Setup Impressions - Rescue Web Admin & SimplyRAID

The 5big NAS Pro comes in a package similar to the 5big Storage Server. In the box, we have the unit itself, a USB key, a plastic 'key' to lock/unlock the drive bays, a 150 W AC/DC adapter and a single 6ft. Cat 5E LAN cable (we would have liked two, given the dual GbE links in the NAS).

Tackling the Diskless Configuration Issue

Diskless NAS units often require some sort of setup program running on one of the clients to be able to get the NAS up and running with the proper configuration. For example, Netgear uses the RAIDar utility while Synology has the Synology Network Assistant. On the other hand, some NAS vendors make their unit obtain a DHCP address even when diskless (without waiting for any special setup procedure / timeouts). LaCie adopts an innovative strategy here. Instead of relying on the internal firmware to do this (which might be an issue if that is itself corrupted), LaCie provides a bootable USB key. The rescue disk can also be downloaded from the website and put on the user's own USB drive, if necessary. One needs to simply plug in the key to one of the USB 2.0 ports of the NAS and boot up the unit. After entering the MAC ID of the network interface, the unit can be configured as per the user requirements. Disks can be added and the firmware can be upgraded, amongst other things

LaCie's rescue USB key is an interesting way to tackle the problem of corrupted firmware or diskless configurations. I am sure other NAS vendors will also recognize the advantage to this type of approach. However, we will give LaCie credit for being the first NAS vendor (that we are aware of) to provide such a feature.

RAID Setup

Standard RAID setups are fine for scenarios where all the disks are of the same size. However, variable sized disks result in wasted capacity. To address this issue, NAS vendors have come up with their custom solution to maximize disk usage while also providing the required redundancy. Netgear has X-RAID 2 and Synology has the Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR). These custom solutions shield the novice user from the intricacies of understanding the various RAID levels. Now, LaCie has also joined the bandwagon. Their solution is called SimplyRAID, and the features are very similar to that of Synology Hybrid RAID.

LaCie's review configuration of 2x 1TB and 3x 2TB drives would have been an ideal setup to show how SimplyRAID works. However, for today's review, we will just be using SimplyRAID with 5x 4TB disks with a 1-disk redundancy. In this case, there is no difference between RAID-5 and SimplyRAID. We will go into detailed evaluation of SimplyRAID in the second part of our review. The short message is that it is good for LaCie to have a novice-friendly RAID solution similar to its competitors.

NAS OS 3 in the 5big NAS Pro

The UI of the NAS OS 3 hasn't really changed since the 2big NAS review. Certain additional options are available thanks to the 5-bay and dual GbE link nature of the offering. The available file serving protocols include SMB, AFP, NFS, FTP, SFTP and iSCSI. In today's review, we will be only looking at SMB (CIFS) and iSCSI. NFS evaluation will follow in the second part of the review. An interesting aspect is that each of these protocols can be set to be active on one or both of the network interfaces. However, we set up the network interfaces for link aggregation in our benchmarking. The ability to allow protocols to operate on certain interfaces only provides the network administrator with more control over performance in the bigger scheme of things. A limitation of the FCS firmware will be that only one iSCSI target is available right now. For a mid-range SMB NAS, it is essential that multiple iSCSI targets be supported (particularly since LaCie claims the 5big NAS Pro is suitable for up to 50 users). Fortunately, we were assured that multiple iSCSI targets are definitely in the pipeline. Multiple application services such as Wuala (more on this in the next section), TimeMachine, DLNA server, iTunes, printer server, rsync backup and Download Machine (BitTorrent / HTTP) are available. Access protocols can be enabled on a per-share basis.

Link aggregation can be set up in either load balancing or fault tolerance mode. We used the load balancing mode in our review. Unlike the Thecus N4800, it is possible for the teamed interface to obtain a DHCP address. In addition to Wuala cloud access, remote access over the Internet can also be enabled. Appropriate ports need to be forwarded in the router (the OS does try to set up port forwarding automatically on supported routers in simple configurations). Power management features (including sleep timer for the HDDs and power on/off scheduling) are also available.

On the whole, the UI and NAS OS 3 are functional right away. However, some aspects such as the HDD SMART information reporting and other such details are unavailable in the current beta firmware. We will see whether they are addressed in the FCS firmware in the second part of the review.

Introduction and Testbed Setup LaCie's Hybrid Cloud - Wuala and a LaCie NAS in One Interface
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  • diamondsw - Sunday, January 6, 2013 - link

    Testing against SMB/Windows only isn't a good policy for a Linux-based NAS. Since different software stacks provide different protocol support, performance tends to vary widely between SMB (Samba), AFP (netatalkd), and NFS (unfsd, many others). What version a vendor chooses to support can also have major impacts on performance.

    In a nutshell, testing against Windows ensures you results apply only to Windows - and most folks aren't going to realize that doesn't apply broadly. (Speaking as someone who has dealt a lot with NAS units and varying/flaky protocol support.)
  • ganeshts - Sunday, January 6, 2013 - link

    Our NFS tests are done with a Linux VM (and for the 5big NAS Pro, we will present those results in the second part of the review).

    Many SMB users run Windows, and even when they purchase Linux based NAS systems, the shares are going to be mounted on Windows. Our testing methodology ensures that we cater to the most common usage scenario, and more importantly, it is consistent across different reviews.
  • vol7ron - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Diamonds good point. Good article, Ganesh - also, thanks for posting the price below, perhaps updating the table in the article would also help.

    Any OSX considerations? I like to give attention to all 3 Win/Linux/Mac
  • FearTec - Monday, January 7, 2013 - link

    And what is the price?
  • ganeshts - Monday, January 7, 2013 - link

    Diskless is $549, par for the course. I apologize for missing out this important aspect.
  • mcnabney - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Wow, spendy.

    My homemade WHS box cost far less than that w/o disks and has consistently performed better than this box. For example - both reads/writes will saturate gigE (about 115MB/s average throughput). Maybe NAS testing should also be compared against dedicated servers?

    Of course my server sits in a 4U case in the basement, it isn't small and sexy like this one is.
  • zsero - Monday, January 7, 2013 - link

    Is there any chance for a higher-end Synology review? I mean the xs and xs+ series. They claim 400,000+ IOPS. Anything that claims 400,000 IOPS should be tested at Anandtech! Especially if it's around 6k for a total package, including a total OS and VMware support.
  • ganeshts - Monday, January 7, 2013 - link

    I have a higher end QNAP TS-EC1279 RP review coming up. Depending on the reception to that piece, we may request Synology for the XS / XS+ :)
  • philipma1957 - Monday, January 7, 2013 - link

    this came with 2x 1tb plus 3x 2tb or 8tb. your setups had 5x 4tb or 20tb. So for arguments sake half that to 4tb for oem 10tb for your 'max' setup . Wuala offers 5gb as a ' first hit is free' deal. what do they charge for 4tb to 10tb?

    I will tell you 1tb a year is 1100. this was for a 1 person user.

    For small business 100gb with 5 users was 429 a year.

    For a small business it is not a crazy high fee. For a personal user the prices are far too high. I am not anti-cloud, but to protect 1tb at 1100 a year is just too expensive for a personal user. I got the prices directly from wuala's website
  • ganeshts - Monday, January 7, 2013 - link

    Hmm.. I don't see your point here. LaCie doesn't want you to use Wuala to back up your entire NAS. It is a Dropbox like service for selected content on your computing device. Additionally, they allow you to associate your NAS with that account so that you can access the NAS through the Wuala interface. Whatever is stored on your NAS doesn't count towards the quota in the cloud, hence the term 'hybrid cloud'.

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