Introduction and Testbed Setup

Western Digital is a comparatively recent entrant to the fast-growing NAS market. Despite having had a Windows Storage Server-based product for business users for some time now, a custom embedded-Linux based SMB-targeted model was lacking. Avoiding Windows in the NAS helps bring down the cost of the unit and also makes the units easier to manage for small businesses without dedicated IT staff. Last week, they officially launched the My Cloud EX2100 (2-bay) and EX4100 (4-bay) NAS units to target this market.

The chassis design of the EX4100 is very similar to that of the EX4 that we reviewed last year. Despite a smaller height and larger width, the design of the drive bays and the I/O ports are essentially the same. There is no drive caddy (which means that only 3.5" drives are supported). There is a information screen in the front panel with up and down buttons to navigate the current status messages. The main difference between the EX4 and the DL4100 is the presence of a USB 3.0 port along with a one-touch copy button in the front panel. The gallery below takes us around the contents of the package and the chassis design. Our review unit came with 6 TB WD Red drives pre-installed and pre-configured. The unit uses a 90W (19V @ 4.74A) power adapter.

The specifications of the WD My Cloud DL4100 are provided in the table below

WD My Cloud DL4100 Specifications
Processor Intel Atom C2338 (2C/2T Silvermont x86 @ 1.7 GHz)
RAM 2 GB
Drive Bays 4x 3.5" SATA II / III HDD / SSD (Hot-Swappable)
Network Links 2x 1 GbE
External I/O Peripherals 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
Expansion Slots N/A
VGA / Display Out N/A
Full Specifications Link WD My Cloud DL4100 Specifications
Price USD 530

Note that the $530 pricing is for the diskless unit. The 8 TB version sells for $850, 16 TB for $1170 and 24 TB for $1529.

Western Digital provides power users with SSH access to the unit, and this gives us some more insight into the platform.

WD uses Linux kernel version 3.10.38 in their 64-bit OS build. Even though the unit comes only with 2 GB of RAM, users can install a DDR3L SO-DIMM in one of the empty slots to push it up to 6 GB of RAM. Since the Rangeley SoC (Atom C2338) doesn't have any integrated USB 3.0 ports, the board must definitely be sporting a PCIe - USB 3.0 bridge. The SoC has support for up to 4x 1GbE ports, but does need external PHYs. A pair of Marvell Alaska 88E1512 PHYs are on board for this purpose. A 2 GB Micron SLC NAND flash chip holds the OS of the unit.

In the rest of the review, we will take a look at the benchmark numbers for both single and multi-client scenarios across a number of different client platforms as well as access protocols. We have a separate section devoted to the performance of the NAS with encrypted shared folders. Prior to all that, we will take a look at our testbed setup and testing methodology.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

The WD My Cloud DL4100 can take up to 4 drives. Users can opt for either JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6 or RAID 10 configurations. We expect typical usage to be with a RAID-5 or RAID-6 volume. However, to keep things consistent across different NAS units, we benchmarked a RAID-5 volume (i.e, single disk redundancy mode). Four Western Digital WD4000FYYZ RE drives were used as the test disks, even though our review unit shipped with 6 TB WD Red drives. Our testbed configuration is outlined below.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ Z-Drive R4 CM88 (1.6TB PCIe SSD)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evolution 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

The above testbed runs 25 Windows 7 VMs simultaneously, each with a dedicated 1 Gbps network interface. This simulates a real-life workload of up to 25 clients for the NAS being evaluated. All the VMs connect to the network switch to which the NAS is also connected (with link aggregation, as applicable). The VMs generate the NAS traffic for performance evaluation.

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:

Single Client Performance - CIFS & iSCSI on Windows
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  • Spoogie - Wednesday, March 04, 2015 - link

    People aren't buying into it. Get over it. Reply
  • pbrutsche - Wednesday, March 04, 2015 - link

    The fact that IT pros haven't adopted ZFS is not related to the RAID5/RAID6 issue; there are other reasons for that.

    I am an IT pro and I GUARANTEE that the issue with a URE (unrecoverable read event) during a RAID rebuild with large capacity drives is a VERY, VERY real concern that EVERYONE - EMC, Dell (MD3k series and EqualLogic), IBM, NetApp, Nimble, etc, etc - talks about, especially as the drives in your array get larger and larger.

    You need to ask Seagate, QNAP and Synology engineers why they don't use ZFS, but I can hazard a guess it comes down to money: the memory requirements to effectively run ZFS is much higher than a more traditional EXT3/EXT4-on-MD setup - the more the better, but 1GB or 2GB isn't going to cut it, and putting more memory in the NAS costs more money (the effective minimum for ZFS is 4GB). Since they have a HUGE investment in a Linux-based architecture switching the OS their appliance runs makes even less sense (my limited experience with ZFS on Linux is that is much less mature than ZFS on FreeBSD).

    One of the reasons IT pro haven't adopted ZFS comes down to this: People who are serious about IT have one saying (among many): You Do Not Frankenstein. Period, End Of Story.

    In terms of storage, home-built ZFS boxes (FreeNAS or whatever) count. So do these cheap (QNAP, Synology, Seagate, etc, etc) NAS appliances. Using one of these Seagate units (or QNAP, or Synology, or whatever) for iSCSI is pretty silly; the lack of redundant storage controllers renders them basically cheap test lab units.

    The only ZFS systems that count as not-frankensteined are boxes built around the SuperMicro SBB (storage bridge bay) chassis running Nexenta (one of the only OSes SuperMicro supports) and the Oracle ZFS Appliance setups.
    Reply
  • Spoogie - Wednesday, March 04, 2015 - link

    Here's another good read for the skeptics:

    https://www.cafaro.net/2014/05/26/why-raid-5-is-no...
    Reply
  • bsd228 - Monday, March 09, 2015 - link

    This guy failed statistics. 'Having more drives doesn't increase the risk of a failure event.'

    The problem is you don't care what the odds of 2 drives in the array having a URE. What you care about are the odds that none of the drives have a URE. If you accept his logic, then striped arrays are as safe as single drives.
    Reply
  • Oyster - Wednesday, March 04, 2015 - link

    This has been discussed numerous times. If you step into the QNAP and Synology world, you'll quickly realize that their solutions are well managed and efficient. In fact, their OSs (as for most other COTS vendors) are *nix distros that give you the full freedom and flexibility that any other FreeNAS or ZFS box would. Oh, and you end saving boatloads of time and effort. The last thing I want to do is spend days updating FreeNAS and/or ZFS (which I have in the past)... and what about the apps you get on QNAP and Synology!

    Ganesh -- you still owe us a proper review of the software ecosystems (at least cover QNAP and Synology). Will help debunk some of these "myths" and, of course, make for a good read!
    Reply
  • Gray05 - Wednesday, March 04, 2015 - link

    I just bought a Synology DS415+. I bought it after heavily weighing the option of building my own machine. I'm not an expert in this area, but I have no doubt I could learn anything I need to and take care of myself. But, the ultimate deciding factor was that I just didn't want to sacrifice any more of my own time than I have to. It would be fun to follow your suggestion, but I just don't have the time to throw at it to learn and troubleshoot when something goes wrong.

    There's a guy like you on every website or forum I've read on the topic. There's validity to what you're saying. But, my time is worth more than the premium I paid for my NAS. I plugged it in, it worked, and it hasn't shown any sign of not working yet. My applications don't demand extreme data loss prevention. I believe in redundant backups and I won't be in any trouble to lose any info between my last backup and a catastrophic failure.

    There is absolutely a market for these devices. You just aren't in it. And that's fine. It's not feasible for me to DIY everything.
    Reply
  • rtho782 - Thursday, March 05, 2015 - link

    I wanted to love FreeNas/Nas4Free, the Atom board I wanted to use didn't work well so I gave it a quad core Haswell i5 and 24GB ram, it was still horribly slow to do anything, the apps didn't work properly, it was a nightmare.

    At least these COTS devices "just work".
    Reply
  • Navvie - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    I can't speak for FreeNAS, but nas4free is certainly a product that 'just works'. You did something wrong. Reply
  • Das Capitolin - Thursday, March 05, 2015 - link

    I must have missed something. Isn't this 2015, and doesn't RAID5 still work? It seems to me that someone making such audacious claims that have since been repeatedly disproven would not be used to support your argument. Reply
  • hlmcompany - Wednesday, March 04, 2015 - link

    Ganesh, are the GbE ports "Marvell Alaska 88E1512" or Marvell Alaska 88E1518? Reply

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