QNAP has upgraded its professional range of multi-bay NAS drives, adding USB 3.0 support for externally attached hard drives, as well as SATA 6Gbps interfaces for the key internal disks.
In the example of the QNAP TS-659 Pro II, QNAP has taken the established TS-659 Pro+ and spruced up the spec with these modern upgrades, as well as allowing memory upgrades. For an expanding business or anyone that needs several terabytes of secure always-on storage, a six-bay unit like the TS-659 is a versatile and extremely capable choice.
A minimal NAS solution will have two disk bays, if it is to provide some data security. But mirroring the drives requires twice as much raw storage as you can actually use, which leads to the popularity of four-bay solutions like QNAP's own TS-419P+.
With four disks to play with, a RAID 5 setup can tolerate any single disk failure without losing all data. And read/write performance is maintained as the combined volume to is filled to capacity too.
With six disks, you have even greater options beyond the obvious increased capacity. RAID 6 becomes more attractive, where storage capacity is traded for double-fail security, so that two disks can drop out without the RAID crumbling.
Or you can try RAID 5 or 6 plus Hot Spare. Here, a reserve disk is loaded into the NAS, formatted and ready for use, but left on standby for the unit to load should it experience a disk failure.
A recent addition to QNAP’s comprehensive Linux-based OS is RAID 10, where an even number of disks are striped for performance like RAID 0, and mirrored like RAID 1 for data security.
It’s when adding this extra level of performance, or layer of data security, that a six-bay NAS becomes invaluable, still allowing for huge reserves of storage. Current 3TB 3.5in disks can here equal 18TB of combined storage. But even with 2TB disks installed, you can create around 10TB of secured storage.
QNAP TS-659 Pro II: Features
The chassis is the same, a very solid and confidence-inspiring all-metal housing with key-lockable drive bays. Given the width of this six-bay design, two 90mm fans are mounted at the rear to draw airflow over the battery of hard disks. Noise is inevitably higher than a single-fan setup, although not uncomfortably so.
Driving the NAS is a dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Atom D525, backed up with 1GB of DDR3 RAM. This can be expanded up to 3GB. Facing the front is one USB 3.0 port, with another on the rear, along with four USB 2.0 and two eSATA. Two gigabit ethernet ports allow for dual-network support, or failover, or can be combined with a compatible switch for higher performance through load balancing.
QNAP TS-659 Pro II: Performance
We tried the QNAOP TS-659 Pro II with a variety of different disk and RAID configurations to get an overview of its file-transfer performance. Testing was carried out on both Mac and Windows platforms, using AFP, NFS and SMB/CIFS network protocols.
Best large-file benchmark performance extended right up to 112MBps for sequential reads, with even 100MBps available down at the 512kB file level. This was using a pair of Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB disk in RAID 0, connected over AFP. Write performance here hit around 70MBps, although at the 1MB file-size level this dropped to just 15MBps.
A quartet of Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 2TB disks in RAID 5 gave even better throughput, with read speed as good but writes rising to 74MBps. For reads at least, the single gigabit interface was likely to be the limiting factor in large-file sequential reads: 112MBps is a sterling result, equivalent to 896Mbps.
In real-world file transfer tests, we saw performance peak at 116MBps, or 928Mbps, just shy of gigabit ethernet's 1000Mbps nominal capability.
But we also noticed poor small-file transfer characteristics over AFP, as low as 0.06MBps for 4kB files. Using Windows’ SMB sharing, we saw much healthier small-file speeds – 3.5MBps for 4kB writes – at the expense of a lower overall top speed of around 70MBps.
For truly fast performance, the new SATA 6Gbps drive interfaces will allow the latest SSDs to be fitted (the disk trays support 2.5in drives) although even a load-balanced dual-ethernet setup wouldn’t give sufficient headroom to really let them shine at full sequential tilt.
QNAP TS-659 Pro II: Interface
A NAS drive should be easy to administer and maintain, and here QNAP has some of the best tools in the business. As well as supporting all the important networking protocols and user/group/folder share requirements, QNAP also adds useful features such as remote replication, iSCSI targets and volume encryption. For enterprise applications, VMware vSphere and Citrix XenServer are also supported.
A number of add-on QPKG software packages include WordPress, P2P applications, SqueezeBox server, OpenLDAP. And a PS3 Media Server can be added to the inbuilt iTunes and Twonky UPnP streaming services.
All configuration options are neatly handled by a rich web interface based on AJAX which, if not quite as accessible as Synology’s DSM interface we saw on the DS1511+, is more feature-filled. Our only small niggle is the inability to enable power-down for external disks after a preset idle time.