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Review: 4 NAS appliances deliver big storage cheap

Paul Ferrill | Feb. 13, 2014
12-bay rack-mount systems from QNAP, Netgear, LenovoEMC, and Infortrend combine huge storage capacities, business-grade features, smooth setup, and easy administration

You won't need to update system firmware very often, but it should be an easy task to accomplish. Several of the systems will check in with the vendor website and compare the current firmware version with the latest available. An alert on the management page will let you know if a newer version is found. All of the systems provide the ability to manually update the firmware by uploading a file through the management Web page.

Netgear's ReadyNAS definitely had the most responsive and visually pleasing interface of the group. Graphical displays on the system performance page show plenty of detail on CPU, network, and storage. A pop-up display provides more detailed information when you hover the mouse over an item such as a disk number on the status page. Creating new shares or iSCSI LUNS pops up a simple form presenting pertinent information such as amount of space available.

The LenovoEMC PX12-450r uses icons to indicate the different functions and features, which are grouped together under a common theme such as network or storage. One nice feature of the QNAP unit is an automatic redirection when you change the IP address of the network interface. Others disconnect immediately and make you reenter the new address. One feature missing from the LenovoEMC PX12-450r interface is a network bandwidth display. LenovoEMC offers a Nagios plug-in, but provides nothing out of the box to show how much data is travelling across the Ethernet ports.

Virtualization and extras
Several products have features targeted squarely at supporting different aspects of virtualization. LenovoEMC has a feature called IVX for Integrated Virtualization Extension. It basically allows you to run a virtual machine on the NAS box itself using the embedded CPU and system memory. The possibilities were limited by the 8GB of system memory in my test system, but this feature could be useful for running a small footprint VM. Creating a VM requires storing an ISO file of the operating system install disk on the NAS and using VNC to connect into the running virtual machine.

The latest version of the QNAP operating system, QTS 4.1, includes partial support for SMB 3.0 (read: performance improvements) and support for Microsoft's ODX (Offloaded Data Transfer) feature. It also supports the SMI-S management standard for integration into Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager. Additional support for VMware's VAAI (vStorage APIs for Array Integration) brings a similar capability to Microsoft's ODX. QNAP also provides a plug-in for VMware's vCenter Server for managing storage resources.

Netgear's ReadyNAS includes the ability to install custom apps from a marketplace. Once loaded they appear on the main system page. Options include Dokuwiki, Media Wiki, WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, SugarCRM, a Subversion server, and lots more. QNAP has similar add-on support with apps such as Dropbox and Google Drive Sync, Drupal and Joomla, Git source code control, and many more. There is plenty of overlap, but QNAP's app catalog is definitely more extensive than Netgear's.


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