Thecus N12910SAS review

Short on storage features but this low-cost SAS3-ready rack appliance won’t be faulted for capacity and performance

Price
£3,638
  • Fast throughput and performance; Slick web interface
  • No 10GbE as standard; Cloud support is patchy

Thecus has a fine reputation for delivering low-cost NAS solutions and it does so again with the N12910SAS. This 2U rack appliance delivers a powerful package which includes a 3.5GHz E3 v5 Xeon, DDR4 memory and support for high-performance SAS3 storage.

Its LSI SAS3008 adapter card also has an external port ready for Thecus' 16-bay D16000 disk shelves. You'll need an SFF-8644 to SFF-8088 cable to link the first disk shelf to the appliance and then you can daisy-chain up to three more for a total of 76 drive bays.

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It's disappointing that the N12910SAS only includes two embedded Gigabit ports, although it's easy enough to add extra 10-Gigabit (10GbE) adapters using the three spare PCI-Express slots. However, this does reduce its value proposition over Synology and Qnap, which now embed 10GbE ports on most of their enterprise products.

When fitting an Emulex 10GBase-T card, we noticed the appliance has a small tray inside cabled up ready for two SFF drives. Don't try and use it though, as it's only there for the Windows-powered Thecus appliances that employ mirrored boot disks.

It's been a long time coming but the N12910SAS also introduces the new ThecusOS 7 firmware. We first looked at a beta over a year ago and it's only now that it's been released for Thecus' enterprise products.

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The revitalized web interface is much easier to use than its predecessor. You have quick access icons in a customisable desktop space plus a top menu strip, while the new App Center provides faster access to an improved range of utilities.

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The old Data Guard app has gone, with all backup services now accessed from the Settings panel. On-appliance data protection extends to real-time and scheduled backups of NAS shares and iSCSI LUNs to local storage, external USB devices and remote NAS appliances via Rsync.

It can run scheduled backup jobs to Amazon S3 cloud storage and we had no problems adding our account access and secret keys. We viewed our buckets, chose a destination and selected NAS shares or iSCSI targets for backup.

For cloud features, Thecus can't compete with Qnap and Synology, which both provide a wealth of file syncing, file sharing and remote access services. Thecus offers basic file syncing apps for Dropbox, ElephantDrive and OneDrive but Google Drive is no longer supported.

The N12910SAS provides on-appliance virus scanning with the free Intel AntiVirus app. This only took a few seconds to install from the App Center after which we created manual and scheduled scans of selected shares, folders and files.

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For performance testing, we loaded up four 15K SAS drives, created a RAID5 array and used the new caching feature to link it with two SSDs. General NAS performance over 10GbE is excellent with a mapped share returning high Iometer sequential read and writes rates of 9.23Gbits/sec and 9.1Gbits/sec.

Thecus steamed through our 10GbE real world tests with 25GB file copies recording average read and write speeds of 6.8Gbits/sec and 4.5Gbits/sec. Our backup test was despatched just as efficiently with a 22.4GB folder and 10,500 small files copied down at 2.3Gbits/sec.

It's a winner for I/O throughput, with 4KB Iometer block sizes delivering sequential read and write rates of 165,000 IOPS and 112,000 IOPS. Random operations saw good results of 164,000 IOPS and 81,000 IOPS -- substantially faster than SATA-based appliances.

The N12910SAS comes up short of the competition for storage features, but the new OS7 firmware is a big step forward. Its best fit is with businesses that want uncomplicated NAS and IP SAN services teamed up with fast SAS3 performance at an affordable price.

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This review originally appeared in PC Pro issue 276

Verdict

The N12910SAS comes up short of the competition for storage features, but the new OS7 firmware is a big step forward. Its best fit is with businesses that want uncomplicated NAS and IP SAN services teamed up with fast SAS3 performance at an affordable price.

2U rackmount chassis 3.5GHz E3-1245 v5 Xeon 16GB DDR4 (max 64GB) 12 x LFF/SFF hot-swap SAS3/SATA drive bays LSI SAS3 PCI-Express card Supports RAID0, 1, 10, 5, 6, 50, 60, hot-spare, JBOD 2 x Gigabit 2 x USB 2 4 x USB 3 3 x PCI-Express slots 2 x 500W hot-plug PSUs 3yr RTB warranty

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