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Written by Bruce Normann   
Wednesday, 08 February 2012
Table of Contents: Page Index
QNAP TS-879U-RP NAS Network Storage Rack Server
QNAP v3.5 New Features-Home
QNAP v3.5 New Features-Business
Closer Look: QNAP TS-879U-RP
Insider Details: QNAP TS-879U-RP
Technology Details: QNAP TS-879U-RP
QNAP Turbo NAS Features
QNAP TS-879U-RP NAS Hardware
QNAP TS-879U-RP Software
QPKG Center Software Expansion
NAS Testing Methodology
Basic-Disk Test Results
RAID 5 Test Results
NAS System Overhead Measurements
NAS Server Final Thoughts
QNAP TS-879U-RP Conclusion

Insider Details: QNAP TS-879U-RP Turbo NAS

The top cover is easily removed once two thumb screws on the back panel are taken care of. The modular layout is quite evident; the main board takes up a large part of the total footprint. The drive bays at the front of the unit use almost the same amount of space, just more rectangular, and the power supply area is a smaller, but still significant part of the overall arrangement. I pulled the fan package out for this image, to show the full scope of the main PCB. Some things to look for, that we'll see in more detail as we continue the tear down, are: the memory slots, the two x8 PCI Express slots, the DOM memory board, and the two heatsinks showing the locations of the Sandy Bridge CPU and PCH (Platform Controller Hub, nee Southbridge).


From this angle you can see the size of the CPU heatsink a little better, and the fan module is installed in this image, as well. Each of the three fans is a San Ace 60mm unit from premium maker Sanyo Denki, that's 38mm thick and PWM controlled. They are designed to handle higher backpressure than a typical PC case fan sees, both because of the layout of the device and the fact that it may run 24/7 for years without anyone cleaning it. Because cooling is such an important element of the overall reliability for devices like this, there's no good excuse for failing to clean things on a regular basis, especially since the modular fan assembly is designed to be quickly and easily removed and replaced. There's even a warning sticker on the fans that tells you exactly how long you can expect the NAS to run without it, just in case some technician thinks he can take it out for cleaning right before his lunch break. The electronics obviously need their fair share of cooling, but with up to eight HDDs crammed into a tight space, there is a great need to keep them cool, as well. Hard drive life is closely linked to operating temperature, and drive life is definitely something that most users of this unit will be concerned about.


Near the middle of the TS-879U-RP, the main board ends, and several PCI-e edge connectors transfer the signals to a vertical board that serves as the backplane for all the SATA HDD connectors. It's not just a passive board, there are drive controller ICs and a significant FPGA chip located on the backplane. This is consistent with how QNAP builds their larger tower models, putting the controllers closer to the drives they are responsible for. Each Marvell 88SE9125 SATA controller chip handles two drives, so the board isn't littered with these chips, but they're easy enough to spot. There's a fairly large open space above the drive bays that is home to a small board for driving the display and the front panel controls. On the 12 bay TS-1279U-RP, which shares a similar chassis, this space would be filled with drives. It's not only the chassis that's similar; the main PC board is silk-screened with a TS-1279 designation. There are a couple of empty solder pads where a third instance of a controller IC would probably be installed, were this board built up to the full TS-1279 specs.


Here's something you don't see every day on a NAS server: x8 PCI Express slots, two of them. This is where you have to go if you want to get the full performance that the TS-879U-RP is capable of. Plain old 1000BASE-T limits throughput to about 120 MB/s, and the potential is there for way over 1000 MB/s in this model. You really only need one of these PCIe slots, since most 10GbE NICs come in a dual-port configuration, but products of this caliber need to have some degree of future-proofing built into them. Right next to the expansion slots is the dual-redundant 512MB Disk-On-Module (DOM) PC board which contains two complete, independent operating systems. If one OS fails, the system reboots with the spare OS, and then immediately starts to repair and rebuild the OS on the corrupted module. All this takes place automatically, without user input.


The memory controller is integrated on the Intel Sandy Bridge CPU, and it is designed to handle DDR3-1066 and 1333 memory modules in its native configuration. The QNAP TS-879U-RP comes standard with 2GB of ADATA DDR3-1333 CL9 memory, which is installed in one of two DIMM sockets located on the main board. The specs for the TS-879U-RP call out a maximum memory capacity of 4 GB, but users have reported success with installing two 4GB DIMMS, and running with 8GB of system memory. Based on my testing, these folks must be running some of the more challenging apps on their boxes, because straight data transfers use very little of the NAS memory capacity.


The latches on the socket where the factory memory was installed are firmly held closed by a nylon wire tie, installed during the system build. At first I thought it was some sort of anti-tamper measure, but I think it's really there to make sure the memory module doesn't get loose. There's actually a lot of vibration in data center racks, mostly due to hard drives and cooling fans, so it makes sense to tie everything down. Airplanes also have a lot of vibration, and I can tell you from experience shipping machinery to Japan, that things WILL loosen up over the course of a trans-oceanic plane ride.


So far we've had a good look at what there is to observe as far as hardware goes, but let's dig down one more layer, down to the chip level where the technology really starts to get interesting. I love my hardware just as much as the next person, but it's only half the story....



# I3 with AES-Ni ?Moogle Stiltzkin 2012-02-16 02:29
Since when did Intel I3's have AES-Ni instruction ?

QNAP currently only has 2 rack models with the x79 name that has XEON cpus which do have AES-Ni.

But the other X79 models only have Intel I3 cpus, and last i checked they didn't have AES-Ni instructions on them ..... yet your saying otherwise ? Got any references for that ?

However despite that, Jason from QNAP is claiming their tests on the 879U-RP with AES encryption could achieve 100MB/s in both read & write in Gigabit environment.

His a trustable guy so i'll believe that :X but what i doubt is your claim that i3 cpus have AES-Ni ....
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# Face Palm...Bruce 2012-02-16 06:08
Just looked it up on Intel site, and you're right. There are 141 products with AES-NI. No i3's though.

Well, I've got some re-writing to do....

FWIW, my initial testing with AES-256 supports Jason's claims. The GbE bottleneck is the dominant factor.

Thanks for pointing this out.
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# RE: QNAP TS-879U-RP NAS Network Storage Rack ServerMoogle Stiltzkin 2012-02-16 06:35
yeah, all that matters is the result. doesn't matter if it has AES-Ni or not (although it's good to have since it's suppose to accelerate AES encryption so why not) since all comes down to whether it can perform well even with AES 256 encryption enabled.

Jason says it does 100 mb/s and that in my opinion is very good. I was worried and confused why they opted for the i3's which are basically almost the same as i5's but without the aes-ni. But from the results, seems my worries were unfounded ? As i was expecting results like these which was an article by tomshardware showing how bad performance was on many NAS brands across the board that didn't use encryption acceleration such as AES-Ni.,2873.html

Anyway i wonder if you would be kind enough to add to your review, a chart showing AES 256 encryption performance of the i3 QNAP to help back up Jason's claim. I trust Jason, but other people who don't know him will want proof from third party sites like yours to see if what QNAP claims is true or not.

I'm also interested to know whether the other i3 QNAP models such as the 1079 can achieve the same good results for aes 256 encryption, as well as compare the results with Synology Diskstation DS3611xs which sports a Intel® Xeon® Processor E3-1225 cpu.
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# Follow-Up testingBruce Bruce 2012-02-16 07:07
Yes, I plan to do a follow-up article which will focus on performance improvements with the optional 10GbE interface, and to document the AES-256 performance. Take a look at the last chart in the NAS System Overhead Measurements section of this article. That's one of the tests I ran with AES-256 enabled, and the CPU looks like it still has some headroom left, when running of the Gigabit interface. I'll have full results in the follow-up article.
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# RE: QNAP TS-879U-RP NAS Network Storage Rack ServerMoogle Stiltzkin 2012-02-16 06:44
FWIW, my initial testing with AES-256 supports Jason's claims. The GbE bottleneck is the dominant factor.

And lets not forget conventional hard drives may also be a bottle neck ?

The fastest read and write maximum throughput for a hard drive is Seagate's New Barracuda 3TB (ST3000DM001)

Read Throughput Maximum: h2benchw 3.16

Write Throughput Maximum: h2benchw 3.16'
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# 8xBruce Bruce 2012-02-16 07:12
I'll be running RAID 5 with eight drives, though.

I don't expect to reach the same speeds that QNAP did with (8) Intel SSDs, but I'm betting it will still be way above what the unit does with the Gigabit interface.
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# RE: QNAP TS-879U-RP NAS Network Storage Rack ServerMoogle Stiltzkin 2012-02-16 07:11
regarding your last con, well some desktop drives can be used fine for raid.
For me, i've used 6 x SAMSUNG HD203WI for a long time and they work fine on my QNAP ts-659 pro II.

QNAP and other branded NAS, tend to ignore tler, so it's not critical for these nases when using raid seeing as it's not being used.

The responses I received from Synology, QNAP, NETGEAR and Buffalo all indicated that their NAS RAID controllers don't depend on or even listen to TLER, CCTL, ERC or any other similar error recovery signal from their drives. Instead, their software RAID controllers have their own criteria for drive timeouts, retries and when a drive is finally marked bad.

however samsung has sold off their hard drive business to Seagate who bought their hd unit out.

So the only other manufacturer that offered some good desktop raid drives was Hitachi i believe which was the Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 3TB which is a desktop drive that works fine in raid for say a QNAP.

The desktop drives you should be wary about for using raid are western digital and seagate, which intentionally make it problematic in a raid setup, by dropping out very often to make you buy their x2 expensive raid edition drives.
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# Some work fine.....Bruce Bruce 2012-02-16 07:44
The Spinpoint F3 was a favorite for NAS use, no doubt. Other readers have also reported good luck with their Hitachi Deskstars. You'll see similar reports on the QNAP support forums. I'm somewhat concerned that most reports are from users with smaller NAS units, where the combined vibration of 8-12 drives is not present. It's bearing failure, as much as controller quirks that cause HDD failures.

Samsung drives are still being built to the old designs/specs for now, right? Get them while you can, I think....
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# The 20 should be closser to 2. bits vs Bytes.tygrus 2012-02-22 03:05
"twenty times faster than what the latest generation of SSDs can muster"
Sorry but 10GbE =
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# Comment system ate my commenttygrus 2012-02-22 03:41
There was some mathematical symbols in my previous comment. The comment has been truncated.
10GbE =lt 1250MBps. 500MBps = 4800Mbps.
Reasonable sound level for a device to be in a server room.
Too loud for home use.
Would like to see aditional testing with multiple clients or larger queue depth. Need to beg someone for some 10GbE hardware.
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# 10GbE is comingBruce 2012-02-22 06:00
Next week I'll have two Intel 10GbE NICs. I'll just have the one PC, but would RoboCopy, with it's multithreaded operation get closer to the multiple client scenario?
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# Updated Results in New ArticleBruce 2012-03-21 08:00
Just wanted to let all of you know that I completed the additional testing, with 10GbE NICs and a RAM Disk on the PC.

Wow! What a difference.

Check out the results in my follow-up article here:
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# RE: QNAP TS-879U-RP NAS Network Storage Rack ServerMoogle Stiltzkin 2012-03-21 08:09
Nice :} just read it.
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