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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  • Bob Todd - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    You nailed it with the appliance reference. There's a lot of people out there who know enough, or have been screwed by a lack of backups when disaster struck before, that want a simple redundant backup solution. They don't have 20TB of blu-ray rips, they just want to keep their documents/family photos/etc. safe from hardware failures. I bought a cheap 2 bay Iomega ix2 for my parents when Newegg had them on sale for $80 and it's already saved me from a data related headache. For myself I built a much more capable home server, but our needs are completely different.
  • JeffS - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    I have been using a 2-bay Synology NAS for years now. It draws very little power, takes up minimal space in my networking closet, and was ridiculously easy to configure. Even this older NAS supports 2 TB drives, and I'm running them in RAID 1. Just the other day, one died on me, and I was alerted by an alarm and yellow LEDs. I popped in a new drive, the RAID rebuilt, and I was good to go. When I've got 10,000 images from my cameras on a system, I do not want to tinker with it- I just want it to work. This little 2-bay box let me remove the local storage from all of the PCs in the house and put it in a place where I can easily back it up and where there's redundancy. Access is slower than on a local drive, but it's not bad over gigabit wired Ethernet.

    In short, I have enough other things to tinker with that I don't want to fuss with my NAS. The software is polished & convenient, and all I really need is redundancy in a small footprint, so a 2-bay unit is perfect for me.
  • Namisecond - Friday, December 20, 2013 - link

    Might want to check your data for corruption after a drive goes south. RAID 1 doesn't offer data correction.
  • Duodecim - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    I'm very technical, and I want a 2-bay NAS or enclosure. Two reasons:

    I don't trust cheap non-battery backed RAID controllers, nor their rebuild procedures; RAID adds complexity with dubious benefits in a lot of end-consumer situations. You'd be better off manually sync'ing disks or creating snapshots (by means of hardlinks like rsync or Time Machine, or by means of filesystems like btrfs and zfs) and having the benefit that you can retrieve files that you accidentally deleted. Even if the RAID itself works fine, if you knock over the NAS, lightning strikes, you burn down your house or somebody runs off with all your gadgets, you better have backups somewhere else – you'd be better off with 2-bay non-RAID enclosures in different places than putting all your eggs in one basket.

    The other reason is the added heat, noise, power consumption and space when running a loaded 4, 5 or even 8-bay enclosure. That's assuming your data fits in a 2-bay enclosure, of course.
  • Oscarcharliezulu - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    You are exactly right about snapshots vs raid. When you share data with the family and especially kids, being able to restore previous versions or accidentally deleted files is the biggest benefit. Then having 2 nas boxes means if one dies due to its power supply or some other hardware (non disk) problem, you have a redundant backup. Do people really need raid 6 for their torrent files? For photos yes but really for your ripped off media? No.
  • Namisecond - Friday, December 20, 2013 - link

    Depends on what you're torrenting...For any archival purpose, RAID 6 is recommended. It really sucks when that snapshot you took turns out to be unreadable because 1 of your mirrored drives was going and spread the corruption to the other drives.
  • easp - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    1. Two bay devices are significantly cheaper, and accommodates enough storage for me now.
    2. Buying excess capacity now is foolish, because it will generally be cheaper when I actually need it. Moreover, I'd rather age out older drives and replace them, rather than keep them around and add to them.
    3. Having two two-bay devices provides me with more redundancy than one four bay device. I generally duplicated data between devices, rather than between drives in the same device.
    4. I'm not convinced that the upsides of RAID5/6 make up for the downsides, especially since I don't need 4-5 drives worth of raw storage.
  • CSMR - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    For a lot of people 1 bay is sufficient. Most people's family data will fit on 4TB. Having a NAS is just as advantageous in this situation.

    Just because you are technically savvy does not mean you have more than 4TB of data you need to put on your network.
  • puremind - Saturday, November 30, 2013 - link

    Against 4+ bays:
    -Cost of upgrading hard drives
    Increased cooling need

    With 2 bay:
    You ALREADY get access to all of the features that NAS has to offeI, i.e. DNS, Home Media Streaming Server, Android Apps to access media and files from your smartphone, detached storage that your laptop can access wirelessly from you sleeping room to stream HD content to your home cinema.

    That's why 2bay is so popular. Consumers don't buy NAS systems for redundancy but for the features and convenienceof accessing all bulky media wirelessly. It is a kind of storage extension for laptops that can't afford that kind of space and bulkiness.
  • Silma - Sunday, December 1, 2013 - link

    I agree absolutely it is an enigma for me.
    A non-tech person would be better buying a LaCie (or whatever) 2-mirrored drive solution which he would plug in directly.

    Tech people would be better off with much more hard drive.
    I did study the market 3 years ago and came to the conclusion that I would have to build it myself to stay within budget.
    So I bought 6 1.5 TB hard drives (best GB/$ at the time) plus an LSI raid controller, and configured the drives in RAID 6 for maximum availability. This setup was less expensive than an enclosure with 0 drive and a much less powerful much slower raid system.

    Today I don't think anything has changed. What's more I don't see any enclosure specialized in 2.5 (e.g. SSD) but I didn't research much.

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