|QNAP TS-659 Pro II NAS Network Server|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Network|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Thursday, 09 June 2011|
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Closer Look: QNAP TS-659 Pro II
The QNAP TS-659 Pro II has more capacity than most NAS units in the market. Six bays can theoretically hold 18TB of data, in JBOD mode. Very few people with that much data are going to want to live without it for any length of time, so some sort of RAID configuration is called for. With six active drive bays, the main choices are going to be RAID 5, 6, or 10, depending on what type of data is primarily stored on the device. Despite its popularity, RAID 5 suffers from severe write performance limitations in large multi-user databases applications. RAID 10 eliminates this problem, at the expense of capacity, but for some uses it's a much better solution. RAID 6 offers some additional redundancy, allowing for continued operation even with two simultaneous drive failures, with no significant performance hit and only one additional drive. This option is very popular because if one individual drive fails in a RAID 5 implementation, the array instantly starts operating as a RAID 0 configuration, which has NO redundancy. It stays in that vulnerable state until the array is rebuilt, which is generally a very slow process.
The bottom line with any high performance storage solution is that the number of drive spindles in play is more important than almost any other factor, assuming that everything else is based on reasonably modern technology. When you combine the higher level of performance with the greater flexibility for online RAID capacity expansion & online RAID level migration, the additional cost of the extra drive bays looks like a bargain instead of conspicuous consumption. What initially looks like overkill in a NAS system might just be the very thing that saves the day some years down the road. With 2 Terabyte drives both affordable and readily available in performance and Green versions, six bays will most likely house all the files that 2-3 people can create in the span of 3-5 years. That's the average planned life cycle for modern IT equipment, at least for primary use. It may get re-purposed, or upgraded or passed down because it still has life left in it, but in five years almost every piece of IT hardware you own now will have evolved to the point where the new capabilities and features are too tempting to pass up.
The QNAP TS-659 Pro II shares the same basic technology platform as all the TS-x59 Pro II models, but the chunky profile sets it apart from the smaller units. It also weighs a bit more, especially with all six drives bays filled. The empty TS-259 Pro NAS unit weighs about 11.5 lbs, and adding six 2 TB hard drives piles on another 10 lbs to that. At 20+ pounds, it's never going to pass for a portable device, but it's still easier to pick up and move around than most any PC case that can hold six HDDs. Never mind one that supports six external drive bays, in addition to one more internal bay for the HDD with the operating system on it. If I had to describe it visually to someone who knew nothing about NAS devices, I'd tell them it looks like a big, restaurant toaster with a smart, German design. Oh, and the toast slides in from the front. Clever, eh?
Multiple SATA 6Gb/s drives can be installed as a single disk, RAID 0 (Disk Striping), RAID 1 (Disk Mirroring), RAID 5 (Block-level striping with distributed parity), RAID 6 (Block-level striping with double distributed parity), RAID 10 (AKA RAID 1+0, a stripe of mirrors), and JBOD (Linear Disk Volume). Each drive can be formatted using FAT, NTFS, EXT3, or EXT4 file systems, and also offers AES 256-bit encryption. Our tests utilize EXT4-formatted disks without encryption. QNAP uses a steel-framed tray with black plastic latches for each drive bay on the TS-659 Pro II, which is a common part across a large part of the product line. Each tray stands on edge, slides smoothly into the NAS and locks firmly into place. If additional security is desired, the barrel locks can secure the drives in place; they are keyed alike, and two duplicate keys are provided. The drive trays easily accommodate 2.5" drives without any additional hardware; QNAP does not recommend mixing 3.5" and 2.5" drives in the same enclosure. They do offer some small form factor units that are specifically designed for 2.5" drives, and those models are less expensive than the full size units. It's worth investigating them if handling 2.5" SATA drives is a requirement for you.
QNAP adds a few extra features on the front face of the Pro II models with an LCD screen and indicator lights on the bezel above each drive bay. A single power button and USB 3.0 copy button and port are located on the lower left corner of the Turbo NAS. The older models had status indicator lights built into the buttons; on the newer Pro II versions, all the status lights are grouped together just above the first two drive bays. There are four status lights which indicate System Status, LAN activity, USB activity, and the presence of an eSATA device connected on the back panel. Above each drive bay, behind a solid strip of acrylic are indicators with bi-color LEDs to show the status of each HDD. Red means the system is checking the drive bay or there is an error reading or writing to the drive, green means the drive is present and OK, flashing green means the drive is being accessed. To the far left on this acrylic strip is the power indicator, which is green when the unit is on.
There's a single strip of ventilation holes on the left side of the QNAP TS-659 Pro II Turbo NAS. This is the primary entry point for cool air to the dual-core Intel Atom processor, as the system board is located on this side of the unit. Fresh air also enters through the drive trays, passes over the HDDs and is then exhausted out through two 90mm cooling fan on the rear of the unit.
The QNAP TS-659 Pro II Turbo NAS server is equipped with an Intel Atom-D525 dual-core processor, which is clocked to 1.8 GHz, and there is 1GB of DDR2 system memory installed at the factory. This is near the top-of-the-line spec for CPU and memory in QNAP NAS servers, and it should provide good performance in a six-bay unit. There are two-bay units in the product line with the same CPU and DRAM specs, and they clearly vanquish any potential processing bottlenecks. In the 8 and 12-bay units the CPU gets a big bump, up to Intel Core i3 Dual Core (3.30 GHz) and Intel Xeon Quad Core (3.10 GHz), giving a solid clue to the real computing requirements for a full featured, high performance NAS. Those inexpensive, shiny boxes that use port replication hardware fall flat on their faces when asked to pull anything more than light duty. QNAP employs a dual-redundant 512MB Disk-on-Module (DOM) flash drive to store firmware and applications on the TS-269 Pro II motherboard. This acts like the system drive, yet it takes up very little space and uses almost no power. Plus, there's a built-in backup drive in case of data corruption on the primary module. Just the sort of thing you need for a high-availability system. Notice, I didn't say high reliability; I'll tackle the differences in my Final Thoughts.
Starting at the top, the big news for this new model is the inclusion of USB 3.0 ports, on both the front and rear of the NAS. Finally, there is an easy and inexpensive way to connect portable drive enclosures for making copies of your data. I always like to have a full set of backups stored at an alternate location. Now, that's easy, fast and cheap. The capability has been there for some time, on most of the QNAP NAS units, in the form of twin eSATA expansion ports, but eSATA has never been as cheap or easy to implement as USB. Dual Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45 ports are provided, which can be configured in a variety of load balancing configurations, or as two separate adapters with independent MAC addresses. Each port is powered by an Intel 82574 Ethernet Controller, which offers a full set of features to take full advantage of whatever network environment the server is placed in. The IEEE 802.3ab standard (1000Base-T) interface enables Gigabit Ethernet to run over Category 5 copper cable and can be readily used in most 10/100 Ethernet networks without changing cables. The TS-259 Pro supports 4074, 7418, and 9000 bytes for MTU when Jumbo Frames are enabled. Note that Jumbo Frames are only available in a Gigabit network environment. Four Hi-Speed USB 2.0 ports are positioned beside the Ethernet ports, and the system Reset button is below that, recessed inside the case to prevent accidental actuation. Two levels of reset capability are provided, Basic System Reset (hold for 3 sec), and Advanced System Reset (hold for 10 sec). A Kensington lock hole along the bottom edge allows administrators to securely tether the enclosure.
The drives get installed in removable drive trays, which some people call drive caddies, but I prefer the term "tray". The four bottom mounting holes on each HDD are utilized, and that's the only option. Because the tray and drive need to solidly engage the SATA connectors on the backplane, there is no realistic way to include shock mounting for the drives. Of course, in a couple of years someone like Lian Li will do just that, and prove me wrong.... The tray is made from carbon steel and then plated for corrosion resistance. The latching mechanism is a combination of steel and plastic, and each tray is labeled with the slot number. They are all physically identical and you can mix and match them all you want, until you build a drive array and then you had better remember which one goes where, if you ever take them out. Seriously, keep them in the same, sequential order they ship in - creativity and imagination are completely out of place in this one instance.
Now that we've had a thorough tour of the exterior, let's do a tear-down and see what the insides look like. The next section covers Insider Details.