Archive Home arrow Reviews: arrow Network arrow Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage Server
Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage Server E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Network
Written by Bruce Normann   
Monday, 24 September 2012
Table of Contents: Page Index
Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage Server
Closer Look: Thecus N5550
Insider Details: Thecus N5550
Technology Details: Thecus N5550
Thecus N5550 Features
Hardware Specifications
Software Specifications
NAS Setup and Usage
NAS Testing Methodology
Basic-Disk Test Results
RAID 5 Test Results
Intel NASPT Test Results
Non-Traditional NAS Results
NAS Server Final Thoughts
Thecus N5550 Conclusion

Network Terminology

Benchmark Reviews primarily uses metric data measurement for testing storage products, for anyone who is interested in learning the relevant history of this sore spot in the industry, I've included a small explanation below:

The basic unit data measurement is called a bit (one single binary digit). Computers use these bits, which are composed of ones and zeros, to communicate their contents. All files are stored as binary files, and translated into working files by the Operating System. This two number system is called a "binary number system". In comparison, the decimal number system has ten unique digits consisting of zero through nine. Essentially it boils down to differences between binary and metric measurements, because testing is deeply impacted without carefully separating the two. For example, the difference between the transfer time of a one-Gigabyte (1000 Megabytes) file is going to be significantly better than a true binary Gigabyte (referred to as a Gibibyte) that contains 1024 Megabytes. The larger the file used for data transfer, the bigger the difference will be.

Have you ever wondered why your 500 GB hard drive only has about 488 GB once it has been formatted? Most Operating Systems utilize the binary number system to express file data size, however the prefixes for the multiples are based on the metric system. So even though a metric "Kilo" equals 1,000, a binary "Kilo" equals 1,024. Are you confused yet? Don't be surprised, because even the most tech savvy people often mistake the two. Plainly put, the Kilobyte is expressed as 1000 bytes, but it is really comprised of 1,024 bytes.

Most network engineers are not fully aware that the IEC changed the way we calculate and name data chunks when they published the new International Standards back in December 1998. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) removed the old metric prefixes for multiples in binary code with new prefixes for binary multiples made up of only the first two letters of the metric prefixes and adding the first two letters of the word "binary". For example, instead of Megabyte (MB) or Gigabyte (GB), the new terms would be Mebibyte (MiB) or Gibibyte (GiB). While this is the new official IEC International Standard, it has not been widely adopted yet because it is either still unknown by institutions or not commonly used.

NAS Testing Methodology

All the NAS devices we test cannot accommodate all the different disk configurations, so our current test protocol has been based on two of the most popular setups: a basic (single) disk and RAID-5 configurations. Most NAS products that can support RAID 5 go beyond the minimum number of drive bays, to a total of four, so that is the number of drives that I typically use to test with, even though I could get by with only three. During initial setup, the NAS was tested for the latest firmware by checking the Thecus website The firmware installed on the N5550 was v2.02.05 when I received it, which is the most current version.

Normally, I connect the NAS directly to an Intel Gigabit CT Desktop LAN controller in the test-bench system, with ten-foot CAT6 patch cables. This time, the NAS wasn't being recognized until I set up a static IP address of 192.168.168.xxx on the host PC. The N5550 absolutely has to be on the same subnet as the host, or it will not be seen. I did a couple quick throughput tests and saw no appreciable difference, so I went with a more realistic network arrangement and plugged the Thecus into the local GbE switch that I normally connect all my test systems to. At the transfer speeds I was seeing, the single GbE connection wasn't holding the unit back, so I used that setup for all the testing.

With the networking taken care of, the next potential bottleneck that needed attention is the disk system on the host PC. In previous tests, I relied on the third generation OCZ Agility SSD, which is good for at least 500 MB/s, input or output, on the appropriate Intel Platform Controller Hub. While I was doing some testing with an 8-bay monster NAS and 10GbE connections, I decided it was time to bypass the SSD on the test rig and install a RAM Disk. There are at least a dozen products on the market that will create and manage a RAM Disk on Windows systems; I chose RAMDisk v3.5.1.130R22 from Dataram based on performance tests in several reviews (we read 'em, too....) and its reasonable cost structure. I needed to assign at least 10GB of space to the RAM Disk, in order to replicate the test protocol I've been using for all my NAS testing, so none of the freeware products looked suitable. One other trick was necessary, to get the RAM Disk to transfer files larger than 2GB, I had to use the "Convert" utility in Windows to make the RAM Disk into an NTFS volume. Then I was able to perform the file transfers with 10GB files, no problem. If you want to avoid this extra step, be sure to look for a RAM Disk product that directly supports the NTFS file system.

Thecus N5550 NAS Server Dataram_RAMDisk.png

For basic throughput evaluation, the NAS product received one test transfer followed by at least three timed transfers. Each test file was sent to the Western Digital Caviar Black 750GB (WD7502AAEX) hard drives installed in the NAS for a timed NAS write test, and that same file was sent back to the RAM Disk in the test system to perform a NAS read test. Each test was repeated several times, the high and low values were discarded and the average of the remaining results was recorded and charted.

The Read and Write transfer tests were conducted on each NAS appliance using the 1 GB file and then a 10 GB file. A second set of tests are conducted with Jumbo Frame enabled, i.e. the MTU value for all the Ethernet controllers is increased from 1500 to 9000. Most of the NAS products tested to date in the Windows 7 environment have supported the Jumbo Frame configuration. Only the NETGEAR ReadyNAS NV+ v2 uses the 1500 MTU setting by default, and has no user-accessible controls to change that; you'll see that reflected in the charts. I used a single GbE for all tests; I have not been able to achieve consistent results with various units using the IEEE 802.3ad Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) mode.

I also ran the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (NASPT) version 1.7.1, which was originally designed to run on a Windows XP client. People smarter than me have figured out how to run it under Windows 7, including the 64-bit version that is used more often than the 32-bit version these days. NASPT brings an important perspective to our test protocol, as it is designed to measure the performance of a NAS system as viewed from the end user's perspective. Benchmarks like ATTO use Direct I/O Access to accurately measure disk performance with minimal influence from the OS and the host platform. This provides important, objective data that can be used to measure raw, physical performance. While it's critical to measure the base performance, it's also important to quantify what you can expect using real-world applications, and that's exactly what NASPT does. One of the disadvantages of NASPT is that it is influenced by the amount of memory installed on the client, and it was designed for systems that had 2-4 GB of RAM. Consequently, two of the tests give unrealistic results, because they are measuring the speed of the buffer on the client, instead of the actual NAS performance. For that reason, we will ignore the results for "HD Video Record" and "File Copy to NAS". I'm also not going to pay too much attention to the "Content Creation" test, as it is too heavily focused on computing tasks that aren't really handled by the NAS.

Thecus_N5550_NAS_Server_NASPT_Results_Batch_01.png

Benchmark Reviews was also able to measures NAS performance using some tests that are traditionally used for internal drives. The ATTO Disk Benchmark program is free, and offers a comprehensive set of test variables to work with. In terms of disk performance, it measures interface transfer rates at various intervals for a user-specified length and then reports read and write speeds for these spot-tests. CrystalDiskMark 3.0 is a file transfer and operational bandwidth benchmark tool from Crystal Dew World that offers performance transfer speed results using sequential, 512KB random, and 4KB random samples. Benchmark Reviews uses CrystalDiskMark to illustrate operational IOPS performance with multiple threads, which allows us to determine operational bandwidth under heavy load.

Thecus_N5550_NAS_Server_ATTO_1x_WD750_9000MTU_Run_0.png

We are continuing our NAS testing with the exclusive use of Windows 7 as the testing platform for the host system. The performance differences between Win7 and XP are huge, as we documented in our QNAP TS-259 Pro review. The adoption rate for Win 7 has been very high, and Benchmark Reviews has been using Win 7 in all of our other testing for some time now. It was definitely time to make the jump for NAS products.

NAS Comparison Products

Support Equipment

  • (4) Western Digital Caviar Black WD7502AAEX 750GB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5"
  • Intel EXPI9301 CT Gigabit Ethernet NIC, x1 PCIe 1.1, 1x CAT5
  • Trendnet 8-port GbE Switch TEG-S80g
  • Dataram RAMDisk v3.5.1.130R22
  • Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (NASPT) version 1.7.1
  • ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.47
  • CrystalDiskMark 3.0
  • 10-Foot Category-6 Solid Copper Shielded Twisted Pair Patch Cable
  • 1 metric Gigabyte Test File (1 GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes)
  • 10 metric Gigabyte Test File (10 GB = 10,000,000,000 bytes)

Test System



 

Comments 

 
# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerMoogle Stiltzkin 2012-09-25 04:16
honestly... when will these NAS brands ever release a product which has ZFS in it. I am sick and tired of these crappy spec NAS, that can't offer the greatness that ZFS offers such as....

1. deduplication
2. end-to-end check sum error correction (CERN has stated officially, ZFS is the only reliable solution to protect data from bit rot)
3. and other ZFS features

also whats with 2gb minimum ram. they act as if ram is expensive, it's not. these days ram is sickeningly cheap because the companies producing them were not long ago fined for price fixing. Makes me wonder whether NAS companies are purposely price fixing to over charge for devices with little ram to squeeze as much more profit margin ....

People are starting to get fed up and moving onto DIY NAS solutions and which is cheaper, and has ZFS.
Report Comment
 
 
# We Just Did....Bruce 2012-12-07 11:03
We just reviewed that NAS I was talking about. Check out the EonNAS 1100 review on the front page.
Report Comment
 
 
# ZFSBruce 2012-09-25 09:02
I know at least one manufacturer who has brought ZFS into their mainstream product line, and I've reached out to them, to get a unit for review.
Report Comment
 
 
# SynologyFAbio 2012-09-25 09:44
You should review Synology NAS products, too. They are awesome!
Report Comment
 
 
# RE: SynologyOlin Coles 2012-09-25 09:47
We have reviewed several Synology products, but when one product did not receive an award they no longer offered samples to us for testing. Maybe that's why you think they're so awesome?
Report Comment
 
 
# RE: RE: SynologyFAbio 2012-09-25 10:01
They had problems with some products in the past. But recently I bought the model 1812+ and I am glad with his features and behavior. It has basicly the same features that thecus.
Report Comment
 
 
# RE: RE: RE: SynologyOlin Coles 2012-09-25 10:05
I was very disappointed when they decided to stop supporting us with reviews samples a few years back just because one product didn't receive an award. Hopefully they'll change their minds and want to show off their new hardware. QNAP is one particular brand I've seen good things from, and they continue to impress.
Report Comment
 
 
# N5550 Graphic and Memory MALFUNCTION - BE AWAREYaron 2012-09-27 23:46
One thing you should know before even considering this NAS.
#forum.thecus.com/viewtopic.php?f=65&t=4440
Report Comment
 
 
# Only affects memory "Upgrade"....Bruce 2012-09-30 21:04
The manufacturer did not, and does not offer an authorized upgrade of the memory from the standard 2GB. If you change the memory configuration on your own, it might work, and it might not. Don't worry, someone will figure out a way to make it work, and share it on the forum.
Report Comment
 
 
# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerYaron 2012-09-30 22:07
I own few Thecus units of different modules.
None of them ever had a problem after upgrading the memory.
This one DOES & for a very specific problem that Thecus CAN'T SOLVE & MIGHT NEVER BE SOLVED.
See the forum for more details...
FOR NOW JUST KEEP AWAY FROM THIS UNIT.
Report Comment
 
 
# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerCarlie Coats 2012-10-02 09:03
I'd like to see ATA-over-Ethernet (AoE), in addition
to SMB, NFS -- much better latency, better security
since it's a UDP (not IP) protocol (confined to the
local network).
Report Comment
 
 
# Thecus one day - Thecus no way!Souldream 2012-10-11 21:31
Forget about buying Thecus NAS.

They have the lowest level of support i have ever seen.

If you plan to buy NAS to put non important files = you can go.

If you plan to buy it for your company to store file, i will not let go ... as you could loose your job LoL

They do the same for 4100 model , low memory = unstable , web manager slow , and Raid destruction ( no hardware raid controller LoL ).

Look over my post in the official forum, and you will understand why Thecus is good on paper , in real use this is nightmare !

You are warned !
Report Comment
 
 
# RUN!!!Tracey 2012-11-08 08:32
As the above post states.. stay far away from this device. Unless you want an Enterprise device that can't copy files to and from without crashing or falsely reporting drive failures. I definitely regret this purchase!

You have been warned... again!
Report Comment
 
 
# 111MB/s is IMPOSSIBLEscavenger 2012-11-28 14:10
I'm using 5x2GB dreives in RAID5.
With ATTO i can have the same results as you have, BUT :
in real life, everybody is using samba shares under windows.

what about the only 55-65MB/s file transfers I get this way ?
Did you do this test ?
How can you show 111MB of read/write as it's impossible to achieve ?
I cannot get 111MB/s with any of the protocols available : smb, ftp, sftp, ssh, nfs, afp.
Please, tell me the truth about your tests ?
Report Comment
 
 
# Yes, it's possibleBruce 2012-11-28 18:22
I assume you just read the Conclusions page, where I stated:
"During timed transfers of 1GB and 10GB files the N5550 recorded Read speeds of 111 MB/s and Write speeds above 118 MB/s. These are the RAID 5 results..."

Go back and read the NAS Testing Methodology page, where I explain how each test is run. The timed file transfers are done in Windows Explorer, of all things. Imagine that...Windows is faster than some dedicated file transfer protocols!

If you can get 120+ MB/s using ATTO, just like I did, then you already know that your unit is capable of that level of performance. So, look at all the extra elements that might be holding transfer rates back in your application(s). Also look at the host computers doing your transfers. I'm using a 10GB RAMDisk to eliminate any potential slowdowns due to the impact of storage devices on my test bed system. Transfer rates from a laptop HDD are going to be MUCH slower, for instance.
Report Comment
 
 
# Oh really :-)scavenger 2012-11-29 14:54
Well I didn't understood you were transferring files on Windows Explorer with mounted SMB shares, exactly the same way I do my tests...
I got the same n5550 with 5x2TB HDD RAID5, and the same RAM disk drive, the difference is my Windows XP 64, and the fact I test with 802.3ad and 2xCAT5 cables on both sides.

I unfortunately am unable to reproduce your tests :
- which switch are you using ?
- which MTU is set on the PC ? on the NAS ? on the switch ?
- which strip size is set on your ext4 FS ?
- can you provide the result of "hdparm -tT /dev/md0" on the NAS ?
- did you "sync" the PC and the NAS after a transfer to eliminate the disk cache smoothing ? (I'm using a ported GNU version of sync.exe)
- did you monitor the RAM usage on the NAS during transfers ? I can get a 2GB peak during heavy load...

None of the time I did achieved a 110MB/s transfer with a single file, the max I get is 82MB/s with 2 files at a time from PC to NAS.
On normal conditions, I get 50-65MB/s max, mostly the same as on the n5500.
Thanks anyway for your time :-)
Report Comment
 
 
# Use Win7Bruce 2012-11-29 17:56
Well that explains it. You will never get the results I get if you continue to use Windows XP. In the "Testing Methodology" section, I reference the comparison I did two years ago between XP and Win7.

"...We are continuing our NAS testing with the exclusive use of Windows 7 as the testing platform for the host system. The performance differences between Win7 and XP are huge, as we documented in our QNAP TS-259 Pro review. The adoption rate for Win 7 has been very high, and Benchmark Reviews has been using Win 7 in all of our other testing for some time now. It was definitely time to make the jump for NAS products. ..." Here's the link:

benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=517&Itemid=70&limit=1&limitstart=10

Win7 beats XP by a mile in these scenarios, you should try it. None of the other factors you mention will make as big a difference as using Win7 on the PC side.
Report Comment
 
 
# LACP BenefitBruce 2012-11-29 19:55
BTW, what improvement in transfer speed are you seeing with IEEE 802.3ad (LACP)?
Report Comment
 
 
# LACP Benefitscavenger 2012-11-30 11:50
Absolutely none, now that I finally understood it's not a load balancing protocol but just a failover one.
But since I invested in a L2 switch + 2 x cables between PC NAS I'm not throwing them away :-)
For the real load balancing one, one have to select balance-SLB + round robin, but it's charging the network for nothing since the packets are not ordered and the final bandwidth is not what I expected :-(
Well with this network configuration, I can have at best 90MB/s but only with 3 file transfers at a time, which is not I wanted.
I want as you have, a 110MB/s bandwidth with a single file transfer.
Report Comment
 
 
# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage Serveraceggroll 2013-02-13 18:06
The features I'd like to see are:
  • a USB 3 device (not host) connection (5GBit/Sec max), and
  • SATA III.


Surely this would be a cost effective way of increasing data transfer between computer and dedicated external storage. (And yes, I know this is not a NAS at this point, but I need a solution to replace a single external Harddrive for a laptop, and USB is a far simpler & cheaper setup than a network connection.)

Are there any vendors that are offering this in the SOHO market?
Report Comment
 
 
# USB, Yes. SATA III, No.Bruce 2013-02-13 18:34
Thecus has upgraded the front USB port to 3.0 specs on the N5550, and many other products. But it's not a "Device" connection, like you are looking for. Does your laptop have an eSATA port? There are several "boxes" available that have 1-4 drive bays and will run pretty well off eSATA, in Port Multiplier mode.

SATA III has a very minor impact on HDD performance, in my experience. It's only when you get to the third generation of SSDs, that SATA III was really needed.
Report Comment
 
 
# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage Serveraceggroll 2013-02-13 21:22
Bruce, thanks for tip.

Laptop does have eSATA (1 x eSATA/USB 2.0 combo), but manufacturer doesn't give away how fast the eSATA is going to run :-(

I'm not sure if I'm interpreting the N5550 spec correctly, but the eSATA spec seems to be imply that I would use if for adding an external disk to the device. I want to be able to use the NAS as eSATA storage for a computer/laptop.

If anyone has tried this with other NAS devices, I'd be very interested to know how transfer rates compare between eSATA and GB LAN (as the LAN connection should no longer be the bottleneck.)

Also, if vendors are monitoring this thread... Would be great if you are not then could publish your noise spec. Pretty important if the device isn't sitting in a rack, and next to or on somebody's desk.
Report Comment
 
 
# Not a NAS, per se.....Bruce 2013-02-14 10:01
Yes, all the other interfaces, besides Ethernet, are going to be host connections. It's very rare that any NAS unit would have the capability of multiple "device" interfaces. One that DOES, is the IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE Network Storage Device, which I reviewed here: benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=849&Itemid=70
It only supports one drive, though.

The drive enclosures that have just USB 3.0 and eSATA interfaces tend to be a whole lot cheaper than a full-blown NAS solution. There are dozens of them at Newegg, like this one:
newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1DS0CD0624

eSATA itself is a pretty quick interface.
Report Comment
 
 
# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerYaron 2013-02-13 22:15
Bruce,
The N5550 can't be a USB target - it can be used only as USB host.
Thecus has the N5200 family which is a bit "older" and I remember one of it's products can do it.
Take a look at their site.
Yaron.
Report Comment
 
 
# Product EvolutionBruce 2013-02-14 10:25
Yes, the N5200 had it: USB ports 2 x USB A type (Host mode); 1 x USB B type (Client mode) .

As others have mentioned, Thecus did a major architecture update on their product line a few years ago. I can't find any instances of Client mode USB in their current offerings.
Report Comment
 
 
# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerYaron 2013-02-14 20:24
Right - it doesn't exist anymore.
Report Comment
 
 
# 8 gig ram installed on N5550Bruce MacDonald 2013-03-26 22:36
I just bought this unit last week and have it running on 8 gig of ram I took out of a 2011 MacBook Pro. I edited the menu.lst file via SSH to remove the 4 Gig Ram limitation soft coded. Surprising because Intel lists this processor as only supporting 4 Gig too.

To edit the menu.lst file to remove the MEM=4G parameter

Via telnet/ssh (or console) :

# mount /dev/sdaaa1 /boot
# vi /boot/boot/grub/menu.lst
Report Comment
 
 
# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerYaron 2013-09-03 13:25
Bruce,
R U using 1x8g or 2x4g ?
Report Comment
 

Comments have been disabled by the administrator.

Search Benchmark Reviews
QNAP Network Storage Servers

Follow Benchmark Reviews on FacebookReceive Tweets from Benchmark Reviews on Twitter