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Thecus N8800 NAS/SAN: Quick-Look

Thecus N8800 NAS/SAN: Quick-Look
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I’m a glutton for storage. Once I decided to digitize my Blu-ray collection and stream movies wirelessly to a theater room, 40GB chunks of space quickly chiseled away at the four 1TB hard drives populating my Thecus N5200 (1TB had already been lost to parity information, and a second terabyte was allocated to iSCSI SAN duties for my workstation). Thus, it became necessary to find a more serious storage server.

Enter The Beast

Now, I’m a little different from most in that I have a Belkin 24U rack in the garage, so it’s fairly easy to add some serious capacity to the network if it’s needed. Most homes aren’t equipped to accommodate rackmount equipment—many SMBs aren’t even set up with racks in dedicated server rooms. And so, the equipment I turned to for this little project isn’t really intended for the home user. You can take it there if you have the infrastructure, of course. But businesses with rack space will be the ones who will likely be interested in the Thecus N8800 I ended up having sent out to look at.

This thing is a substantial piece of hardware, to be sure. It populates 2U of rack space and offers eight 3.5” drive bays compatible with SATA disks. Thecus does sell a SAS-ready version of the enclosure, but it costs a bit more and is only really necessary if you plan to employ SAS storage and need dual DoMs (Disk on Modules).

Up front, you’ll find a thumbscrew-secured mesh, which covers the eight 3.5” hot-swappable drive bays, an LCD readout, menu navigation buttons, a power switch, and a pair of USB 2.0 ports. Around back, you’ll first notice the twin 350W power supplies—a suggestion that the N8800 has enterprise-class underpinnings (though the fact that we’re using SATA hard drives here undermines that a bit). You’ll also find an additional two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, a pair of Gigabit Ethernet jacks, and two full-sized expansion brackets that correspond to a couple of PCI Express x1 slots inside the chassis. Despite this, nothing on Thecus' site suggests that there are upgrades compatible with the N8800, so we'll ignore those expansion slots for now.

A Solid Hardware Foundation

The hardware infrastructure on which Thecus builds the N8800 is decidedly Intel-based. There’s a Celeron M processor, 1GB of DDR2-667 memory, and a pair of Intel Gigabit Ethernet controllers. Plus, you'll find two Marvell four-port storage controllers.

A riser card in the proprietary motherboard enables eight SATA ports from the Marvell chips. Each drive gets its own port, rather than sharing throughput via a port multiplier on a mid-plane.

Everything about the N8800’s construction exudes quality. The four 80mm Sunon fans blowing air through the 2U enclosure are easily serviceable. Cable routing isn’t meticulous, as you might expect from a storage server that doesn’t utilize a mid-plane, and instead runs every SATA cable from controller to drive (likewise for power). The steel enclosure is solid (albeit heavy as a result) and well-braced against flexing. The fitment of all eight drive bays is precise, and the removable carriages slide into place with a secure click.

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  • -1 Hide
    excalibur1814 , October 22, 2009 8:47 AM
    Nice article. I'm now off to see the price of these units as I need some serious storage due to possibly storing all my dvds etc.
  • 2 Hide
    wuzy , October 22, 2009 9:09 AM
    Where's the hardware spec. (including controller chip used) of the N8800?
  • -2 Hide
    thearm , October 22, 2009 12:45 PM
    "Nice article. I'm now off to see the price of these units as I need some serious storage due to possibly storing all my dvds etc."

    LOL How does one get voted down for that? I'm planning on doing the same thing. The net has some strange folks.
  • 1 Hide
    huron , October 22, 2009 1:30 PM
    Nice. I've been looking at NAS/SAN products for my home for a similar setup to accompany the HTPCs I am building.

    Now, just have to check the price and convince the wife that it's "necessary."
  • 0 Hide
    JonathanDeane , October 22, 2009 2:26 PM
    So much space and uhhh I.. *wipes drool off*

    I wants it gives it to me!!! lol
  • -4 Hide
    jblack , October 22, 2009 2:44 PM
    Wow. Not even benchmarks.
  • -3 Hide
    dje007 , October 22, 2009 3:36 PM
    What a good review NOT
  • 1 Hide
    Spanky Deluxe , October 22, 2009 5:09 PM
    Ouch. Costs about £1200 here in the UK. While its certainly a very nice solution, the more budget conscious might want to invest in a 4U rackmount case, a cheap computer setup with gigabit ethernet and a couple of 4 port SATA cards. Something like that can be had for about £250 before drives (£50 for case, 2x£40 for controllers, £120 for Intel Ion Mobo/Processor + RAM). Obviously not nearly as nice and would need some knowledge of Linux for a decent setup but doable.
  • 3 Hide
    blarger , October 22, 2009 6:14 PM
    Hey gueys I needed a car to get to work so I started looking around at commuter cars, they worked but I wasnt happy with them so I bought a Porsche 911. It's not really made for the commuter market but I'm going to tell you commuters looking for commuter cars all about it.

    It's overpriced, breaks a lot and of course the repair bills are more than what you'd call high. But whatever just wanted to let you know that this site footed the bill for my awesome extravagance so lolol.
  • 1 Hide
    blarger , October 22, 2009 6:15 PM
    damn wish I coulda worked in that this thing pretty much requires a rackmount setup into the car analogy.
  • 0 Hide
    excalibur1814 , October 22, 2009 6:33 PM
    Yeah, the price made me cry.

    P.s. It's to store my LEGALLY PURCHASED dvds.. not copies. Suppose that's why I got marked down as I don't know of any other reason?

    Maybe it's the rain
  • 1 Hide
    MU_Engineer , October 23, 2009 12:04 AM
    Spanky DeluxeOuch. Costs about £1200 here in the UK. While its certainly a very nice solution, the more budget conscious might want to invest in a 4U rackmount case, a cheap computer setup with gigabit ethernet and a couple of 4 port SATA cards. Something like that can be had for about £250 before drives (£50 for case, 2x£40 for controllers, £120 for Intel Ion Mobo/Processor + RAM). Obviously not nearly as nice and would need some knowledge of Linux for a decent setup but doable.


    Or you could always go to eBay for an old server board and pick up a couple of inexpensive PCI SATA cards and PCI NICs. Almost every decent old server board out there has multiple PCI/PCI-X buses, and most cheap PCI GbE NICs and SATA controllers run at 66 MHz in the PCI-X slots, so you're only limited by the Ethernet bandwidth. I have a four-disk unit made from an old Intel SE7501CW2 (dual 2.66 GHz Xeon, 1 GB RAM) that I got from eBay w/CPUs and RAM for $20, put a $30 PCI SATA card and a $10 PCI GbE NIC in it and it saturates the GbE link with data in reads; writes are about 65 MB/sec since I am running a RAID5 on somewhat old disks.
  • 0 Hide
    JonathanDeane , October 23, 2009 12:14 AM
    excalibur1814Yeah, the price made me cry. P.s. It's to store my LEGALLY PURCHASED dvds.. not copies. Suppose that's why I got marked down as I don't know of any other reason?Maybe it's the rain


    You should have said your porn collection... hehehehe sorry I had to :) 
  • 0 Hide
    mariushm , October 23, 2009 3:25 AM
    It's a very poor article.

    You can get a cheap 4U rackable case (for example there's Athena Power RM-4U4045B60 on Newegg now for about 180$) which comes with 8 5.25" slots, 4 on each side.

    You can then get those converters that change 3x5.25 slots to 4x3.25 slots so you now have the possibility to add 8 hard drives and two optical drives or even 10 drives with 5.25 to 3.5 adapters.

    So now you just have to get basic motherboard (not the cheapest, but nothing of high performance is needed) and cheap AMD processor, some memory and maybe an additional sata card, if the motherboard has less than 8-10 sata ports.
    I'd say 180$ case + 80$ mb + 60$ cpu + 20$ memory should do it.
  • 0 Hide
    excalibur1814 , October 23, 2009 5:23 PM
    mariushmIt's a very poor article.You can get a cheap 4U rackable case (for example there's Athena Power RM-4U4045B60 on Newegg now for about 180$) which comes with 8 5.25" slots, 4 on each side. You can then get those converters that change 3x5.25 slots to 4x3.25 slots so you now have the possibility to add 8 hard drives and two optical drives or even 10 drives with 5.25 to 3.5 adapters.So now you just have to get basic motherboard (not the cheapest, but nothing of high performance is needed) and cheap AMD processor, some memory and maybe an additional sata card, if the motherboard has less than 8-10 sata ports.I'd say 180$ case + 80$ mb + 60$ cpu + 20$ memory should do it.



    Porn? 4tb of pron would be.... a bit much :) 

  • 1 Hide
    wuzy , October 24, 2009 12:39 AM
    excalibur1814Porn? 4tb of pron would be.... a bit much

    Got plenty of them in 1080p here. ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    BrentonMcGhee , October 25, 2009 7:51 PM
    mariushmIt's a very poor article.You can get a cheap 4U rackable case (for example there's Athena Power RM-4U4045B60 on Newegg now for about 180$) which comes with 8 5.25" slots, 4 on each side. You can then get those converters that change 3x5.25 slots to 4x3.25 slots so you now have the possibility to add 8 hard drives and two optical drives or even 10 drives with 5.25 to 3.5 adapters.So now you just have to get basic motherboard (not the cheapest, but nothing of high performance is needed) and cheap AMD processor, some memory and maybe an additional sata card, if the motherboard has less than 8-10 sata ports.I'd say 180$ case + 80$ mb + 60$ cpu + 20$ memory should do it.


    Well your almost right. I am in the process of buying up parts for a new storage server at my house. Just like the article said once i started to rip my bluray collection i new just using my old desktop computer as a data dump would no longer suffice.

    The parts you just listed are all fine except for the you left out a hardware based raid card. Yes you can use the sata ports on MB's most of which now come with at least 6. Or you can buy a few cheap add on sata controllers but the problem with this is that this offers you no data security.

    You can set up a software based raid using your MB's sata ports on add on sata ports but the issue with software based is it is very volatile and having a mother board go belly up or even just reinstalling your operating system can cause you to have to kiss all of you multi terabytes of data good bye.

    Pretty much everything about a homebrew storage server is cheap just like you listed except if you are gonna step up to hardware raid wich at least for me is very important. I would hate to have to spend a few months re ripping everything because i had to upgrade my mobo.
  • 0 Hide
    MU_Engineer , October 26, 2009 2:44 PM
    Quote:
    Well your almost right. I am in the process of buying up parts for a new storage server at my house. Just like the article said once i started to rip my bluray collection i new just using my old desktop computer as a data dump would no longer suffice.

    The parts you just listed are all fine except for the you left out a hardware based raid card. Yes you can use the sata ports on MB's most of which now come with at least 6. Or you can buy a few cheap add on sata controllers but the problem with this is that this offers you no data security.

    You can set up a software based raid using your MB's sata ports on add on sata ports but the issue with software based is it is very volatile and having a mother board go belly up or even just reinstalling your operating system can cause you to have to kiss all of you multi terabytes of data good bye.

    Pretty much everything about a homebrew storage server is cheap just like you listed except if you are gonna step up to hardware raid wich at least for me is very important. I would hate to have to spend a few months re ripping everything because i had to upgrade my mobo.


    This needs a bit of further explanation. Any RAID setup is going to be formatted such that only the RAID controller that created the RAID can read it. This can be the following:

    1. Hardware RAID card- you need to get an identical or nearly-identical (same manufacturer, probably the same model line) hardware RAID card to read your array if your original hardware RAID card dies.

    2. Motherboard/BIOS-based RAID- you will need to get a motherboard with a similar southbridge chip to run your array if your original motherboard dies, since the southbridge chip runs the array.

    3. Non-hardware SATA controller/RAID card- identical to the hardware RAID card. The only difference between an add-in hardware and non-hardware RAID card is that the hardware card offloads XOR calculations for RAID levels 4, 5, and 6 while non-hardware RAID cards let the CPU do this.

    4. OS-based RAID (Linux md, Windows Dynamic Disks)- you need to put the disks in a computer running the same kind of OS that is at least as new as the OS on the old, dead computer. The hardware does not matter except that you need enough SATA ports to attach all of your disks- the OS does not care if the ports are on a motherboard or an add-in card.

    If you want to have the easiest way to recover from hardware failure, go with an OS-based RAID. I run Linux md arrays and have moved the disks in the array from one machine to the next without issue. The real advantages of a hardware RAID card have to do with performance rather than data integrity.
  • 0 Hide
    BrentonMcGhee , October 26, 2009 10:13 PM
    Quote:
    This needs a bit of further explanation. Any RAID setup is going to be formatted such that only the RAID controller that created the RAID can read it. This can be the following:

    1. Hardware RAID card- you need to get an identical or nearly-identical (same manufacturer, probably the same model line) hardware RAID card to read your array if your original hardware RAID card dies.

    2. Motherboard/BIOS-based RAID- you will need to get a motherboard with a similar southbridge chip to run your array if your original motherboard dies, since the southbridge chip runs the array.

    3. Non-hardware SATA controller/RAID card- identical to the hardware RAID card. The only difference between an add-in hardware and non-hardware RAID card is that the hardware card offloads XOR calculations for RAID levels 4, 5, and 6 while non-hardware RAID cards let the CPU do this.

    4. OS-based RAID (Linux md, Windows Dynamic Disks)- you need to put the disks in a computer running the same kind of OS that is at least as new as the OS on the old, dead computer. The hardware does not matter except that you need enough SATA ports to attach all of your disks- the OS does not care if the ports are on a motherboard or an add-in card.

    If you want to have the easiest way to recover from hardware failure, go with an OS-based RAID. I run Linux md arrays and have moved the disks in the array from one machine to the next without issue. The real advantages of a hardware RAID card have to do with performance rather than data integrity.


    I find it interesting that you have had such success with moving your arrays around to multiple machines. I on the other hand have not. Luckily i was only moving arrays around just for the sake to see what would and would not break the array.

    Here are the results that i got when i was playing around

    RAID controller on MB: This one was the most surprising, i created a raid on a MB controller under vista and then swapped the MB with the exact identical model MB and the array still worked. I figured as much. However i then installed xp as my os to see what would happen and the array was still intact. Then switched back to the original MB and the array was still in place. Very surprised at this however if you are having to replace your MB because it died more than likely you will not be able to purchase that same model again. Hopefully it would be using the same onboard raid controller like you mentioned, that would/should probably still work.

    SATA add on card: This was the worst of my experiences. windows 7 os raid array setup then took the card and drives out and put into another windows 7 machine and the array was unrecoverable. I rebuilt it and then installed vista. array was broken. rebuilt the array with vista as the os. I then reinstalled vista and the array was broken again. This one seemed to like any changes at all.

    Hardware raid card: I was using the Areca 1231ML that i purchased for the above project that i am doing. This one i could not break no matter what i did to it. Switched computers, reinstalled OS's windows and linux, changed from 32 and 64 bit systems, nothing i did would break it. As long as the drives were plugged into this card it didnt matter what the host pc or os was.

    Software raid in OS: This one i did not have luck with either. I am curios that you have had it work for you though. i would build it in 7 using dynamic disks in the disk management utility and everything would work fine. But then i reinstalled windows 7 and tried to reinitialize the array with no success. I tried this under 7, vista and xp with the same results.