QNAP Goes Bay Trail

Intel's Bay Trail-D takes the original Bay Trail configuration pretty much as-is. One of Intel's marketing slides for Bay Trail-D (and -M) is reproduced below for aiding our analysis.

Despite not being specifically mentioned, we know there are two SATA II (3 Gbps) ports in Bay Trail-D from the previous section. Combined with the four PCIe 2.0 lanes, the configuration is pretty much similar to the Atom D2700 along with a NM10 chipset in terms of I/O. The advantage is that all the high-speed I/Os come direct from the SoC and are not bottlenecked by DMI lanes, and the PCIe revision is 2.0 instead of 1.0. In addition, we also have a USB 3.0 port.

The Celeron J1800 used in the TS-x51 is a 2C/2T solution with a base frequency of 2.41 GHz and a burst speed of 2.58 GHz. With a 10W TDP, it is amenable to passive cooling with the appropriate chassis, but, in a NAS like the x51, it is a moot point since the drives require cooling anyway. The TS-x51 series comes in 2,4,6 and 8-bay varieties and all of them come with two GbE ports. While the 2 and 4-bay varieties come with 2x USB 3.0 ports, the 6 and 8-bay ones come with 3x USB 3.0 ports. Based on the above information, we can infer the following distribution of the high-speed interfaces amongst the various I/Os.

QNAP TS-x51 Series High-Speed I/O Usage [ UPDATED ]
SoC I/O TS-251 TS-451 TS-651 TS-851
PCIe 2.0 x1 GbE Port 1 GbE Port 1 GbE Port 1 GbE Port 1
PCIe 2.0 x1 GbE Port 2 GbE Port 2 GbE Port 2 GbE Port 2
USB 3.0 x1 2x USB 3.0 (Hub) 2x USB 3.0 (Hub) 3x USB 3.0 (Hub) 3x USB 3.0 (Hub)
PCIe 2.0 x2 Free for Drive Bays

While the 2-bay unit is capable of having probably all I/Os accessible through the SoC fabric at full speeds, the 4-,6- and 8-bay varieties need some trade-offs. [Update: QNAP confirmed that they are using a USB 3.0 hub chip as one of the commenters pointed out]. In the above table, we see that two PCIe 2.0 lanes and two SATA II (3 Gbps) lanes are available for connecting all the drives in the bays to the SoC. In the absence of a I/O Controller Hub (that made the previous generations of Atom-based NAS units simple to design), each vendor is now free to choose between a number of different available options.

An issue with the Celeron J1800 (and Bay Trail-D in general) is that the SATA ports don't support port multipliers. In addition, there is only one SATA controller behind the two SATA ports. This places undue stress on the two free PCIe link to service a large number of bays. Our educated guess is that QNAP uses a number of PCIe to SATA bridges (such as  the Marvell 88SE9130 and the ASMedia ASM1061 for PCIe x1 to 2x SATA and Marvell 88SE9215 for PCIe x1 to 4x SATA). This still doesn't explain how the TS-851 is configured (I am yet to see a PCIe x1 to 6x SATA bridge chip). It will be interesting to see the break-up, but, at this moment, QNAP has not got back with answers to our clarification requests. The addition of two USB 3.0 ports to the 6- and 8-bay models actually takes away a PCIe x1 lane that could have otherwise been used for the drive bays. I am not sure how many users need more than one USB 3.0 slot in a NAS.

Update: QNAP came forward with clarifications on the I/O distribution:

  • TS-251: 1x ASM1061 (i.e, two SATA ports are served by one PCIe link)
  • TS-451: 2x ASM1061 (four SATA ports from two PCIe links)
  • TS-651: 2x 88SE9215 (three SATA ports per PCIe link)
  • TS-851: 2x 88SE9215 (four SATA ports per PCIe link)

Coming back to the Celeron J1800 SoC, the two features most relevant to us in this piece are the availability of Quick Sync (something not claimed in the initial Bay Trail launch) and VT-x (support for virtualization). We will be covering this in the next two sections. Prior to that, a quick note on the J1800 which has both 2013 B3 as well as 2014 C0 steppings. Intel started playing up the Quick Sync capabilities of the Bay Trail-D / Bay Trail-M parts for products which are part of the push for the 'Back-to-School 2014' season.

It appears from the above slide that only the 2014 C0 steppings of the J1800 have QuickSync enabled (we are still waiting for confirmation from Intel on this). Since the hardware accelerated transcoding features of the TS-x51 are dependent on Quick Sync, it is obvious that the TS-x51 must be using the C0 stepping of the Celeron J1800.

Intel Storage Platforms for the NAS Market Hardware Accelerated Transcoding for Media Applications
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  • ganeshts - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    To Intel's defense, they never claimed it would be part of Bay Trail, actually.

    But, I do agree that they could have created new part numbers instead of just stepping changes. I have asked Intel for comment, and will update the piece when they respond.
  • beginner99 - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    After seeing the pricing a DIY looks like a very sweet deal again...
  • ryanmt - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    Yeah... for me, the value prospect of a DIY is in the next-gen file systems with the atomic-COW, bit-level versioning, etc. Until the vendors get on that bandwagon, I don't think they'll get my business.
  • rocktober13 - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    Maybe I missed it, but will Plex use QuickSync if installed on the QNAP? Or does QS only work with QNAP's apps?
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    QS will work only with QNAP's apps. (Qfile and built-in media server)
  • rocktober13 - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    Thanks, I think the adoption of QS is great, but I still think the one or two apps I might use aren't worth the price premium over a DIY NAS.
  • Netscorer - Monday, August 11, 2014 - link

    Thanks. This & the price makes it a no-go for me. Yet another 'Multimedia' NAS where 1+1 does not equal 2, as they have video transcoding and Plex server but not the two together.
    For now it's still cheaper to buy no-thrills 4-bay NAS fronted by Haswell-based HTPC. You get full Windows on TV, better performance, full-featured (and fully-supported) Plex plus better upgrade flexibility.
  • snakyjake - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    I have five main concerns before I'll consider a NAS:
    1) If a small file is accessed, do all drives spin up?
    2) Data integrity. There's a difference between drive failure and bad data blocks found from a drive surface scan.
    3) Is my data stored in a propriety format?
    4) Upgradability. I can't afford to keep purchasing a new complete system. And what about new vendor software?
    5) Cost.

    OpenMediaVault, FreeNAS, UnRaid, FlexRaid, are very easy. Windows Home Server used to be a viable option too.

    I'm just not willing to let my data become hostage to a proprietary vendor, without assurances.
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 23, 2014 - link

    All the popular NAS vendors who offer off-the-shelf NAS boxes use software RAID (except for Drobo, whom we have never covered on this site in a review as yet). This means you can take out all the drives, image them and mount on a PC. After that, you could just use something like UFS Explorer to recover the data.

    For 'bad blocks', I have usually seen vendors reallocate without proclaiming drive failure. They do sound a warning in the logs, though (Again, haven't tested for all vendors)

    I have never seen these NAS vendors charge for OS upgrade (that said, sometimes the OS is quite 'demanding' and 4 - 5 year old models are not capable of running the upgraded version).

    (1) and cost vary from vendor to vendor, I guess.
  • mannyvel - Monday, June 30, 2014 - link

    < This means you can take out all the drives, image them and mount on a PC>

    Has anyone actually attempted to do this and get it to work?

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