A while ago, the folks at QNAP sent us one of their NAS devices for a test run around the block. You can read the article over here. Now, we were quite fond of the device and the capabilities and QNAP was pretty pleased with our review. So, a couple of weeks ago, a new package arrived in the mail here at VMguru and we were very pleasantly surprised to find a brand new QNAP Product in the box. In this article, we’re unboxing the NAS appliance and setting it up so we can go and test it with a VMware test server.

The box that arrived was actually pretty impressive. This seems to be a pretty big thing! After removing the shipping package, we saw a very nice box with an even nicer picture of the QNAP we’re going to put to the test. This is certainly not your average 2-disk or 4-disk NAS.  So, first of all, some specs to get you all warmed up. This NAS is a pretty all-round guy with a lot of support already build in.

The hardware specs:

  • CPU: Intel® Atom 2.13GHz Dual-core Processor
  • DRAM: 1GB RAM (Expandable RAM, up to 3GB)
  • Flash Memory: 512MB DOM
  • Hard disk bays: 8 x 3.5/2.5 inch drives, hot swappable and lockable
  • LAN: 2 x Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet port
  • USB: 2x USB 3.0 port (Back: 2) 5x USB 2.0 port (Front: 1; Back: 4)
  • eSATA: 2 x eSATA port (Back)
  • Display: Mono-LCD display with backlight

 

As you can tell, this is no NAS for starters. The specs are pretty serious. So is the software. A glimpse of the feature list:

Operating System

  • Embedded Linux

Supported Clients

  • Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 (32/64-bit), Windows Server 2003/2008 R2
  • Apple Mac OS X
  • Linux & UNIX

Networking

  • TCP/IP (IPv4 & IPv6: Dual Stack)
  • Dual Gigabit NICs with Jumbo Frame
    • Failover
    • Multi-IP Settings
    • Port Trunking/NIC Teaming (Modes: Balance-rr, Active Backup, Balance XOR, Broadcast, IEEE 802.3ad/Link Aggregation, Balance-tlb and Balance-alb)
  • Service Binding based on Network Interfaces
  • Virtual LAN (VLAN)
  • DHCP Client, DHCP Server
  • Protocols: CIFS/SMB, AFP (v3.3), NFS(v3), FTP, FTPS, SFTP, TFTP, HTTP(S), Telnet, SSH, iSCSI, SNMP, SMTP, and SMSC
  • UPnP & Bonjour Discovery
  • USB Wi-Fi Adapter Support
Disk Management
  • Single Disk, JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 5, 5 + Hot Spare, 6, 6 + Hot Spare, 10, 10 + Hot Spare
  • Online RAID Capacity Expansion & Online RAID Level Migration
  • Bad Block Scan & Hard Drive S.M.A.R.T.
  • Global Hot Spare Drive (4-bay NAS and above)
  • RAID Recovery
  • Bitmap Support
iSCSI (IP SAN)
  • iSCSI Target
    • Multi-LUNs per Target
    • Up to 256 Targets/LUNs Combined
    • Supports LUN Mapping & Masking
    • Online LUN Capacity Expansion
    • Supports SPC-3 Persistent Reservation
    • Supports MPIO & MC/S
  • iSCSI LUN Backup, One-time Snapshot, and Restore
  • iSCSI Connection and Management by QNAP Finder (Windows)
  • Virtual Disk Drive (via iSCSI Initiator)
    • Stack Chaining Master
    • Max No. of Virtual Disk Drives: 8
Server Virtualization & Clustering
  • Supports VMware vSphere
  • Supports Citrix XenServer
  • Supports Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V & Failover Clustering
OK, So much for the acronym list. This is just a cut-out of the total support list. You can find the whole specification list at the QNAP site. After unpacking the package content does not disappoint. It contains the NAS itself, a folded quick start manual, two network cables (very handy as you want this device hooked up to it’s maximum capacity), a power cable, an installation CD and a box with all the screws you need to mount 3.5 or 2.5 inch disks into the brackets.
So, it’s now time to set things up. We used 4 drives to test the device. Two Western Digital 24/7 500Gb 7200 RPM SATA drives and 2 Seagate 2TB 7200 RPM drives. We will create two test volumes with each two disks. As you can see, 2.5 inch drives can be mounted as well. For testing purposes we used a 500GB Western Digital disk which worked fine. Of course you can also mount SSD drives in there, in which case the dual LAN connection will certainly be no luxury.

After mounting the disks into the brackets and inserting them into the NAS, we can go on to the software part of the setup. One remark needs to be made here. The brackets fit fine around the disks, but it is not always very easy to slide them into the NAS. You need to pay attention that the bracket is positioned correctly or the drive will not make contact with the connector in the back of the device and you will not be able to access the drive. It would be a good thing if QNAP could improve the sliding mechanism so it always positions correctly in the appliance.

Booting up the device takes a bit of time. The display shows ‘System Booting’ for quite a bit of time. From pushing the power button until the first IP response takes about 3-5 minutes. During the first setup, it will acquire an IP address using DHCP over one LAN connection. So, for setup purposes, you do not need to connect both lines right away. As soon as the device is ready, it will display the IP address.

Once you have the IP address, it’s time to start up the software side of things. Now, in this example we’re using a Macbook running OSX 10.7.4, but the MS Windows world is just as easy to set up. You insert the setup CD, there is a folder called Mac where you will find the Mac QNAP Finder. This little utility will scan your local network for QNAP devices and display them for configuration.

Now, of course you can go directly into the Web-based tool, but I prefer to do this step like this, as it is quick. The only think you want to configure at this time, is the network setup.

You will want to configure a static IP for your NAS as well as the ‘other’ required network settings. You can also activate the second LAN interface here. Of course it can be set up with a separate IP to service different services on separate IPs, but it can also be set up as a bundled 2 Gigabit link, as we did in this picture.

On a side note, if you are planning to use your NAS on your LAN only, you can leave the Default Gateway entry blank. If you want to use the CloudNAS or reach other services from outside your network, you need to fill this field, of course.

Once you have set this part up, the device needs to reboot to the new settings. Like mentioned before, it takes a bit of time, so go grab yourself a cup of coffee while you wait for the device to come back alive. As soon as the display shows the IP address, you can go ahead and open the web interface. QNAP did  it’s best here to make this a nice experience. The page looks very nice and tidy.

Enabled services that have a separate configuration page, will be shown here, as well as the main interface. As we have just inserted 4 blank disks, we need to configure a couple of volumes first before we can start enabling anything at all. When you click on the Administration button, it will ask you for your Admin login, default being admin/admin. You will want to change this of course. After logging on, we go on to the disks menu. The interface shows us the four disks we mounted into the appliance and their SMART status. SMART stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology. This technology will warn you if a failure is imminent. The QNAP will monitor the disks using this SMART technology. More on SMART can be found here.

Fortunately, as you can see in the screen shot, all our disks seem to be OK. So from here we can create two volumes for testing. We will test one on RAID0 (Disk Striping) and one on RAID1 (Disk Mirroring). This NAS has 8 drive bays you can fill, so a lot of RAID configurations are possible. You can also configure stand-by drives that take over for failed drives (mind the capacity there) but we will leave it at the two volumes for now.

To make things easy, we will use NFS to connect the volumes to the VMware server. This is the most efficient way. Setting up NFS using the QNAP web-based setup is very easy. We configured a shared folder called ‘VMDK’, and shared it with the whole subnet. Of course this is not a best practice, but for our test case it is sufficient. You can also restrict the NFS connectivity to a specific set of IP addresses, a subnet or just one machine.

This concluded the setup part as far as our test lab goes. We can certainly say that setting the NAS up is an easy task. If you have everything at hand (disks, tools and computer to configure), you are done in about an hour. The build quality of the NAS is very solid. It will require a proper spot to stand. Apart from the brackets not lining up easy and the boot times, this NAS seems to be a good choice for test environments or Small or Medium businesses to put their data on.

In the next post, we will test the NAS using performance tests and show you the results.