Introduction & Goals of the Build

The market for network attached storage (NAS) devices has registered huge gains over the last few years. In keeping up with the market trends, the coverage of NAS units has also seen an uptick on AnandTech since the middle of 2010. Followers of our NAS reviews have seen the standard Intel NASPT benchmarks and file transfer test results along with a qualitative coverage of the NAS’s operating system / user interface. The reviews briefly touch upon miscellaneous factors such as power consumption. The feedback from the readers as well as the industry pointed towards some essential NAS aspects such as performance under loading from multiple clients being ignored. Towards the end of 2011, we started evaluating approaches to cover these aspects.

Our goal was to simulate a SMB (Small to Medium Business) / SOHO (Small Office / Home Office) type environment for the NAS under test. From the viewpoint of our testing, we consider a SMB as any setup with 5 - 25 distinct clients for the NAS. Under ideal circumstances, we could have had multiple PCs accessing the NAS at the same time. However, we wanted a testbed which didn’t require too much space or consume a lot of power. It was also necessary that the testbed be easily administered. These requirements ruled out the possibility of multiple distinct physical machines making up the testbed.

In order to set up multiple virtual machines (VMs), we wanted to build a multi-processor workstation. One of the primary challenges when running a large number of VMs on a single machine is the paucity of resources. It is important not to be disk bound. Therefore, we set out with the intent of providing each VM with its own processor core, physical primary disk and network port. After taking a look at the options, we decided to build a dual processor workstation capable of running up to 12 VMs. In the first four sections, we will take a look at the hardware options that we chose for the build.

Following the discussion of the hardware aspects, we have a section on the software infrastructure. This includes details of the host and guest operating systems, the benchmarking software and scripts used in the testing process. We initially gave a trial run of the new test components on two different NAS units, the Synology DS211+ and the Thecus N4800. Results from the new test components are presented in the two sections preceding the concluding remarks.

Hardware Build - Motherboard, CPUs and Coolers


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  • ganeshts - Thursday, September 6, 2012 - link

    Thanks for unearthing that one.. Fixed now. Reply
  • ypsylon - Thursday, September 6, 2012 - link

    14 SSDs. I know it is only to simulate separate clients, but to be honest this whole test is ultimately meaningless. No reasonable business (not talking about 'man with a laptop' kind of company) will entrust crucial data to SSD(s) (in particular non-industry class standard SSDs). Those disks are far too unreliable and HDDs trounce them in that category every time. Whether you like it or not, HDDs are still here and I'm absolutely certain that they will outlive SSDs by a fair margin. Running a business myself and thank you very much HDDs are the only choice, RAID 10, 6 or 60 depending on a job. Bloody SDDs, hate those to the core (tested). Good for laptops or for geeks who benching system 24/7 not for serious job. Reply
  • ypsylon - Thursday, September 6, 2012 - link

    Dang 12 not 14 , ha, ha. Reply
  • mtoma - Thursday, September 6, 2012 - link

    If you love so much the reliability of HDDs, I must ask you: what SSD brand have failed you? Intel? Samsung? You know, they are statistics that show Intel and Samsung SSD are much more reliable 24/7 than many Enterprise HDDs. I mean, on paper, the enterprise HDDs looks great, but in reality they fail more than they should (in a large RAID array vibration is a maine concern). After all, the same basic technology applies to regular HDDs. On top of that, some (if not all) server manufacturers put refurbished HDDs in new servers (I have seen IBM doing that and I was terrified). Perhaps this is not a widespread practice, but it is truly terrifying.
    So, pardon me if I say: to hell with regular HDDs. Buy enterprise grade SSDs, you get the same 5 year warranty.
  • extide - Thursday, September 6, 2012 - link

    Dude you missed the point ENTIRELY, the machine they built is to TEST NAS's. They DID NOT BUILD A NAS. Reply
  • Wardrop - Saturday, September 8, 2012 - link

    I can't work out whether this guy is trolling or not? A very provocative post without really any detail. Reply
  • AmdInside - Thursday, September 6, 2012 - link

    Isn't Win7 x64 Ultimate a little too much for a VM? Would be nice to see videos. Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, September 6, 2012 - link

    We wanted an OS which would support both IOMeter and Intel NASPT. Yes, we could have gone with Windows XP, but the Win 7 installer USB drives were on the top of the heap :) Reply
  • AmdInside - Thursday, September 6, 2012 - link

    Thanks Reply
  • zzing123 - Thursday, September 6, 2012 - link

    Hi Ganesh - Thanks for taking my post a few articles back to heart regarding the NAS performance when fully loaded, as it begins to provide some really meaningful results.

    I have to agree with some of the other posters' comments about the workload though. Playing a movie on one, copying on another, running a VM from a third and working of docs through an SMB share on a fourth would probably be a more meaninful workload in a prosumer's home.

    In light of this, might it be an idea to add a new benchmark to AnandTech's Storage Bench that measures all these factors?

    In terms of your setup, there's a balance to be struck. I really like the concept you're doing of using 12 VM's to replicate a realistic environment in the way you can do. However when an office has 12 clients, they're probably using a proper file server or multiple NAS's. 3-4 clients is probably the most typical set up in a SOHO/home setup.

    10GbE testing is missing, and a lot of NAS's are beginning to ship with 10GbE. With switches like the Cisco SG500X-24 also supporting 10GbE and becoming slowly more affordable, 10GbE is slowly but surely becoming more relevant. 1 SSD and 1 GbE connection isn't going to saturate it - 10 will, and is certainly meaninful in a multi-user context, but this is AnandTech. What about absolute performance?

    How about adding a 13th VM that leashes together all the 12 SSD's and aggregates all the 12 I340 links to provide a beast of RAIDed SSD's and 12GbE connectivity (the 2 extra connections should smoke out net adapters that aren't performing to spec as well).

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