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Hacking The HP EX470/475 MediaSmart Servers

Benchmarking Standard And Increased Memory Configurations

The benchmark employed for this set of measurements is from Intel and is called the NAS Performance Toolkit, aka NASPT. It’s free for downloading and use from the NASPT home page, and is a perfect tool to evaluate how the MediaSmart Server behaves. Here’s how Intel describes this toolkit: "The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit…is a file system exerciser and analysis tool designed to enable performance comparisons between network attached storage (NAS) devices. Intel NASPT focuses on user-level performance using real world workload traces gathered from typical digital home applications: HD video playback and record, data backup, and restore utilities, office productivity applications, video rendering/content creation, and more.”

In these benchmarks, however, instead of comparing multiple NAS systems to one another, I’ll compare the performance of the same system to itself, varying only the amount of memory available to handle the benchmarking tasks. To unmuddy the waters somewhat, I also killed all non-essential services on the Vista client from which the tests were run, and made sure to run those tests only when no scheduled tasks were active on the MediaSmart Server as well. That also means these results are best interpreted as “best case performance” (that’s okay because I want to compare different configurations to one another, but these results may not reflect what you’ll see on your own networks).

NASPT permits batch runs of its testing programs to be launched. This runs three sets of benchmarks back-to-back and presents average results for all three runs in the form of megabytes per second for throughput between client and server. Table 2 presents these results for the EX475 with the stock Sempron 3400+ processor for 512 MB, 2.0 GB, and 4.0 GB RAM (all values are MB/second; all measurements come from a Gigabit Ethernet environment).

TABLE 2: Benchmarks for Memsizes 0.5, 2.0, and 4.0 GB

Task0.5 GB2.0 GB4.0 GBNotes/Remarks
HD Video Playback27.633.234.8Strong linear correlation to memory size
2x HD Playback14.211.710.9Inverse correlation to memory size
3x HD Playback12.19.97.4Inverse  correlation to memory size
4x HD Playback10.19.89.4Inverse  correlation to memory size
HD Video Record65.9137.0133.6Strong benefit to memory boost
HD Playback and Record34.539.041.4Moderate Benefit to memory boost
HD 2x Playback 2x Record20.920.921.0No benefit to memory boost
HD Playback with Office28.236.035 .7Moderate benefit to memory boost
HD Playback with Backup5.26.76.4Small benefit to memory boost
Content Creation22.223.421.5Little or no benefit to memory boost
Backup 47.748.753.2Small benefit to memory boost
Restore19.118.418.2Weak inverse correlation to memory size
File Copy to NAS56.472.466.7Moderate benefit to memory boost
File Copy from NAS40.838.337.6Weak inverse correlation to memory size
Dir  Copy to NAS5.25.63.5Weak inverse correlation to memory size
Dir Copy  from NAS28.134.133.0Moderate benefit to memory boost
Photo Album20.223.322.6Moderate benefit to memory boost

Looking over these results, three things are quite clear. First, the incremental value for spending $20 to $30 for a 2 GB module is just about what you’d expect it to be with many performance improvements in the 10-20% range at a cost of about 6.5% of the $380 base price for an EX470 refurb unit. Second, there aren’t that many dramatic improvements to Windows Home Server performance that come from memory, but HD Video Record and File Copy to NAS are the strongest players here. Third, the incremental cost to go from a 2 GB to a 4 GB DDR2 module runs from $85 to $125 and is nowhere near offset by corresponding gains in performance. Hopefully, this makes it obvious why HP chose to install 2 GB in its latest generation of MediaServer hardware. I suggest you do likewise, if you upgrade yours.

Check prices for HP's MediaSmart EX475

  • neiroatopelcc
    Seems like a nice do-it-yourself guide. I don't own such a nas, so I can't tell if something's missing. But it's nice to see something like this on toms. Too rarely do we get such a treat.
    Now tell us how we can convert a zyxel router into a storage system, or how we can mod a sata controller into a sas controller, or whatever else can be done to hardware if you know how.

    ps. it's a bit wierd that you describe how to unplug an atx power cable ... I would expect people who'd dare take their working nas apart would know, or figure that out, on their own.
    Reply
  • DiscoDuck
    Has anyone run performance numbers on single versus dual core on a homebrew WHS? IS it possible the small gains on the HP dual core setup are a limitation of the motherboard?
    Reply
  • FrustratedRhino
    It is a computer... no matter how evil it is inside, since the compaqs of the late 80s/early 90s every computers is very easy to upgrade. To say that a HTPC knockoff needed a whole guide, to upgrade it, is rather silly.

    Slow news day I guess.
    Reply
  • deredita
    Excellent write-up. I been thinking about the HP MediaSmart servers, and what would be involved to mod one.
    Reply
  • etittel
    DiscoDuckHas anyone run performance numbers on single versus dual core on a homebrew WHS? IS it possible the small gains on the HP dual core setup are a limitation of the motherboard?
    Good Question! I didn't think to tackle this within the scope of the current story, but it certainly would make fertile ground for a look at WHS in general. Having built numerous (more than 20) AMD AM2 systems and benchmarked them all, I didn't get the sense that we were dealing with motherboard limitations. Tim Higgins at SmallNetBuilder gives the EX470/475 models pretty high marks in head-to-head comparisons with other NASes so I don't think this box is hampered by inherent performance problems. But comparing it to other builds/set-ups is a good idea, and I will see if my editor is interested in a follow-up.
    Thanks!
    --Ed--

    PS to neiroatopelcc: I wish I knew how to convert a zyxel router into a NAS/SAN, or how to mode SATA into SAS controllers. Both are things I too would like to know how to do.
    Reply
  • MoUsE-WiZ
    FrustratedRhinoIt is a computer... no matter how evil it is inside, since the compaqs of the late 80s/early 90s every computers is very easy to upgrade. To say that a HTPC knockoff needed a whole guide, to upgrade it, is rather silly.Slow news day I guess.Yeah, that. Glancing through the guide, anybody who's ever done any sort of hardware upgrade on any machine should be able to figure all of this out, changing the BIOS is probably the only bit that requires any extra knowledge.

    Next up; guide to fitting square peg in square hole?
    Reply
  • etittel
    To all:

    I'd like to thank HP and Micron/Crucial for their support of this article. Micron actually overnighted me a 4GB DDR2-667 SDRAM module when I was unable to buy one anywhere in the US, on very short notice.

    I'd also like to thank the following terrific HP MediaSmart sites that helped me learn what I needed to know to write this story:
    1. Alex Kuretz: www.mediasmartserver.net
    2. Capable Networks MediaSmart Home (May be MS sponsored, hard to tell, still useful tho)
    3. Terry Walsh We Got Served4. Andrew Edney Using Windows Home Server5. Donavon West Home Server Hacks6. Microsoft WHS Team Homeserver Blog
    There may be more, but these are the most useful such sites I found. If you know of any please add them here.

    --Ed--
    Reply
  • etittel
    Drivers for EX47* Servers

    I recently blogged on my own Vista site to list all of the latest workable drivers for the EX470/EX475 MediaSmart Servers. Anybody interested in making sure they're current on drivers should find this useful. I include the link to download.com for some less-than-brand-new drivers (which SiS has since updated, but which don't work on the EX47* models) because SiS doesn't keep an archive of older drivers (at least, not where I could find them).

    HTH,
    --Ed--
    Reply
  • etittel
    Sorry forgot the driver link URL: http://viztaview.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/drivers-for-hp-ex-47-mediasmart-servers/. My apologies.
    --Ed--
    Reply
  • cruiseoveride
    So basically, you buy an over priced media center "PC" and then upgrade it?
    okaaaaay
    Reply