x86-based NAS units targeting SMB consumers are usually of the 4-bay or more variety. However, there is a growing market for 2-bay high-performance units. Almost all major NAS vendors have an Atom-based 2-bay SMB NAS unit. We have not reviewed any 2-bay x86-based NAS units before, but a number of such units have been evaluated in our testbed. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at some notes from our evaluations. Today, we are going to look at Netgear's 2-bay SMB offering, the ReadyNAS 312.

Netgear's storage lineup has been in a bit of flux over the last few years. While the x86-based versions have been quite stable, their SOHO / home consumer lineup had to shift from SPARC-based units to ARM-based ones. We covered the reboot of the ReadyNAS OS for ARM-based units in the review of the ReadyNAS NV+ v2. Despite Netgear's promise to work on adding features and making the new ReadyNAS OS better to use, here we are, two years later, looking at yet another reboot of the ReadyNAS OS.

In terms of redesign, ReadyNAS OS 6.0 is the most ambitious yet. Unlike other NAS vendors who opt for the safety of the proven EXT3 / EXT4 file system for the internal volumes, Netgear has opted for the cutting-edge BTRFS. The benefits of BTRFS over EXT3 / EXT4 are numerous. These include checksumming for integrity, in-built snapshotting mechanisms, continuous defragmentation, online data compression, scrubbing with error correction and built-in storage pools which make a separate LVM unnecessary. Compared to ZFS, the memory requirements are more manageable, but, deduplication support in ZFS is much better. However, there is an impression amongst some IT folks that btrfs is not stable enough for deployment in production environments. Netgear indicates that btrfs is part of Oracle's production kernel and, currently, the same code and kernel are being used in ReadyNAS OS 6.x.

The specifications of the RN312 are provided below:

Netgear ReadyNAS 312 Specifications
Processor Intel Atom D2701 (2C/4T, 2.13 GHz)
Drive Bays 2x 3.5"/2.5" SATA 6 Gbps HDD / SSD (Hot-swappable)
Network Links 2x 1 GbE
USB Slots 2x USB 3.0 / 1x USB 2.0
eSATA Slots 1x
Expansion Slots None
VGA / Display Out HDMI
Full Specifications Link Netgear ReadyNAS 312 Full Specificatios

The ReadyNAS 312 runs a Linux kernel (v3.0.87). 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 setup and usage impressions followed by a description of our testbed setup and testing methodology for the ReadyNAS 312. 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.

Setup and Usage Impressions
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  • mcfrede - Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - link

    Final paragraph states the product name as the "ReadyNSA" am I the only one to find that interpretation hilarious? (sorry for being slightly off topic).
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - link

    Thanks for noticing that. I fixed the typo now :)
  • jramskov - Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - link

    Using btrf is certainly an interesting choice. It would be nice to see an article that explains the advantages of using it instead of ext4.
  • WilliamG - Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - link

    Ganesh, Thanks for the review - just wondering if you know if this unit supports Hyper-V virtual machines via SMB ? I have been trying to find out from Netgear for a couple of days but no one can answer me. Windows 2012 R2 Hyper-V allows the use of SMB 3 file shares to host virtual machine files. Can this unit work for me? thanks in advance
  • warezme - Thursday, November 14, 2013 - link

    To be honest I haven't ever really considered a NAS for storage but if I were, a two bay NAS seems a bit useless to me. So you can do RAID 1 and lose half of your storage or do RAID 0 and gain your space but lose any hopes of recovery if one of your drives dies. Wouldn't a 3 bay NAS be the minimum common sense size?
  • bsd228 - Thursday, November 14, 2013 - link

    You don't lose half your storage with Raid1. Unreliable storage has limited value. You keep all of your data if one drive fails, which is a lot better than what happens with a failure on any of those 1 disk NAS units out there. If you want capacity or higher performance, then you get a 4+ disk unit, or roll your own.
  • brian.goodman - Saturday, December 7, 2013 - link

    When I had a drive failure on the first drive of the RAID pair in my old ReadyNAS Duo, I learned that the second RAID drive was not accessible, since the ReadyNAS Duo boots from an operating system installed on the first drive. ReadyNAS RAIDar could not even see the NAS, so it was not possible to diagnose the problem through the software interface. Instead I had to decode the blinking lights on the ReadyNAS to deduce that the first drive had failed.

    Is this still the case in the current generation of ReadyNAS products? In fact is that the case with other NAS products?

    Losing the ability to use RAIDar and Frontview was a big surprise and I would have expected that to be flagged in product reviews. What happens after drive failure is not something I have seen reported in any NAS review, but it is very important, as most users expect to be able to access the second RAID drive in case of failure.

    Could you add failure mode analysis to your reviews, covering whether the NAS is accessible through software for diagnostic purposes (as against physical inspection of a box), and whether the remaining drives of a multi-drive NAS are actually useable one a failure mode occurs?



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