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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  • Namisecond - Friday, December 20, 2013 - link

    when your wifi software reports a connection at 54mb/s your actual throughput is not going to be or anywhere near 54mb/s.
  • robinthakur - Thursday, November 28, 2013 - link

    There are many many devices (such as PS3, 360 etc) which cannot access MKV containers where transcoding is the only option from a NAS or building an XBMC frontend box, which is still quite expensive and leads to one more power hungry device on the network. Being able to run XBMC with a media output from the NAS itself would actually be a much better solution for me as long as the CPU isn't getting hit constantly and the deive is near silent. Some people use Android based XBMC, but if you need lossless HD Audio, codec support and proper refresh rate support, your best, quietest, smallest option is actually a Mac mini running XBMC, but they do cost...
  • YaBaBom - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Think users who have laptops/tablets/phones--if they have different devices with different capabilities, it's nice to be able to transcode the content from a high-bitrate original to something that best fits the mobile device. Plex does this automatically via software encoding on Windows boxes--i was really hoping to read that it could use the hardware encoder to do the same thing for multiple users (My old Core2Duo server struggles to do this for just one stream).
  • Nephelai - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    Two pc's each with a data disk. /robocopy once per week. Job done. NAS /shrug
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    For the average household, 2 PCs at idle will probably consume upward of 40 W (minimum -- assuming they are Atom / Brazos based ones). This one, at load, consumes less than 35 W. You will still miss the mobile app data access functionality and lot of other perks provided by a NAS.
  • Mumrik - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    "However, we never got around to publishing a dedicated review due to severe usability issues with the firmware."

    No idea how that logic works out. Sounds like it should be a negative review.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    That was for the Thecus N4800, not the N2560 ; The latter being a 2-bay NAS -- as I mentioned in the summary -- can be an ideal backup target.
  • Hrel - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    "The Thecus N2560 is a 2-bay NAS, and most users are going to use it in a RAID-1 configuration." Based on what? I would only use RAID 0 for a 2 bay NAS. If you mirror you lose half your storage and gain no speed.

    I've never had a hdd fail on me, so that's not really a concern. But even if I did all the data is backed up to external hdd's as well as the NAS.

    What good is a NAS if you have to buy 2 to hold all your stuff? Makes much more sense to have external hdd's as data backup.
  • Gumby_ - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    For a lot of home users and I'd hedge a guess that for the majority purchasing a 2 bay NAS enclosure, it IS their backup device as well as network attached storage. Should it be? No, is it, probably. Running raid0 would be insanity for this use case.
  • ChoppedBroccoli - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    2 bay NAS with two 1-3TB drives in RAID1 + a service like crashplan is what I am going for (and seems what the majority of users should probably go for).

    With this you get the following:
    * Disk drive failure protection
    * Location disaster protection via offsite backup (either Crashplan's servers or your house can burn down)
    * 1-3TB of backup space (more than enough for the majority of people)
    * Ability to do time machine/windows backups to a partition on these drives wirelessly
    * Ability to stream this data to any mobile device

    Basically these 2 bay NAS systems really shine when you have a cloud backup service running on the NAS itself.

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