Qsan TrioNAS LX U400Q-S316 review

£5340
Price when reviewed

The U400Q-S316 is a member of Qsan’s new TrioNAS LX family of storage appliances, and its first to combine NAS, IP SAN and cloud backup operations.

It’s based on the ZFS file system, which is very popular at the moment, with Netgear also employing it in its ReadyDATA appliances. ZFS offers plenty of features as standard, which means the U400Q-S316 delivers data deduplication, compression, snapshots and thin provisioning. It can also make use of SSDs, which can be added on the fly to existing arrays as read or write caches.

Qsan TrioNAS LX U400Q-S316

Local and remote replication comes as standard; it’s integrated on the appliance. Cloud backup options are limited: only Amazon’s S3 service is supported. There’s an option for virus scanning, but you’ll need to point the appliance at an ICAP antivirus server.

The U400Q-S316 chassis looks a better bet than the basic, overly noisy Supermicro server used by Netgear’s ReadyDATA 5200. There’s room for 16 hot-swap SAS and SATA drives, and it has superior expansion potential. The removable RAID controller has one SAS expansion port, and supports up to 192 drives using Qsan’s J300Q disk shelves; that’s three times the expansion potential of the ReadyDATA. Of the seven Gigabit ports, six are used as data ports, and the seventh is for dedicated management. There’s a spare slot at the back, but dual RAID controllers aren’t yet supported on this system. We were told this will be implemented later this year.

For general management, the Qsan’s QCentral Java utility takes centre stage. After downloading it from the appliance’s embedded web server, the first job is pool creation, where drives’ RAID array types are selected. File systems for NAS operations or directories for IP SAN targets are created from the ZFS tab. Data deduplication, compression and thin provisioning are supported on both NAS shares and iSCSI targets – a nice touch.

The file systems are accessed via the QCentral Explorer tab, where existing shares can be browsed and new ones created. When creating a share, CIFS, NFS, AFP and FTP can be enabled, and read and write access restrictions applied. For IP SANs, it’s simply a case of selecting a volume and attaching it to a LUN. Host access can be limited to selected initiators, or a wildcard used for unrestricted access.

Qsan TrioNAS LX U400Q-S316

For performance testing, we used a RAID5 array comprising six 3TB Hitachi SATA drives. With a quad Dell PowerEdge R820 as our test server, we saw excellent NAS speeds: Iometer reported raw read and write rates of 113MB/sec. Real-world performance was just as good, with copies of a 2.52GB video clip returning speeds of 112MB/sec. The Qsan also handled backups of large datasets well: our 22.4GB test folder and its 10,500 small files copied to a share at 77MB/sec.

For IP SAN operations, Iometer returned respectable raw read and write speeds of 112MB/sec for a 100GB target. The appliance supports MPIO, and with a load-balanced link established across two data ports, we saw these speeds double. SSD read and write caching had a modest impact on IP SAN performance, however. Our Iometer database load showed a total throughput over Gigabit of 64MB/sec; adding SSDs for read and write caching improved these to 70MB/sec.

To test data-reduction ratios, we used the Binary Testing deduplication test suite and CA’s ARCserve Backup r16, set to use a mapped share as a disk-based backup device. Using a 4GB dataset of 1,000 files, we ran a standard backup strategy consisting of daily incrementals and weekly full backups. After the first full backup, 2% of the data was modified in 40% of files prior to each subsequent backup. At the end of a four-week simulation, we saw a reduction ratio of 3.02:1: not impressive compared with Windows Storage Server 2012 devices, but on a par with other ZFS products we’ve reviewed.

The U400Q-S316 offers very good expansion potential, and it’s better value than the Netgear ReadyDATA 5200. We can’t fault it for speed, and the ZFS file system provides plenty of NAS, IP SAN, snapshot and replication features.

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