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.


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  • chizow - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    It's not just the extra "physical" bays, it's the extra support for the extra features as well as the additional CPU grunt and RAM you generally get with these upgraded units. These add up to additional premium that you undoubtedly see in review results whne jumping up from entry level 2-bay to 4-6-8 bay SOHO NAS units.
  • otherwise - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    For the two NAS' ace240; the software; CPU; and Memory is the same.
  • Gigaplex - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    What they charge and how much it costs them to make are separate things.
  • Solandri - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    But addressing the GP's original question, the cost to make these things does not matter. People keep buying the 2-bay NASes because the manufacturers keep pricing them 4-bay NASes substantially higher.

    The price premium was big enough for me to build my own 4-drive homebrew NAS. For non-techy people (e.g. my parents) I just get them a 2-bay off-the-shelf NAS.
  • Hrel - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    I'm sure you're right on actual cost. But the 4 bay ones start $200 higher than the 2 bay NAS's. So it makes a lot more sense to buy a 2 bay NAS in RAID 0 and if you want your data backed up beyond that to just use the cloud or external hdd's.
  • easp - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    Why do people continue to think that products are or should be priced on marginal cost? The up-front engineering and product development costs are often a significant consideration.

    These engineering efforts are generally focused on an entire product family, and the overall economics of the product family are often predicated on the fact that some of the members of the product line will have larger margins, and others will have smaller margins. Moreover, it is the lower-end items that tend to have the smallest margins, so taking the low-end products as the baseline further distorts the conclusions.
  • brucek2 - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    This website caters to many hardware enthusiasts who frequently build their own systems, including servers and/or storage systems. If a manufacturer is going to arbitrarily add phantom costs to build(s) with certain configurations, it means that enthusiasts who want those configurations will be more likely to build vs buy in those cases (or switch to the more cost effective configurations.)

    I have no problem with manufacturers recovering their R&D and making profits. It just sounds in this case like both the hardware BOM and the R&D are very similar for the two models, leading to what I feel is a legitimate question why one would be priced at double the cost of the other.
  • easp - Thursday, December 5, 2013 - link

    Enthusiasts often make the mistake of thinking that they are the target market for every product they see. They aren't, particularly when they don't value their time very highly. I'm guilty of the latter (I buy cheap Xyzel NASs when they are on sale for the purpose of running debian), but I try hard to avoid the former.

    As to your sense that both hardware BOM and R&D are very similar for the two models, my original point is that reaching that conclusion suggests deeply flawed assumptions. R&D (and marketing costs) costs aren't distributed equally across all members of product families. Some models will have lower prices, lower cost of goods sold and lower margins, while others have higher cost of goods, and disproportionately higher margins and final selling price.

    If it helps, look at it this way, if every tier in a product family bore an equal share of R&D and marketing costs, with consistent margins, then the higher-tier models would be somewhat cheaper, but the lower-tier models would be more expensive.
  • ShieTar - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    Difficult to say. With four drives instead of two, you get more heat, more vibrations, more mass. You might hit some design threshold, where all of a sudden you need to have a wider base, use different screws for fixation or add another cooling component.

    I also think that there are actually plenty of customers who are happy with even a single drive in one of those. Just something to put movies and music on for all family members, and if the drive fails, so what. Its not like anybody made backups of his videotapes in the last century. So for the mass market, it probably makes sense to have a inexpensive 2-Bay unit, plenty of people will check for the cheapest unit which supports what they plan to do.
  • puremind - Saturday, November 30, 2013 - link

    Why would you want an extra Bay if you are not prepared to purchase extra drives anyways?

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