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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  • xTRICKYxx - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    May I ask why do you guys need such high requirements? And why 12 VMs? I just think this is overkill. But it doesn't matter anyways... If I had a budget like this, I would totally build an awesome NAS like you guys have and follow this guide. Great job! Reply
  • xTRICKYxx - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    I should clarify I am looking at this NAS as a household commodity, not something where 10+ computers will be heavily accessing it. Reply
  • mfed3 - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    still didn't read...this is hopeless.. Reply
  • extide - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    Dude they are NOT BUILDING A NAS!!!

    They are building a system to TEST other NAS's
    Reply
  • thomas-hrb - Thursday, September 06, 2012 - link

    It would also be nice to test against some of the other features like for example iSCSI. Also since the Thecus N4800 supports iSCSI, I would like to see that test redone with a slightly different build/deployment.

    Create a single LUN on iSCSI. then mount that LUN in the VM like ESXi, create some VM's 20GB per server should be enough for server 2K8R2 and test it that way.

    I don't know who would use NAS over SAN in an enterprise shop, but some of the small guys who can't afford an enterprise storage solution (less than 25 clients) might want to know how effectively a small NAS, can handle VM's with advanced features like vMotion and fault tolerance. In fact if you try some of those HP ML110G7 (3 of them with a vmware essentials plus kit) you can get 12 CPU cores with 48GB RAM, with licensing for about 10K. This setup will give you a decent amount of reliability, and if the NAS can support data replication, you could get a small setup with enterprise features (even if not enterprise performance) for less than the lost of 1-tray of FC-SAN storage.
    Reply
  • Wixman666 - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    It's because they want to be able to really hammer the storage system. Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    "The guest OS on each of the VMs is Windows 7 Ultimate x64. The intention of the build is to determine how the performance of the NAS under test degrades when multiple clients begin to access it. This degradation might be in terms of increased response time or decrease in available bandwidth."

    12 is a good size, if not too small for a medium size company.
    Reply
  • MGSsancho - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    12 is also a good size for a large workgroup.. Alternatively this is a good benchmark for students in dorms. sure there might be 4-5 people but when you factor in computers using torrents, game consoles streaming netflix along with tvs, could be interesting. granted all of this is streaming except for the torrents and their random i/o. However most torrent clients cache as much of the writes. With the current anandtech bench setup with VMs this can be replicated. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    The same reason they need 8 threaded benchmark apps to fully test a Quad-HT CPU. They're testing NASes designed to have more than 2 or 3 clients attached at once; simulating a dozen of them puts the load on the nases up, although judging by the results shown by the Thecus N4800 they probably fell short of maxing it out. Reply
  • theprodigalrebel - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Well, this IS Anandtech and the article is filed under IT Computing... ;) Reply

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