Thecus N8900 review

Price when reviewed

Intel’s Atom has outgrown its usefulness in the business NAS appliance market, with manufacturers moving to more powerful Core i3 processors. Qnap set the ball rolling last month with the A-Listed TS-879, and now Thecus joins in with the N8900.

Along with a fast 3.3GHz Core i3-2120 processor, it has 8GB of DDR3 memory and supports 6Gbits/sec SATA III hard disks. Supplied to us by Origin Storage, our review system had eight 3TB Hitachi SATA III drives, which looks good for the price.

Thecus’s Setup Wizard provides quick access to the main web interface, where you start by creating your RAID arrays. If you want a single 24TB array, select XFS, as EXT4 only supports 16TB.

We came across an annoying problem at this stage: the RAID wizard provides a slider bar to set the percentage of the array to be kept back for iSCSI targets, but this refused to move. After talking to Origin’s helpful support, it transpired that Thecus has changed the way arrays are created, but not updated the management interface or its confusing and poorly translated manual.

The upshot is you don’t need to set aside space for iSCSI targets anymore. The N8900 uses the same method that Qnap and Synology have always adhered to, where targets are simply created within the chosen array.

Thecus N8900

We also had problems setting up the N8900 for 10GbE testing. The review system came with a dual-port Emulex card, but we found this isn’t supported. The card is hard-set to use a PCI Express x8 slot, but the only available slot is x4.

Fortunately, our testing kit includes dual-port Intel 10GbE cards that worked fine, and the N8900 proceeded to deliver superb performance. With a direct connection to a Dell R515 server equipped with a 10GbE Emulex card, we saw Iometer return a raw read speed for a mapped share of 540MB/sec.

We then direct-attached a Broadberry dual-Opteron 4100 server to the second port, and with Iometer running on both systems we recorded a cumulative raw read throughput of 1,016MB/sec. Real world copies using drag and drop were also swift, with a 2.52GB video clip returning 287MB/sec for both read and write operations.

IP SAN performance is excellent as well, with a 100GB target assigned to the Dell server delivering a raw read speed of 112MB/sec over Gigabit. Swapping over to 10GbE saw Iometer report a huge read speed of 780MB/sec, with drag-and-drop file copies returning to 500MB/sec.

Business backup options aren’t as good as those from Qnap or Synology, with no cloud features or support for hosted services such as Amazon’s S3. The single-user copy of Acronis True Image Personal is of limited value as it doesn’t support Windows Server, and you have to upgrade to get features such as scheduling, disk cloning and incremental backups.

The N8900 is easily the fastest 2U rack NAS appliance we’ve tested, and the 24TB model is excellent value. It can also be upgraded with a selection of freely available modules, but we can’t help thinking Thecus should have sorted out the web interface and user manual before rushing it to market.


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