Editors Choice

Thecus W16850 Review

Thecus differs significantly from the competition in the NAS world as it’s one of very few vendors to offer a choice of Linux and Windows powered appliances. The W16850 heads up its enterprise range of Windows appliances and Thecus steals another march over its rivals as it’s one of the first to market with Microsoft’s latest Windows Storage Server 2016 (WSS2016) at the helm.

Initially launched in mid-2016, the W16850 platform doesn’t receive a hardware update although its specification looks quite capable of handling the demands of WSS2016. It has a 3.4GHz Intel E3-1231 v3 CPU partnered by 16GB of DDR3 memory which can be boosted to 32GB – the maximum supported by this CPU.

The W16850 targets businesses that want storage versatility as it offers 16 hot-swap LFF/SFF drive bays managed by an Avago SAS3 PCI-Express controller card supporting SAS, SATA and SSD devices. These are all available for general storage duties as WSS2016 is preinstalled on a 64GB SATA SFF SSD inside the appliance which also stores the full OS recovery image.

Network connections are plentiful as the W16850 has quad embedded Gigabit ports and room inside to add 10-Gigabit (10GbE) PCI-Express adapters. Power redundancy is also present and correct as the price includes dual 500W hot-plug PSUs.

Software features and deployment

WSS2016 is a cinch to use and has a wizard for every occasion including share creation

The W16850 comes with WSS2016 Standard Edition preinstalled which has no CAL or storage capacity restrictions. Unlike the Workgroup Edition, there are no memory limitations, it supports unlimited disks and can run two Hyper-V VMs.

Out of the box, the OS is unlicensed and provides an unrestricted 30-day trial to play with. Thecus has been very accommodating as you can shop around for the license to get the best deal – SimplyNAS advised us it offers a full OEM license for a very reasonable $625.

On the surface, there are few OS design changes to contend with as the Windows Server Manager interface is virtually identical to its predecessor. What lies beneath is of more interest as WSS2016 delivers a number of improvements.

The integral deduplication boosts volume size support from 10TB up to 64TB and maximum file sizes go up 1TB. When creating a dedup volume, the wizard offers an extra usage type option for virtualized backup apps.

Deployment is a cinch as on power up, the appliance runs a quick install wizard asking for your location, the Windows product key and a new admin password. That’s all there is to it as you can now start provisioning your storage.

Storage setup

Combine SSDs and HDDs in a storage pool and you can activate the data tiering feature

Other important features include support for ReFS (resilient file system), hardened SMB share security and storage quality of service for Hyper-V virtual disks. Windows 10 clients using Work Folders now have file changes synchronised immediately instead of having to wait up to 10 minutes for updates to occur.

It’s business as usual for all other storage features as you still have storage spaces, automated data tiering, thin provisioning and support for NAS shares and IP SANs. To use the data tiering, you need to create a storage pool with both HDDs and SSDs in it

WSS2016 must be aware of their media type and thin provisioning is disabled on tiered storage pools. Also, it isn’t a dynamic process as data migration occurs only after a scheduled optimization task has run although you can run it manually whenever you want.

Shares are simply to create as the wizard’s Quick option does all the work for you. Likewise with IP SANs as a wizard also helped us create virtual volumes and dish out access permissions for selected logged in initiators.

No worries when upgrading to 10GbE as any card supported by Windows will work in the W16850. We fitted a Broadcom OCE11102-NT dual port 10Gbase-T card which was accepted without any issues.

Deduplication and 10GbE performance

Microsoft’s integral deduplication delivered big data reduction rates in our tests

Microsoft’s deduplication is a top performer and to test this we used the Binary Testing (www.binarytesting.com) dedupe test suite and arcserve r17 assigned a mapped share as a disk based backup device. With a 4GB data set containing 1,000 files, we ran a one month backup strategy consisting of daily incrementals and weekly full backups.

After each backup, we ran custom scripts to change 2% of data in 40% of the test files and then ran dedupe jobs manually using the slick new Powershell 5.1 interface. At the end of the simulation, we recorded an impressive 84% data reduction putting WSS2016 on a par with more expensive hardware dedupe solutions.

For general performance testing, we fitted a fast Toshiba MLC SAS3 SSD and saw good local speeds with Iometer reporting sequential read and write rates of 7.9Gbps and 6.3Gbps. Setting Iometer to small 4KB transfer requests also saw high random read and write throughputs of 124,000 and 47,000 IOPS.

Moving to a networked Windows server over 10GbE, we recorded modest drops in speed for a NAS share with Iometer returning sequential reads and writes of 7.7Gbps and 5.2Gbps. IP SAN performance was a mixed bag with a 100GB target delivering good Iometer read rates of 8Gbps but lower 4Gbps write rates.

Conclusion

The W16850 has a lot to offer storage hungry businesses with a high potential capacity and room to expand outside the box using the SAS3 controller’s external port. Microsoft’s latest Windows Storage Server 2016 delivers plenty of new features although we’d prefer it if Thecus put the OS on a mirrored pair of SSDs for greater redundancy.

Overall performance is good, deduplication is impeccable and the low price for the appliance plus the WSS2016 Standard license make the W16850 comparatively good value. As an early adopter of Windows Storage Server 2016, Thecus sets a high standard for the rest to follow.

8.7 Total Score
Thecus W16850

The W16850 has a lot to offer storage hungry businesses with a high potential capacity and room to expand outside the box using the SAS3 controller’s external port. Microsoft’s latest Windows Storage Server 2016 delivers plenty of new features although we’d prefer it if Thecus put the OS on a mirrored pair of SSDs for greater redundancy. Overall performance is good, deduplication is impeccable and the low price for the appliance plus the WSS2016 Standard license make the W16850 comparatively good value. As an early adopter of Windows Storage Server 2016, Thecus sets a high standard for the rest to follow.

Performance
7.5
Features
8.5
Build Quality
9.5
Usability
9
Value
9
PROS
  • Great value
  • WSS2016 Standard included
  • Plenty of storage features
  • Super-efficient data deduplication
  • Good overall performance
  • Excellent build quality
CONS
  • OS SSD really should be mirrored
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