Intel SS4200-E: PC-Based NAS Evaluated

Intel And EMC Tackle NAS

When you hear the name Intel, you automatically think of processors, which proves that the company’s marketing machine has done its job. But beyond CPUs, the mainstream sometimes forgets that Intel also has remarkable mindshare in the business sector. And that’s where its relatively new NAS solution, the SS4200-E, comes into play.

Intel Teams Up

Part of Intel’s success in the server market is attributable its cooperation with VMWare, a part of EMC, the enterprise storage specialist. This has led to synergistic effects. At the end of 2007, EMC announced a new consumer product line, which hit the market at the beginning of 2008 under the name “Lifeline.” Before this, EMC was primarily focused on business customers with their storage products.

Intel wants to get into the growing storage market with NAS systems for home use, and so it took advantage of its relationship with EMC to do just that. The result is the new SS4200-E NAS device, which is primarily built for small businesses and private users. It is unclear whether or not there will be more devices in the future in this hardware/software constellation.

NAS Device On An x86 Platform

Most manufacturers use embedded motherboards for their NAS devices, which are characterized by having the processor, RAM modules, and other components typically hard-wired onto the platform itself. To save space and reduce energy consumption, they usually don’t come with additional interfaces or expansion slots. The processors used for those systems are usually based on the ARM or PowerPC architectures and the operating system (firmware) is stored on an integrated flash module instead of a hard drive.

In contrast, Intel has put a low-voltage LGA775 Celeron 430 processor in the SS4200-E. The processor is clocked at 1.6 GHz, supports FSB800 (effectively) and has 512 KB of L2 cache. In addition, the motherboard comes with a 512 MB DDR2 RAM module, which can easily be upgraded by the user to 1024 MB based on Intel’s compatibility list. The southbridge chip is an Intel ICH7R and supports four SATA 3 Gb/s devices with RAID modes 0, 1, 10, and 5, as well as two Ultra ATA devices.

Given the Ultra ATA support you can probably guess the next special feature of the Intel SS4200-E. The operating system, which is the aforementioned “Lifeline” software, is stored on a Disk on Module (DOM). This is essentially a flash module connected to the Ultra ATA port of the Intel SS4200-E motherboard.

Users who love to experiment and tweak their hardware should get really excited when looking at such an open system. On the following pages, we will tell you what performance level you can expect from the Intel SS4200-E NAS in its default configuration.

Marcel Binder
  • slomo4sho
    A HTPC type build is still the best low cost high performance option.

    Thanks for the write up :)
  • gwolfman
    Very interesting. What if you replaced the horrible PSU with one of the picoPSUs made by minibox (if I'm not mistaken) or miniPSUs that are available. OR I have one of those running my mini-itx server and works flawlessly, cool, efficiently, and it's 100% silent!
  • malveaux

    $400, no drives, just the `chasis.'

    It's a PC folks. Just build a cheaper PC with better components. It'll do more. And cost less.

    What a joke, intel.

  • KITH
    malveaux, people might find added value in a nice, quiet, compact case that has easy setup and a warranty as well as customer support.

    spending time on purchasing, assembling, and configuring a custom device might not be an option or a at least not a better option.
  • malveaux

    I understand that. Some people would rather have a box that hums and plugs in and just `works.' They won't want nor need to know how or why it works. They won't be able to troubleshoot it hardware-wise themselves, nor know a damn thing about it. They are still required however to plug in their own hard drives and configure the RAID if they wish it. There are markgets for NAS. But it's getting to be silly how many home-target NAS are being pushed out there that cost a ridiculous amount of money for what is essentially a computer that needs HDD's. For that cost, you might as well build your own computer. Or just take any old computer, but gigabit lan in it, fill with HDD's and run FreeNas. All problems solved on the cheap.

    Support? Laughable. You'll talk to someone in Duabi or New Dheli or whereever, they'll tell you to unplug it, reset your router, plug it back in, push the power button and wait for it to re-connect. They can't help you with HARD DRIVE problems which is the SOLE purpose of the thing--to serve from HDD's.

    I'm all for an attractive easy headless case with built in parts for HDD's. But for $400 and higher for this thing? Please. Any fool reading this website can NewEgg the parts needed, child's play, and have a NICE looking little microatx box housing the SAME capacity and function for less money. The issue with that? Requires a little elbow greace to assemble? Are these the same people who can't change their own tire? ... Probably. There went my whole argument.
  • very very very IMPORTANT!!!!!
    already build an ss4200-ee with 4x1TB hdd, but it went down after 2 weeks.after changing the hardware the data was not recoverd cause the firmware of the ss4200-ee is not similar in another same ss4200-ee
    now i have to wait 1 month for the nas to come back from egypt where intel repairs those nas in the middel east
    for those who r intrested into building a nas, think of software raid not hardware.
  • I really don't understand any of these NAS devices. I have an dual core socket 939 motherboard with 3 4-disk RAID 5 arrays (Linux software RAID) and a bunch of single disks, and I can get 40 MB/sec from the single disks over my gigabit network, and faster from the RAIDs. I have the drives in a bunch of Silverstone CFP51 4-drive bays.

    Total cost for a cheap case, 4 of the CFP51s, PCI and PCIe controllers, motherboard, CPU and 4 GBs of RAM is probably $7-800, ready to hold 16 hard drives, and considerably faster.
  • malveaux

    Exactly my point. Since that machine has EVERY piece of hardware SOLDERED to it, you can't just replace ONE part if it breaks. You replace the WHOLE thing. And that's NOt including your HDD's, which they don't help you with, that's just the chasis and the board that has the SOLDERED OS in place, with ZERO input points for changing that.

    Support is not possible with a unit like this. Meaningful support, that is. Support that is, "oh sorry to hear that, want to ship it over sears to me? $200 dolla? OOps! It no work, buy new one. BAI!"
  • V3NOM
    ^what the cheese.
  • Taracta
    The real issue with this device is the SIZE! For just holding four (4) drives it is HUGE! Properly built this case could hold 2 to 3 times (8 - 12)as much drives.

    You can also get this product without an OS (EMC software) and use Home Server as the OS.