upon choosing Major Update or Latest Update variants the firmware upgrade will be carried out upon switching off or rebooting of the device. We believe that there should exist a possibility to inform the administrator about the availability of the new firmware version in a simple way so that s/he can decide when exactly s/he needs to carry out the update. Also, we think that support of the corporate server of updates would be a nice feature to have in this device. In this case the administrator had been able to upload the exact firmware version that has been approved during the internal company tests.

We would also like to say a few words about the add-ons that may be installed additionally. They can be installed manually or in a semi-automatic mode using App Installation and Auto App Installation sub-groups in Application Server group.

For example, McAfee anti-virus module, which lets one check the user files for malicious code, is one of the available add-on packets.

Now let's review capabilities of the device web-interface.

Web-interface

One can access the web-interface of Thecus N16000PRO by entering the IP-address of any of its interfaces using a modern browser. In order to connect to the device the administrator must specify the password, which is admin by default.

Since that the web-interface of NASes built on ThecusOS is identical for the majority devices produced by this vendor, we will not review all of its capabilities in detail. Instead of it, we suggest that our readers get acquainted with the articles dedicated to N8800+, N8900, and N16000 models.

Information about the current status of the system is available in Status and System Monitor sub-groups, System Information group.

Thecus N16000PRO NAS may be switched on remotely using WoL (Wake-On-Lan) technology. However, as we believe, it would be more appropriate to have available a feature that would let the administrator switch on other devices in the network segments to which the data storage system is connected.

Management of network interfaces is performed using Networking and DHCP/RADVD sub-groups in System Network group. Thecus N16000PRO supports both versions of IP. The address assignment may be carried out both manually or automatically using DHCP. It's worth mentioning that the device under review can also perform routing functions. However, this is a non-typical use of the data storage system of this class. Obviously, N16000PRO may be also used as a DHCP server, but the amount of its settings is pretty scarce.

In order to provide a fault tolerant connection to the network, as well as to increase the bandwidth of the existing channels, one can aggregate them. The corresponding settings are available in System Network and Storage groups. In this review we will not be talking about the issues associated with aggregation, stacking, and building high availability schemes since recently we are planning to publish a material which will be dedicated to these exact questions. Are you intrigued? Stay tuned!

Managing network services that are supported by the NAS is carried out using sub-groups of the same-named group. An increase in settings for certain access protocols came to be a nice modification.

Auto-Thumbnail sub-group, which allows the NAS creating thumbnails for the user files, is an example of such modification. These thumbnails would be popular among mobile users that lack the device resources in comparison with common users.

That is where we bring a brief review of Thecus N16000PRO NAS web-interface capabilities to a conclusion and pass on to examining its command line.

Command line

Managing the access to the command line of the device is performed using SSH sub-group, Network Service group in the web-interface.

To access it one needs to specify the login, which is root, and the same password that was used for admin user in the web-interface. BusyBox 1.16.1 library is used in the system. The OS version can be learned using uname –a command or in proc/version file.

login as: root

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.'s password:
Note:
Please do not delete or modify any files or folders or it may result in system operation abnormal.
N16000PRO:~# busybox
BusyBox v1.16.1 (2014-05-29 15:25:27 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, dirname, dmesg,
dnsdomainname, dumpleases, echo, egrep, eject, env, ether-wake, expr,
false, fgrep, free, freeramdisk, fsck, fuser, getty, grep, gunzip,
gzip, halt, head, hexdump, hostid, hostname, hwclock, id, ifconfig,
init, insmod, ip, kill, killall, killall5, length, ln, logger, login,
ls, lsmod, md5sum, mdev, mkdir, mkfifo, mknod, mkpasswd, mktemp, 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, sysctl, tail, tee, test, time, touch,
tr, traceroute, true, tty, udhcpc, udhcpd, uname, uniq, uptime, usleep,
uuencode, vi, watch, wc, wget, whoami, xargs, yes, zcat
N16000PRO:~# uname -a
Linux N16000PRO 3.10.17 #1 SMP Thu May 29 15:20:38 CST 2014 x86_64 GNU/Linux
N16000PRO:~# cat /proc/version
Linux version 3.10.17 (root@FC12-27) (gcc version 4.4.3 20100127 (Red Hat 4.4.3-4) (GCC) ) #1 SMP Thu May 29 15:20:38 CST 2014
N16000PRO:~#

We have placed the contents of /proc, /bin, /sbin, and /usr/bin catalogues into a separate file. Now let's turn to /proc catalogue to view its contents and find out the system uptime, its average utilisation, information on the CPU installed, and the amount of RAM. Average system workload information can also be received using /usr/bin/uptime utility.

N16000PRO:/# ls /proc/
1/ 1629/ 4149/ 8551/ filesystems
10/ 16806/ 4151/ 8555/ fs/
10656/ 17/ 4153/ 8581/ hwm
10658/ 1707/ 4407/ 8669/ ide/
10659/ 18/ 4430/ 8670/ interrupts
10687/ 187/ 459/ 8674/ iomem
10705/ 189/ 495/ 8677/ ioports
10754/ 19/ 5/ 8681/ irq/
10814/ 190/ 5543/ 8684/ kallsyms
10815/ 192/ 5544/ 8689/ kcore
10937/ 2/ 555/ 8697/ key-users
10938/ 20/ 588/ 8703/ kmsg
10940/ 21/ 589/ 8704/ kpagecount
10978/ 21116/ 591/ 8706/ kpageflags
11/ 22/ 594/ 9/ loadavg
11023/ 2200/ 6390/ 9265/ locks
1120/ 23/ 6395/ 9288/ mdstat
1121/ 25/ 6398/ 9289/ meminfo
1122/ 25723/ 6399/ 9296/ misc
1123/ 26/ 6409/ 9297/ modules
1124/ 26840/ 6420/ 9298/ mounts@
1125/ 26860/ 6421/ 9299/ mtrr
11337/ 27/ 6474/ 9300/ net@
11362/ 28424/ 6475/ 9301/ pagetypeinfo
11363/ 28442/ 6481/ 9302/ partitions
11364/ 28652/ 6482/ 9303/ pca9532
11365/ 29/ 6483/ 9373/ pca9532_id
11366/ 29029/ 6492/ 9383/ sched_debug
1171/ 29030/ 6623/ 9415/ scsi/
11756/ 29031/ 6630/ 9477/ self@
1176/ 29032/ 6711/ 9586/ softirqs
1177/ 3/ 6712/ 9587/ stat
1178/ 30/ 6742/ acpi/ swaps
1192/ 31/ 6768/ buddyinfo sys/
1291/ 3195/ 6769/ bus/ sysrq-trigger
13/ 32/ 6990/ cgroups sysvipc/
1323/ 33/ 7/ cmdline thecus_event
1343/ 3304/ 7038/ consoles thecus_eventc
1354/ 3381/ 7862/ cpuinfo thecus_io
1374/ 34/ 7879/ crypto timer_list
1391/ 342/ 7880/ devices tty/
14/ 35/ 7881/ diskstats uptime
1450/ 3512/ 7882/ dma version
15/ 356/ 7883/ dri/ vmallocinfo
1590/ 37/ 8/ driver/ vmstat
1600/ 38/ 8074/ enhanceio/ zoneinfo
16152/ 4087/ 8164/ execdomains
1624/ 4144/ 8228/ fb
N16000PRO:/# cat /proc/uptime
1071.67 8506.16
N16000PRO:/# cat /proc/loadavg
0.07 0.07 0.11 1/177 29602
N16000PRO:/# /usr/bin/uptime
01:46:22 up 18 min, load average: 0.05, 0.07, 0.10
N16000PRO:/# cat /proc/meminfo
MemTotal: 8066300 kB
MemFree: 7115416 kB
Buffers: 49564 kB
Cached: 262712 kB
SwapCached: 0 kB
Active: 116868 kB
Inactive: 260768 kB
Active(anon): 93560 kB
Inactive(anon): 66188 kB
Active(file): 23308 kB
Inactive(file): 194580 kB
Unevictable: 3272 kB
Mlocked: 3272 kB
SwapTotal: 2096112 kB
SwapFree: 2096112 kB
Dirty: 0 kB
Writeback: 0 kB
AnonPages: 68712 kB
Mapped: 20064 kB
Shmem: 92340 kB
Slab: 107956 kB
SReclaimable: 58944 kB
SUnreclaim: 49012 kB
KernelStack: 1464 kB
PageTables: 8928 kB
NFS_Unstable: 0 kB
Bounce: 0 kB
WritebackTmp: 0 kB
CommitLimit: 6129260 kB
Committed_AS: 272712 kB
VmallocTotal: 34359738367 kB
VmallocUsed: 88152 kB
VmallocChunk: 34359640064 kB
DirectMap4k: 9152 kB
DirectMap2M: 8263680 kB
N16000PRO:/# cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor : 0
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 6
model : 42
model name : Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E31275 @ 3.40GHz
stepping : 7
microcode : 0x1a
cpu MHz : 3392.389
cache size : 8192 KB
physical id : 0
siblings : 8
core id : 0
cpu cores : 4
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 nopl xtopology nonstop_tsc aperfmperf eagerfpu
pni pclmulqdq dtes64 monitor ds_cpl vmx smx est tm2 ssse3 cx16 xtpr pdcm pcid sse4_1 sse4_2 x2apic popcnt tsc_deadline_timer
aes xsave avx lahf_lm ida arat epb xsaveopt pln pts dtherm tpr_shadow vnmi flexpriority ept vpid
bogomips : 6787.47
clflush size : 64
cache_alignment : 64
address sizes : 36 bits physical, 48 bits virtual
power management:

We deleted information about 1 to 7 CPUs because it repeats the data for 0 CPU presented above.

Information on the installed firmware version is located in /app/version file.

N16000PRO:/# cat /app/version
2.05.01
N16000PRO:/#

That's where we proceed to a completion of the brief review of command line interface capabilities and pass directly on to testing it.

Testing

Traditionally we always begin the testing chapter with estimating the device booting time. This time we decided not to back out from our practises and learned how quickly Thecus N16000PRO NAS boots. By saying the booting time of the device we understand a time interval starting with the moment when the power is on until the first echo reply is received through ICMP. The first ICMP message is sent by N16000PRO at the 84th second during booting. However, at this moment the model under review still cannot provide services to the users. Access to the data becomes available only in 182 seconds after switching on of the device. That's why in this case we will consider that Thecus N16000PRO NAS boots in approximately three minutes.

The second traditional test was a security scanning procedure, which has been carried out using Positive Technologies XSpider 7.7 (Demo build 3100) utility. The test has been carried after creation of the RAID array and without using support services and utilities of the NAS. On the whole, there were seven open ports discovered, and they are TCP-80 (HTTP), TCP-111 (RPC Unix), UDP-111 (RPC Unix PortMapper), UDP-137 (NetBIOS Name), TCP-139 (NetBIOS Samba), TCP-443 (HTTP SSL), TCP-445 (Microsoft DS), TCP-631 (HTTP), TCP-9800 (HTTP), and TCP-9802 (HTTP SSL). The most interesting data are presented below.

Finally now it's the time to pass on to carrying out performance tests of Thecus N16000PRO NAS. Before it we would like to get our readers acquainted with the key characteristics of our test stand as well as give them some explanations. In the table below one can see the physical size of the RAM, but using msconfig utility we reduced its memory capacity (less than two GBytes) available to the system in order to comply with the recommendations by Intel about the operation of NASPT utility. By default, Thecus N16000PRO NASes come fitted with 1 Gbps interfaces. However, one can install a supplementary network card in order to get connected to a 10 Gbps network. We installed C10GTR card and carried out all tests using it.

Component PC
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Extreme
CPU Intel Core i7 4770K 3.5 GHz
RAM DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 32 Gbytes
NIC C10GTR
OS Windows Server 2008 R2 x64

We used 16 4 TBytes HGST Deskstar NAS 0F22408 HDDs instead of the ones we used previously. Perhaps we should say a few words about the discs. The above-mentioned HDD model is meant to be used in multidisc systems. That's why the disc is powered by RVS system, standing for rotational vibration safeguard, that decreases the data carrier proper vibration and mitigates the influence of the exterior vibrations on the device operation. RVS technology possesses several sensors that are installed very close to the tape reading head. Information about vibrations received from the sensors is then used for stabilizing the position of the reading head in reference to the disk plates. An approach like this allows for disc stabilization and increased accuracy of positioning of the reading heads in reference to the track without losing time on extra moving. This, as the vendor claims, lets significantly increase access speeds to the user data. An example of dependence of the reading head position from the time upon usage of RVS and without it is presented on the picture below. Unfortunately, one cannot disable RVS technology, and therefore we could not perform our own measurements of its influence on the reading/writing speed.

As a matter of course, we couldn't help but review the data carrier separately. The diagram below shows the measurement results. Since DirectoryCopyToNAS test mistakenly showed overstated data (probably due to the local caching on the test PC), we decided not to include its results in the diagram.

At first we decided to compare the operation performance of Thecus N16000PRO with various file systems. In order to do this we created RAID0 array containing four discs and successively formatted it into different file systems: EXT3, EXT4, XFS, and BTRFS. Results of the measurements are presented below.

It's worth noticing that BTRFS is still considered to be an experimental file system and is not recommended for use in production systems, but still we decided to include it in our tests. At the same time, we will not be using EXT3 any more due to the limitations associated with it.

Diagrams of access speeds to the files located in EXT4, BTRFS, and XFS file systems using SMB are located below.

The data can be accessed not only using SMB, but also through connecting a remote block device via iSCSI.

Thecus N16000PRO allows for connections not only using IPv4, but via IPv6 too. We just couldn't help but review the corresponding feature and decided to compare access speeds to the data using both versions of IP by connecting SMB to RAID60 BTRFS array. Unfortunately, we couldn't get connected to it using iSCSI through IPv6.

Whichever disc array is to be used and whichever file system is to be chosen, the administrator can apt for protecting the user data through encryption. Thecus N16000PRO supports encryption of data stored on disc arrays. On the diagram presented below one can see comparisons of access speeds to the encrypted and non-encrypted array RAID0 with EXT4 using SMB protocol.

Higher transmission speeds of encrypted data in certain tests can be explained by using caching towards the NAS. In this case, at first the binary stream is received and then saved from the buffer to be then encrypted and recorded to the discs. In the majority of measurements, the access speeds to the encrypted array are only insignificantly lower than the access speeds to the array without encryption.

Since Thecus N16000PRO has USB ports, we decided to connect a 750 Gbyte Transcend StoreJet 25M3 hard disc to the device, which was successively formatted into the following file systems: NTFS, FAT32, and EXT2/3. The results of measurement of access speeds to the disc using SMB protocol are presented below.

When this article had already been finished, we managed to carry out adjustment of OpenVPN add-on. This article (http://www.techrepublic.com/article/get-a-quick-vpn-with-openvpn/) about the manual adjustment of OpenVPN would be a great help to the amateur network administrators. We managed to measure the access speed to the user data using iSCSI upon connection through OpenVPN. Unfortunately, we could not manage to adjust SMB access at this moment. We hope that the developer who adapted OpenVPN module for operation with Thecus NASes would be able to offer the users with a more user-friendly interface for adjustment in the near future since implementation of OpenVPN support had already been carried out by certain network equipment vendors.

That's where we draw the testing chapter to a close and move on to summing it all up.

Conclusion

Generally, we are glad about Thecus N16000PRO NAS we tested. It shows sustainable data transfer speeds and possesses an array of capabilities that allow for increasing the disc space and reserving. However, these are the topics that will be covered in our following reviews. We will definitely get back to them in the nearest time. The only thing we were surprised at was inability of connection using iSCSI via IPv6. We already saw this capability in other devices by Thecus company and even had a chance to test it. The vendor promised to deal with the problem in the next firmware version.

We can recommend Thecus N16000PRO NASes to companies that need to store significant volumes of information and have high-speed access to them. The strength areas of the device are presented below.

  • High data access speeds
  • Support of SATA and SAS data carriers
  • Ability to install additional network cards (including 10GE)
  • Support of IPv6
  • Ability to increase the device functionality by installing free add-ons
  • Availability of a stand-by power unit and ability to reserve the entire device
  • Ability to aggregate network interfaces and group the NASes into a stack
  • Firmware upgrade process may be carried out both in a manual and semi-automatic mode
  • Ability to carry out an anti-virus check of the user data
  • Ability to install a lot of free add-ons
  • Support of OpenVPN

Unfortunately, we cannot help to mention some of its drawbacks.

  • The web-interface is not completely translated
  • Inability to connect to the device using iSCSI via IPv6

As of when this article was being written, the recommended price for Thecus N16000PRO (not including the discs) was 229,500 roubles.

The author and editorial team are grateful to Tayle Company, the official distributor of Thecus network equipment in Russia, for kindly furnishing us with the NAS and HDDs for testing.

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