Editors Choice

QSAN TrioNAS LX U300-P20-C424 NAS Review

TrioNAS LX U300-P20-C424

Qsan has a reputation for delivering high value storage arrays to SMBs and it maintains this with its latest TrioNAS LX family. On review we have the U300-P20-C424 model which provides NAS and IP SAN services, is 10GbE enabled, has 24 hot-swap disk bays plus a big expansion potential and yet has a starting price of a shade over $5,000.

Qsan puts more options on the board as you have a choice of CPU as well. Our system has a dual-core 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-4330TE but another option is a controller with a quad-core 3.2GHz Intel Xeon E3-1225 v3 which increases the starting price to $5,749.

At this low price you won’t get controller redundancy and the array only has a single SAS expansion port so extra disk shelves don’t have redundant links either. Even so, expansion potential is huge as the head unit supports a total of 192 drives using Qsan’s J100 disk shelves and with Hitachi’s 8TB SATA helium drives on the certified list, this can be pushed to over 1.5PB.

With ZFS at the helm you get an impressive range of storage features including deduplication, compression, thin provisioning, snapshots and replication. Add SSDs and you can boost performance by using them as read or write caches and all these features are included as standard.

Upgrading and deployment

The entry-level models come with seven Gigabit data ports but they can be upgraded using daughter cards that offer dual SFP+ 10GbE, RJ-45 10GbE or 16Gb/sec Fibre Channel ports. We were supplied with the 10GbE SFP+ card and found the upgrade process reasonably straightforward.

TrioNAS LX U300 rear view

The controller backplate and integral cooling fan are removed first and then the daughter card snapped in and mounted on three stand-offs. A new backplate with extra holes for the 10GbE ports is fitted and after power up, we ran a quick CLI command to reset the model name and were ready to go.

Deployment is swift as we could manage the array via its own web interface or Qsan’s QCentral utility which looks after multiple appliances from a single interface. We also upgraded the array with the latest firmware which adds a lot of new features including support for SMB 3 and AFP 3.4, Windows version control and auto-rebuild on degraded arrays.

One new feature we were pleased to see is the drive carriers don’t require Qsan’s MUX interposer boards for SATA drives. Costing around $75 each, these negated the cost advantages of cheaper SATA drives and the new firmware also activates a blue carrier LED so you can see at the glance which have SAS and SATA drives fitted.

ZFS features

QSAN Web management console

The latest firmware provides a much improved web management console

The firmware upgrade includes a much improved web console which looks a lot nicer and offers better access to features than its predecessor. Both management consoles are easy to use and for testing, we loaded up a quartet of 4TB WD SAS drives and created a single RAID5 ZFS storage pool.

Extra drives can be added to arrays as hot spares or used to expand pool capacity into them. NAS shares are created within ZFS file systems and each one can have thin provisioning, deduplication and compression set as required.

For our shares, we could enable CIFS, NFS, AFP and FTP access for each one but only from within QCentral as this can’t be done from the web console. Volumes are created for iSCSI targets and we entered a size and enabled thin provisioning, deduplication and compression as required.

Targets are mapped to a LUN and we could apply CHAP authentication as well. From the general iSCSI settings page, we could also decide which data ports a LUN would be visible on.

General performance

QSAN's QCentral Java App

Qsan’s QCentral Java app provides centralised management of all your Qsan arrays

For testing, we used an HP ProLiant DL380 Gen9 rack server equipped with dual Xeon E5-2600 v3 CPUs, an Emulex dual-port 10GbE adapter and running Windows Server 2012 R2. Shares were mapped to the server over a direct fibre connection to the array.

NAS performance is excellent with Iometer reporting raw sequential read and write speed of 1,170MB/sec and 987MB/sec which equates to 9.1Gbits/sec and 7.7Gbits/sec. With another share on the same array mapped to a second E5-2600 v3 Xeon server, we saw cumulative speeds of 17.4Gbits/sec and 14Gbits/sec.

IP SAN speeds were equally good with a 1TB target returning raw read and write Iometer speeds of 9.2Gbits/sec and 7Gbits/sec. A dual 10GbE MPIO link to the target boosted read and write speeds to an impressive 16.6Gbits/sec and 11.7Gbits/sec.

Snapshots and more

QCentral

Shares can be viewed from QCentral and access permissions assigned for local and AD users

The ZFS copy-on-write feature means you have unlimited snapshots to play with. These can be taken on-demand for selected file systems and volumes and scheduled at regular hourly, daily and weekly intervals.

Value looks even better as replication is included in the price. You can replicate selected file systems and volumes to other pools on the same appliance or to another remote Qsan array and run them to a schedule.

You even get a three-year subscription to McAfee’s anti-virus service included. This provides on-appliance scanning for selected file systems which can be run on-demand or at hourly, daily and weekly intervals.

The cloud component of the TrioNAS family comes courtesy of support for Amazon’s S3 service although we would like to see Amazon’s lower-cost Glacier service in there as well. Even so, we had no problems configuring scheduled jobs to back up selected folders to our Amazon Web Services account.

PROS:
  • Excellent value
  • Top NAS and IP SAN performance
  • Massive storage capacity
  • SAS, SATA and SSDs supported as standard
  • Snapshots and replication included

CONS:
  • Single controller
  • No redundant links for disk shelves

Conclusion

Qsan’s latest TrioNAS LX arrays deliver unbeatable value with the new controllers bringing 10GbE and Fibre Channel support into the equation. The U300-P20-C424 offers a massive capacity expansion plus top performance and with ZFS in the driving seat, it’s well endowed with storage features as well.

8.7 Total Score
Unbeatable Value with Massive Capacity

Qsan’s latest TrioNAS LX arrays deliver unbeatable value with the new controllers bringing 10GbE and Fibre Channel support into the equation. The U300-P20-C424 offers a massive capacity expansion plus top performance and with ZFS in the driving seat, it’s well endowed with storage features as well.

Performance
9
Features
8
Build Quality
8.5
Usability
9
Value
9
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