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)
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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  • kepstin - Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - link

    Hmm, you say "the board must definitely be sporting a PCIe - USB 3.0 bridge", but then don't bother to look up the PCI ids from the lspci output. The device "1b21" "1142" is an ASMedia ASM1042A USB 3.0 Host Controller.
  • pwr4wrd - Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - link

    Building a custom FreeNas or Nas4Free box depending on your needs is a much better solution than any one of these anemic underpowered and overpriced solutions. Presence of ZFS on FreeNas is by far the most critically important aspect. If data loss prevention and integrity top priority, which should be, there are two great articles by Robin Harris. These articles are titled "Has Raid5 Stopped working?" and "Why Raid5 stops working in 2009" can be found with a quick search. Mr. Harris clearly explains the inadequacy of Raid5 and 6 as viable storage solutions. As far as I am concerned, most of these off the shelf units are not good options for data safety. Considering the rock solid encryption option ZFS offers its value becomes even more important.
  • Black Obsidian - Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - link

    People considering COTS NAS boxes are doing so either because they're a business that needs real support, or a consumer who needs ease-of-use and hand-holding, all of which being areas that a custom FreeNAS/Nas4Free box utterly fails to deliver. While both are great products, their target market doesn't have much overlap with the target market of these COTS boxes.

    The articles by Robin Harris are unimpressive. He assumes that the advertised BER is a maximum, where in fact it appears to be a minimum (and several consumer lines advertise higher than 10^14 anyway). He also over-dramatizes an array rebuild failure due to read error; in that event, you simply create a new array from scratch and restore data from backups, since unlike Harris, you remember that RAID is a solution for AVAILABILITY, not backup.
  • pwr4wrd - Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - link

    I see your points. Our data is very important to us at our business. So we have to approach things as worst case scenario possibility. And some arguments made here make no sense. For businesses that NEED serious support this is NOT that SERIOUS of a product. And yes FreeNas does offer home/soho version of the product that was very well reviewed. For the individual that needs "hand-holding" availability of RAID means next to nothing. A simple back up drive from costco would do fine.
  • Spoogie - Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - link

    This has been debunked, which is why ZFS adoption has not taken hold.
  • pbrutsche - Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - link

    Sorry, that link doesn't explain why ZFS hasn't taken hold.
  • Spoogie - Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - link

    The fact that IT pros haven't adopted it in in spite of this sort of debunked fear mongering makes it pretty clear. Don't believe it? Fine, then use ZFS if it makes you feel better.
  • pwr4wrd - Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - link

    How can you fear monger in order to capitalize on a free product?
  • dave_the_nerd - Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - link

    It's not free if you have to buy a support contract and consulting services from iXSystems.
  • dave_the_nerd - Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - link

    Are you running your business without support agreements/maintenance contracts on your servers? *horror*

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