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Qnap TS-559 Pro+: Familiar Network Storage With A New CPU

Qnap TS-559 Pro+: Familiar Network Storage With A New CPU
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It’s a good idea to use two CPU cores to speed up multiple drives in RAID 5 or 6 arrays and it’s even better to increase clock speeds. We put Qnap's TS-559 Pro+ with an Atom D525 dual-core CPU to the test: is it any faster than devices with Atom D510?

For a long time, mass-produced network-attached storage devices have given our readers a mixed impression of what they can do (and why they cost so much, frankly).

The included software often only includes basic functions like network file sharing via SMB/CIFS protocols. Moreover, the data transfer rates for important tasks like writing file backups fall disappointingly in the low double-digit MB/s range. Performance is, to a great degree, dependent on the processor built into the device. And most of the time, those processors are pretty darned anemic.

That's one reason why NAS manufacturers tend to focus on other value adds. Over time, they optimize their respective firmwares, rework the hardware internals (while still abiding by strict thermal and power requirements), and equip them with as many convenience convenience-oriented features as possible. For instance, it's difficult to find a NAS device these days that doesn't function as a media server, as well as a data storage unit, delivering multimedia content via UPnP DLNA. Firmware with integrated Web serving capabilities, including a PHP interpreter and MySQL database, is equally widespread. And there are still other differentiators cropping up all over.

Bear in mind that most of the value-adds tacked onto each vendor's firmware is enabled by adequate processing power. While many devices use ARM- and PowerPC-based processors due to their efficiency (for example, the Synology DS408j, which is based on an 800 MHz Marvell Kirkwood 88F6281 ARM processor and ranked in the top third of our NAS Charts), a significant increase in performance is generally achieved by using Intel's Atom processors.

Historically, most NAS manufacturers used the Atom D510, which is equipped with two cores and runs at a clock speed of 1.66 GHz. This CPU was released in the first quarter of 2010. A further evolution of the Atom processor lineup was presented in the second quarter with the D525 model. This one has the same two cores and four threads (enabled by Hyper-Threading), but runs at 1.8 GHz. Not only does it support DDR2-667/800 memory, but it also accommodates DDR3-800 RAM. The benefit of higher clocks and faster memory support are reasons enough for appliance engineers to rework and refresh their products.

At the end of December 2010, Synology released its DS1511+, based on the Atom D525, while Thecus introduced the N4200 Pro, also using the 1.8 GHz processor. A third popular NAS vendor, Qnap, also has devices using the same generation of low-power processor. It released products ranging from two-bay to eight-bay products, all of them equipped with Intel’s Atom D525 processor, as indicated by the plus in this family's nomenclature.

We were curious whether the "+" would be represented by an increase in data transfer rates. Therefore, we asked for a test sample, which found its way to our lab in the form of a Qnap TS-559 Pro+. Our findings are summarized on the following pages.

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  • -2 Hide
    hmp_goose , May 25, 2011 5:56 AM
    I remember a time when teh Internet was going to have hyperlinks embedded in articles for clowns like me to look stuff up with.

    C'mon! I'm a knuckle-dragging FPS-player: I don't know what "SMB/CIFS protocols" stands for, let alone good for! Isn't there at lest a related article?
  • 2 Hide
    barmaley , May 25, 2011 7:17 AM
    Ok, I don't get it. Can someone explain to me why this $1000 device that comes with no storage is better than a $500 Linux box you can build yourself that will do everything this does and more plus it will come with tons of storage too...
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , May 25, 2011 7:35 AM
    Did you do Gbit Link Aggregation for the tests? Seeing as it has 2 of'em?
  • 3 Hide
    sharpless78 , May 25, 2011 8:10 AM
    barmaleyOk, I don't get it. Can someone explain to me why this $1000 device that comes with no storage is better than a $500 Linux box you can build yourself that will do everything this does and more plus it will come with tons of storage too...


    Ease of use. Very few users have the time, will and knowledge to build a NAS.
  • 0 Hide
    aaron88_7 , May 25, 2011 11:33 AM
    barmaleyOk, I don't get it. Can someone explain to me why this $1000 device that comes with no storage is better than a $500 Linux box you can build yourself that will do everything this does and more plus it will come with tons of storage too...

    First off, it isn't better than a $500 Linux box. Linux requires Linux knowledge and you have to provide the software you need yourself - that costs small businesses money. This also offers failover and load balancing with its dual NIC card that you wouldn't have in a $500 Linux box.

    The main thing is ease of installation. You don't need a highly technical person to get this box up and running and quickly backing up your companies data, whereas a Linux machine will require additional staff that a small business normally would not have on hand and have to pay to come onsite.

    For $1000 I'd like one just to play around with myself, though it clearly is not targeted for home users.
  • 1 Hide
    aaron88_7 , May 25, 2011 11:36 AM
    Oops, I meant to write this is better than a $500 Linux box
  • 1 Hide
    dealcorn , May 25, 2011 11:58 AM
    I am not aware of any 5 bay hot swap itx case that could be used as a basis for a diy project with comparable functionality. Chenbro can get you to 4 at the cost of no pcie support. No pcie means no esata with a supermicro atom itx board.

    There are ways to go with ATX cases, but that is not really comparable.
  • 0 Hide
    radiumburn , May 25, 2011 12:00 PM
    but with that $500 linux box you will force yourself to learn something.. and in the end isn't it all about the pursuit of knowledge! haha well I admin a few linux servers so I'd save the cash and make my own for myself/work instead. On that note if you want I will make them for $999 and free shipping with initial phone setup!!! save a dollar!
  • 2 Hide
    a-nano-moose , May 25, 2011 1:02 PM
    How can you compare them when you are using different hard drives than the earlier tests?
  • -2 Hide
    cknobman , May 25, 2011 1:11 PM
    Sharpless78Ease of use. Very few users have the time, will and knowledge to build a NAS.


    A NAS is a computer. Heck you can even build a PC put Windows 7/XP Home edition on it and turn it into a NAS all for ~$500 (and thats even with 2tb storage in raid 1, heck that is what I have done and it works great and I am even using a low power AMD CPU that is powerful enough to actually be useful rather than a pathetic atom cpu).

    There is no ease of use factor or amount of time on earth that is worth $500+ dollars.
  • 0 Hide
    serendipiti , May 25, 2011 1:14 PM
    Would be good to see tests with encryption enabled (another article showed it as a NAS Achilles heel). Hopefully benchmarks should show the strenghs of the CPU when encryption is on. What surprised me, is the 150W peak power... The reason of buying dedicated NAS hardware (and not reusing / building a desktop computer for that) should be cost, cost of maintenaince (power bill for a 24x7 device must be taken into account). For that matters, I agree that a properly setup desktop computer should do the job (as well as others that the NAS device won't) and with all that numbers in hand is hard to choose the NAS device.
  • 0 Hide
    STravis , May 25, 2011 1:27 PM
    barmaleyOk, I don't get it. Can someone explain to me why this $1000 device that comes with no storage is better than a $500 Linux box you can build yourself that will do everything this does and more plus it will come with tons of storage too...


    Agreed - I have been running a NAS based on an Atom processor for about two years now (but it's also a RADIUS server, SVN server, etc). However not everyone is technically capable and they are sometimes willing to pay for something off the shelf rather than putting it together themselves.
  • 0 Hide
    TeraMedia , May 25, 2011 2:06 PM
    Would have been great to see comparisons involving encryption. A recent article here on Toms compared the performance of a bunch of NASes using data encryption, and noted that performance was terrible when it was turned on. The article even went on to say that a faster CPU should improve performance, and one with AES-NI should improve it dramatically. No test to confirm this? Opportunity missed.
  • 0 Hide
    obarthelemy , May 25, 2011 2:23 PM
    @reviewer: since when is DDR2 faster than DDR3 ?
  • 0 Hide
    dealcorn , May 25, 2011 2:39 PM
    Based on what I see on their web site, this box could replace every aspect of the functionality of my home, atom d510, headless debian server with software raid 5. It costs a lot more, but only because my time has absolutely no value. It looks like a real easy path to the benefits of Linux from my perspective. The fact that you know it works and is supported is an added bonus.
  • 1 Hide
    d_kuhn , May 25, 2011 3:02 PM
    I've built OpenFiler (linux) NAS servers... affordable and powerful (and a good option for cost sensitive storage). I used one for a little while to play with VMWare clustering as I waited for an EMC iSCSI box to come in. But at the same time, when I needed to buy storage for a platform I'd be deploying to an end user (manufacturing plant) for online storage, I chose to go with an integrated NAS solution (I went with Thecus N7700Pro rather than Qnap... more slots for the same money) to avoid the management need that in my experience even a well implemented Linux box will periodically require.

    It's IMO a choice between fire and forget (if one of the thecus boxes fails the plant can replace it themselves) and an ongoing support need. For me that's worth the incremental cost.

    Additionally, you'll be going with software raid if you roll your own (hardware raid cards would blow any cost advantage entirely) and then you're going to have to be really conscious of processing power required for solid performance. That means time spent tweaking, optimizing, and in component selection that will more than overtake the hardware cost differential if you cost your time at a reasonable rate.
  • -1 Hide
    jblack , May 25, 2011 8:04 PM
    aaron88_7This also offers failover and load balancing with its dual NIC card that you wouldn't have in a $500 Linux box.



    This can be solved by purchasing a $20 NIC and adding it to the Linux system.
  • 0 Hide
    d_kuhn , May 25, 2011 11:23 PM
    Well I'd suggest a better quality card than $20... but you can get a decent intel dual gig-e card that support jumbo frames for $150.

    The important thing to note is that if you've got the time and inclination to learn to setup and administer the system, a Linux box will give you more bang for the buck compared to systems like the QNap or Thecus. the N7700's work great as a single host box (or for archive use), but I've not seen the kind of performance that could support even a 2 host cluster. You could get that out of an Openfiler box with some tweaking (though an Openfiler box with that performance would probably cost a grand or so with required peripherals like a dual nic and hot swap SATA chassis).
  • 0 Hide
    ProDigit10 , May 26, 2011 1:01 AM
    I wonder why people just not simply buy a mini atx computer with raid capability and an Atom processor?
    You may find them under $300!
  • 0 Hide
    ProDigit10 , May 26, 2011 1:26 AM
    You can cut some of the noise down by disabling the 120mm fan, and closing the hole. The air exhaust of the power unit is big enough to cool down the drives and the rest of the system!
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