Thecus N7700 SAS review

£1068
Price when reviewed

Intense competition in the desktop NAS appliance market meant it was inevitable that support for high performance SAS drives would be the next big thing. Thecus is the first on the offensive.

When we reviewed the N7700 SATA version we were impressed by its enormous desktop chassis, which was the first to offer seven hot-swap drive bays. This latest N7700 sees some major improvements as along with a new SAS controller, it has a Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB of memory. Thecus today also announced the N7700Pro, which supports 10Gb Ethernet by adding to an 10Gb Ethernet adapter to the PCI-Express slot.

The appliance has Thecus’ dual-DOM, which is implemented as two 128MB IDE micro disk modules stacked on top of each other. If one fails the other takes over, thus improving fault tolerance.

Installation is helped by the Setup Wizard and, like Qnap and Synology, Thecus’ firmware now offers a smart Ajax-based interface. Your first job is to create RAID arrays, and for testing we used a quartet of 146GB Fujitsu SAS drives configured as a RAID5 array.

You can choose from EXT3, XFS and ZFS volumes but note that snapshots can only be run on the latter and XFS doesn’t support folder quotas. Windows, Linux, Unix and Mac systems are supported, as are FTP services, while access security extends to a local user database plus AD domain authentication.

Businesses won’t be interested in the multimedia toys, but backup options are good. FarStone’s DriveClone Pro secures selected files and folders at scheduled intervals. It has a snapshot service and drive and partition cloning. You can also copy data from one appliance to another using Nsync.

Thecus provides update modules for extra features, with the download manager allowing the appliance to retrieve remote files via BitTorrent, HTTP, FTP or eMule. There are also web server and IP camera modules, although the latter is quite basic.

Thecus delivered superb results in our performance tests with drag-and-drop copies to and from a dual 2.13GHz Xeon L5506 Dell PowerEdge R410 returning read and write speeds of 99MB/sec and 92MB/sec. FTP speeds were even faster with FileZilla: 103MB/sec and 95MB/sec with the same test file. IP SAN performance was excellent with Iometer reporting raw read speeds of 107MB/sec for 50GB.

To test adapter teaming we configured the appliance’s Gigabit ports in an 802.3ad aggregated link. Our HP ProCurve 2848 spotted this and created a high-speed LACP trunk for the two ports. With the Dell R410 and an IBM System x3650 M2 server logged on to dedicated iSCSI targets, we ran Iometer on both systems and saw a cumulative raw read throughput of 108MB/sec showing port bonding has virtually no performance benefits.

Thecus’ new SAS-equipped appliance is a beast. It could do with more business-related features but it performs well across a range of tasks, making it the fastest desktop NAS appliance currently available.

Basic specifications

Capacity N/A
Cost per gigabyte N/A
RAID capability yes
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
Default filing system JFS

Services

FTP server? yes
UPnP media server? yes
Other media servers iTunes
Print server? yes
Web hosting? yes
BitTorrent client? yes
HIbernate on idle? yes

Connections

Ethernet ports 2
USB connection? yes
eSATA interface yes

Power consumption

Idle power consumption 95W
Peak power consumption 158W

Security and administration

Admin support for users yes
Admin support for groups yes
Email alerts yes

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