Introduction

The market for 2-bay and 4-bay NAS units has been growing at a much faster rate compared to other configurations. This trend is only expected to accelerate over the next few years. As the 'cloud' becomes a more common buzz-word, the time is ripe to educate the average consumer about the benefits of purchasing a NAS system. Western Digital is aiming to tap into this opportunity with the My Cloud product line. Having already introduced 1-bay and 4-bay variants, they are launching their 2-bay product, the EX2 today.

Western Digital has had a lot of experience supplying SMB NAS units with more than 2-bays, but those have been based on Microsoft's Windows Storage Server. On the consumer side, their attempts with a custom Debian-based embedded Linux NAS system were very functional and cost effective. We reviewed the WD My Cloud EX4 recently. Despite the feature-rich firmware, the design of the hardware platform (choice of SoC and I/O ports) brought down the performance. For the EX2, Western Digital has retained the same firmware / UI, but moved to a different hardware platform.

The specifications of the Western Digital My Cloud EX2 are given below:

Western Digital My Cloud EX2 Specifications
Processor Marvell ARMADA 370 (MV6710) (Single Core ARMv7 @ 1.2 GHz)
RAM 512 MB DDR3 RAM
Drive Bays 2x 3.5" SATA 6 Gbps HDD / SSD (Hot-swappable)
Network Links 1x 1 GbE
USB Slots 2x USB 3.0 
eSATA Slots None
Expansion Slots None
VGA / Display Out None
Full Specifications Link Western Digital My Cloud EX2 Full Specificatios

The EX2 runs a Linux kernel (v3.2.40). Other interesting aspects of the platform can be gathered after gaining SSH access into the unit.

In the rest of the review, we will cover the hardware aspects of the EX2 and provide some setup and usage impressions. This is followed by benchmarks in single and multi-client modes. For single client scenarios, we have both Windows and Linux benchmarks with CIFS and NFS shares. We will also have some performance numbers with encryption enabled. In the final section, power consumption numbers as well as RAID rebuild times will be covered along with some closing notes.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

Our NAS reviews use either SSDs or hard drives depending on the unit under test. While rackmounts and units equipped with 10GbE capabilities use SSDs, the others use hard drives. The My Cloud EX2 was evaluated using two WD Re (WD4000FYYZ) drives to keep comparisons consistent across different NAS units. Evaluation of NAS performance under both single and multiple client scenarios was done using the SMB / SOHO NAS testbed we described earlier.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid (1TB HDD + 100GB NAND)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evoluion 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:

Hardware Aspects and Usage Impressions
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  • lours - Tuesday, March 04, 2014 - link

    What is the default setup for the models that come with drives? What capacity are the drives? Reply
  • hlmcompany - Tuesday, March 04, 2014 - link

    As a whole, the unit comes in capacities of 0, 4, 6, and 8 TB. For the units that come with drives, they are the WD Red Drives, such as WD20EFRX, which are slower performing than the 7,200 rpm WD RE4 drives used in this review. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, March 04, 2014 - link

    Configurations with disks are ready to operate out of the box in RAID-1 configuration. So, a 4 TB model, say, will have 2 TB of usable space.

    As hlmcompany mentions, the WD Red drives are used.
    Reply
  • chubbypanda - Tuesday, March 04, 2014 - link

    Ganesh,

    Annoyingly enough, some WD previous models (My Book Studio II) would work only with WD Green drives. Looking at WD's list for EX2, situation is better in this case:

    http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=11...
    Reply
  • Oyster - Tuesday, March 04, 2014 - link

    This review (including some of the other NAS reviews) seems lacking. What's the point of just showing the read/write numbers without giving us the benchmarks. Like why not show us the comparison to Synology and QNAP 2-bay NAS devices? I'd be more informative to see the performance of things like VM images running off these devices as well. I hope this feedback is accounted for in the future reviews. Reply
  • hlmcompany - Tuesday, March 04, 2014 - link

    Agreed. There might even be some relevancy to comparing the My Cloud EX2 with the previous generation model sold as the My Book Live. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, March 04, 2014 - link

    We have already taken care of that aspect in the multi-client tests. Each graph has a drop-down menu under it that allows readers to view the results from the evaluation of similar NAS units. For example, this review lists other 2-bay NAS units that we have evaluated in a similar manner before. The ioSafe N2 presented as a comparison in this review is the Synology DS213. Unfortunately, we haven't evaluated any 2-bay QNAP units.

    We also have NASPT single-client results for more NAS units. Currently working on a way to integrate a comparison with a drop-down similar to what we have done for the multi-client tests.

    As for VM images, can you clarify the exact use-case? I was under the impression that users mount iSCSI volumes on VMs, and we already present iSCSI performance numbers. (at least, that is what I do with some of my VMs).
    Reply
  • romrunning - Tuesday, March 04, 2014 - link

    To clarify, the comparisons with other 2-bay NAS are only on the "Multi-Client Performance - CIFS" page. It would have been helpful to have them on the other pages with performance graphs, like the Single-client Windows page. That would make it much easier to compare the different models/vendors. Reply
  • Oyster - Tuesday, March 04, 2014 - link

    Well, mounting the iSCSI volumes is good, but what I meant was to show us the actual comparisons of VM images running from different devices. So a use case would be to do a big Visual Studio compile on a VM over iSCSI on devices from different vendors. All these vendors claim virtualization compliance, so it'd be nice to put numbers against such claims. Data could include network throughput and CPU/RAM consumption, for e.g. This would also help us understand how good some of the Marvell processors are against Atom/x86. As it stands now, the graphs are too confusing...

    Also, as others have pointed out, it's a bit tedious to go clicking through every device from the dropdown and not at all intuitive. If I want to look at HD video playback throughput, I should be able to just look at the line graphs of the different vendors in one chart. Kind of like the video card comparison.
    Reply
  • creed3020 - Tuesday, March 04, 2014 - link

    I also have to agree that a comparison to other reviewed devices is lacking. This could be in the form of updates to the charts so that they show different units e.g. Video Cards FPS benchmarks, or done verbally within the conclusion or it's own section doing a breakdown of each test.

    These devices are not in Bench so we cannot compare the data there either.
    Reply

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