Setup Impressions and Platform Analysis

The setup process for the file server included assembling the hardware as well as installing the operating system and configuring the shares. The install process on the motherboard side was quite simple - the ASRock Rack C2750D4I (already reviewed by Ian last year) is not a socketed motherboard and the SoC as well as the heat sink come pre-installed. I won't go too much into the motherboard itself, as it has been already covered in detail in our review. The gallery below presents some photos of the motherboard during the setup process.

We decided to use the U-NAS NSC-800 for our build. The U-NAS NSC-800 comes with eight drive bays in front of a hot-swappable back-plane (both SAS and SATA ones are available, and our chassis came equipped with the latter) and a compact size that can accommodate a mini-ITX motherboard. There are three internal 2.5" drive bays (which can be used for SSD cache drives) and / or for OS drives). There is space for a 1U power supply. There are two 120mm chassis fans just behind the drive bays. The drive sleds can accommodate both 3.5" and 2.5" disks, and the overall construction feels solid.

Compatible PSUs can be ordered from U-NAS itself. The 1U PSU that came bundled with our chassis was the 400W ASPOWER U1A-C20400-D. The PSU carries a 80 PLUS GOLD rating. It must be noted that the 5V and 3.3V outputs should not be subject to a load of more than 150W.

Pretty much the only downside of the chassis for a modern build is the absence of a front USB 3.0 port, but, given that the ASRock Rack C2750D4I doesn't have a USB 3.0 header, this is a non-issue in our build. The chassis comes with the cables from the backplane neatly laid out to enable easy connection to the motherboard. The challenge in assembling the build was actually routing all the wires from the PSU to the motherboard connectors while keeping it managed enough to place the chassis cover unhindered. Despite being a very compact 8-bay unit, the chassis supports a single slot PCIe card. The ASRock Rack C2750D4I does have a spare PCIe slot, and we populated it with an Intel ESA I340-T4 just for the purpose of the build (not used in the benchmarking). The gallery below presents some photographs taken during our assembly process.

The ASRock Rack C2750D4I platform has already been extensively analyzed in our dedicated review. However, I will reproduce the SoC diagram and how the motherboard components are laid out below.

It is important to have an idea of the platform during the assembly of the NAS. Instead of just choosing eight ports at random to connect the backplane to, the layout analysis allows us to select the proper ports. The configuration mentioned in the table in the previous page ensures that the Avoton SoC can talk to the drives of the system with maximum possible bandwidth.

Introduction and Testing Methodology Performance Metrics - Phoronix Test Suite
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  • rrinker - Monday, August 10, 2015 - link

    This chassis looks like just the thing to replace my WHS box. I was probably just going to run Server 2012 R2 Essentials and change over my StableBits DrivePool to the standard Server 2012 version. ALl these NAS boxes and storage system that everyone seems to go nuts over - none of them I've seen have the flexibility of the pooled storage that the original WHS, and WHS 2011 with DrivePool have had all along. Of course there are the Windows haters - but my WHS has been chugging along, backing up my other computers, storing my music and movies, playing movies through my media player, and the only time it's been rebooted since I moved to my new house a year and half ago was when the power went out. It just sits there and runs. One of the best products Microsoft came up with, so of course they killed it. Essentials is the closest thing to what WHS was. Replacing a standard mid tower case with something like this would save a bunch of space. 8 drives, plus a couple of SSDs for the OS drive.. just about perfect. I currently have 6 drives plus an OS drive in my WHS, so 8 would give me even more growing room. I have a mix of 1TB, 2TB, and 3TB drives in there now, with this, up to 8x 4TB which is a huge leap over what I have now.
  • DanNeely - Monday, August 10, 2015 - link

    At $400 for a (non-education) license, S2012 R2 Essentials is a lot more expensive than I want to go. If I build a new storage server on Windows I'm 99% sure I'll be starting with a standard copy of Win10 for the foundation.
  • kmmatney - Monday, August 10, 2015 - link

    The only thing missing from Windows 10 is the automated backup,which works great on WHS. That's the main thing holding me back from changing from WHS. I had to do a few unexpected bare-metal restores after installing Windows 10 on a few machines, and WHS really came through there. I had several issues restoring, but at the end of the day, it was successful in every instance.
  • kmmatney - Monday, August 10, 2015 - link

    I'm also a WHS 2011 + stablebit drivepool user. Best of everything - you can add or remove single drives easily, the data is portable and easy to extract if needed, you can choose what gets mirrored, and what doesn't. The initial balancing takes a while, but after that the speed is fine. I'm up to 8 drives now (7 in the drive pool), and can expand to 12 drives with my Corsair carbide case and a $20 SATA card. I keep an 80GB SSD out of the pool for running a few Minecraft servers. This DIY NAS is interesting, but it would be far cheaper for me to just replace some of my smaller drives with 4 TB models if I need more storage.

    Since WHS 2011 is Windows 7 based - it should still last a while - I don;t see a need to replace it anytime soon. But my upgrade path will probably be Windows 10 + Stablebit drive pool. Cheap and flexible.

  • DanNeely - Monday, August 10, 2015 - link

    WHS 2011 is a pure consumer product (and based on a a server version of windows not win7); meaning it only has a 5 year supported life cycle. After April 2016, it's over and no more patches will be issued.
  • Navvie - Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - link

    I agree. Not being able to expand vdevs easily is a limitation. But weighing the pros and cons, it's a small price to pay.

    The last time I filled a vdev, I bought more drive and created an additional vdev.
  • BillyONeal - Monday, August 10, 2015 - link

    If you want to pay the premium for hardware that can run Solaris nobody's stopping you.
  • ZeDestructor - Monday, August 10, 2015 - link

    ZFS is available on both FreeBSD and Linux, so it's no more expensive than boring old softraid on Linux.
  • bsd228 - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    What premium? I've run Solaris on many intel and amd motherboards, but most recently with the HP Microserver line (34L, 50L, 54L).
  • digitalgriffin - Monday, August 10, 2015 - link

    These are good articles. And for someone with a serious NAS requirement they are useful.
    But 99% of home users don't need a NAS
    The 1% of us that do, only 1% need 8 bays with a $200 case and slow $400 intel board. That's a serious game system start up with at least 6 SATA connection motherboard.

    For example Cooler Master HAF912 will hold over 8 drives and is $50.
    6 SATA port motherboard 1150 socket mb $120.
    3.2GHz i-3 (low power processor Y or T version for $130)
    PCIe SATA card $50.

    Lets see you build a build a budget system that can:
    Handle 5 drives (boot/cache, Raid 6 (two drives + 2 parity))
    Handle transcoding with Plex server.

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