Intel's EvanSport NAS Platform

Intel's recent foray into the consumer electronics (CE) space started with the 2007 launch of the Intel CE 2110 media processor. It was intended for digital set top boxes and media players / recorders. Based on a 1 GHz Intel XScale processor core, it had all the necessary integrated DSPs, GPUs, encryption engines and other I/Os. Around the same time, the Intel XScale business was sold to Marvell. Therefore, the follow-up Intel CE 3100 series for the same target market was based on a 800 MHz Intel Pentium M processor. The development of the Atom microarchitecture made it necessary to have yet another shift when it came to the Intel CE 4100. Fortunately, both Intel CE 4100 and the follow-up, CE 5300, are based around Atom cores. In an effort to branch out, the Intel CE 5300 series first debuted as a STB / media player platform (tagged Berryville in March 2012). A year later, it was also re-launched as a storage platform, EvanSport, for home users with media-centric usage patterns.

The CE5300 SoC ticks all the necessary I/O interfaces and features necessary for a media streaming platform. On the networked storage front, the blocks of interest are the high speed IOs, the GMAC and the security processor. We have one GbE interface. The typical x86 2-bay NAS usually comes with dual network ports (capable of port trunking), but units based on EvanSport are unlikely to have that. This is acceptable, considering that the unit is supposed to cater to home consumers who want to use it as a media server.

The other aspect of interest is the number of SATA and PCIe lanes. Two SATA ports point to most EvanSport designs ending up with two hard drive bays. As more and more data is generated by home consumers (thanks to smartphones which make it easier for users to shoot pictures and videos), two bays may not be sufficient moving forward (particularly when RAID protection is applied). NAS vendors may choose to use the two PCIe lanes along with a SATA bridge to provide two additional SATA ports on the board. Therefore, the maximum number of bays that we can hope to see with acceptable performance in a EvanSport-based NAS will be four.

The security processor is an interesting component. It contains an AES engine, but is primarily meant for handling DRM content in a STB environment. It should potentially be possible to use it to accelrate performance of encrypted volumes. However, it is up to the NAS vendors to take advantage of the feature.


Introduction Setup and Usage Impressions
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  • SeeManRun - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    I do not understand why someone would buy a NAS with only 2 bays. They keep making these products, so obviously people are buying them, but if you are technically savvy enough to know you need a NAS, wouldn't you want one with more bays?
    I have been toying with building my own, and I could not bother for less than 6 drives in a RAID 5 solution.
  • brucek2 - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    I was wondering this exact thing. Plus, what's the marginal cost for an extra bay or two anyway? I'd expect the hard manufacturing costs for a 2 drive unit would be 80-90% of the 4 drive unit?
  • kelstertx - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    I agree too, but the thing that comes to mind in favor of a 2 bay over 4 bay is if you wanted separate arrays for redundancy. A 2 bay with Raid 0 for size, and a second 2 bay with the same config lets you do backups and upgrade arrays as drive sizes get more affordable -- without having to wipe out your only array of data. Nice NAS boxes should allow addition of more drives and automatic resize for you, but this one can't even rebuild its own array from a failed drive in Raid 1, so it probably can't be trusted to resize either. So if basic storage was reliable, a pair of 2 bay boxes gets around the issue of trusting advanced things like recovery and resizing. Just guessing tho... I'd still get a 4 bay myself.
  • Integr8d - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Why not get a 4-bay and create two separate volumes for disks 0 and 1 and then 2 and 3? As far as I know, these are all software raid. I own an 8-bay Synology that uses no hardware for the storage math. And it's all resizable. So I'd think that RAID 0 on two volumes within the same box should be no problemo.

    The question on my mind is what RAID 0 even buys you in these systems. Unless you're running dual or quad Gig-E or 10Gig, what are you buying, besides a larger volume (and the added possibility of something going wanky)? I think that for the average user, four drives, with two each in RAID 1, makes more sense.
  • Morawka - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    increased writes and read speeds on RAID 0 even with 2 drives..

    I myself would slap 2X 4GB drives in Raid 1. You wont get Double write but you would get double read speeds.
  • Minion4Hire - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    You don't see read improvements in RAID1. Nothing tangible or useful anyhow. But that's what he's getting at; modern hard drives can saturate gigabit ethernet with sequential reads. There isn't really a need for RAID0.
  • Doomtomb - Monday, December 2, 2013 - link

    You'd slap 2x 4GB hard drives together? My flash drive has more space than that.
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, December 4, 2013 - link

    Pretty sure he meant TB, not GB, which is the norm with home-based NAS.
  • ace240 - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    You might expect that, but you'd be wrong. One example:
    DS213j (entry level Synology 2-bay NAS): $199
    DS413j (entry level Synology 4-bay NAS): $379
  • brucek2 - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Those are retail prices to consumers. My question ran to, how much did Synology have to pay to include those two extra bays? My guess is, unless they upgraded the cpu / networking / other chipsets to support more simultaneous clients (which would not be a necessity for me), a unit built on the same platform as the 2 drive unit but just offering space for 2 more drives should not cost much more.

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