Best Value

Qsan XCubeNAS XN5012RE Review

Qsan has been busy expanding its range of SME NAS appliances and the latest XCubeNAS XN5012RE has a sharp focus on value. It certainly looks to have achieved this as prices for this 2U 12-bay appliance start at a reasonable $2,499.

To get the price down, Qsan has taken its standard XN5012R model and stripped out the rear cage and its six SFF drive bays. These are designed to provide a dedicated SSD caching area with two bays supporting NMVe U.2 SSDs.

The XN5012RE still supports caching where you simply use any of its front LFF drive bays to fit SATA SSDs. Apart from this modification, the appliance offers the same hardware specification with a dual-core 2.9GHz Celeron G3930 CPU in the driving seat and teamed up with 8GB of DDR4 UDIMM memory expandable to 64GB.

Port choices look good as the appliance comes with quartets of Gigabit and USB 3 at the rear plus a USB 2 port at the front. The rear HDMI port can only currently be used to attach a monitor and access the CLI and system BIOS.

Design and deployment

The Hypervisor Manager app allows the appliance to host a wide range of VMs

The XN5012RE is well built and uses equally sturdy metal non-lockable drive carriers. Under the hood, you’ll find the Celeron CPU mounted by a large passive heatsink with four standard DIMM memory slots alongside while cooling is handled by three cold-swap fans in a removable tray.

Two PCI-Express slots are provided and can be used with Qsan’s 10GbE, 40GbE, Thunderbolt 3 and dual-port SAS adapters. Annoyingly, the XN5012RE doesn’t support any other manufacturers and would not work with our Emulex 10GbE network adapters.

Installation is simple as we installed four 16TB Seagate Exos X16 hard disks and used Qsan’s Web Finder discovery portal to find the appliance on the lab network. This provided a quick start wizard which downloaded the latest QSM 3.1 software and allowed us to create a big 44TB RAID5 storage pool.

The QSM web interface is nicely designed and we used the storage management app to create NAS shares and iSCSI LUNs. Access security is good as you can apply local user and group lists to shares, define read and write access, apply storage quotas and integrate with Active Directory.

Enterprise-class storage features

WORM policies can be applied to NAS shares to stop data tampering or deletion

A big difference between Qsan’s NAS appliances and the competition is they run its QSM software which is based on a ZoL (ZFS on Linux) architecture. Data protection is a key feature as QSM employs the standard ZFS copy-on-write feature which offers unlimited snapshots.

These are managed from the Backup app where you can create snapshots on demand and schedule them to run as often as every 5 minutes. Data restoration is equally easy as you can rollback an entire snapshot or browse NAS share snapshots for specific files or folders.

Data security is another winner as ZFS supports WORM (write once read many) and allows you to assign one of three policies to protect data on selected NAS shares from being tampered with, altered or deleted. WORM retention periods guarantee nothing already in a share can be modified, you can set it so that only new files copied to the share have the retention date applied while the WORM forever policy stops anything in the share from ever being modified or deleted.

Along with intelligent real-time data tiering and support for self-encrypting drives (SEDs), the XN5012RE offers data deduplication services. These can be applied to selected storage pools and require an SSD read cache assigned to them for the hash database.

10GbE performance

For 10GbE testing, we installed Qsan’s XN-E1002 dual-port 10GbE fibre adapter in the appliance and connected it directly to a Dell PowerEdge T640 Xeon Scalable host running Windows Server 2019. With a share mapped to the server, Iometer reported fast sequential read and write rates of 9.3Gbits/sec and 8.8Gbits/sec.

For real world testing, we copied a 25GB test file between the server and appliance and recorded fast read and write averages of 7Gbits/sec and 3.7Gbits/sec. General backup performance is also great with our 22.4GB folder and its collection of 10,500 small files secured to the share at a speedy 2.5Gbits/sec.

IP SAN performance is also good with a 500GB target returning Iometer sequential read and write rates of 9.2Gbits/sec and 9Gbits/sec. So far, the Celeron CPU looked to be holding up well but it ran out of steam in our dual-10GbE MPIO test as speeds only increased 12.5Gbits/sec and 11.5Gbits/sec while CPU utilization ramped up to 92%.

Modest app choices

Qsan offers a basic set of apps that cover most data protection requirements

Qsan has clearly focused primarily on business use as QSM only includes ten apps. Along with backup, you have ones for file and media management, hardware monitoring, cloud syncing, antivirus, VPNs, SQL databases, web services and virtualisation.

The Hypervisor Manager app allows the appliance to host just about any OS you want and offers options to choose ones from the VMware, Bitnami and Turnkey app marketplaces. It’s easy to use as we created a Windows Server 2019 VM in 15 minutes and used the app’s snapshot feature to take instant on demand and scheduled VM backups.

The Cloud Sync app supports Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox while Amazon S3 accounts are handled by the Backup app. Rsync support can secure data to any compliant remote NAS appliance, QSM’s Xmirror service syncs data between two XCubeNAS appliances and the price includes the Acronis-powered XReplicator software for backing up Windows workstation data to the appliance.

Conclusion

The XCubeNAS XN5012RE is a little short on features but looks good value and delivers a reasonable 10GbE performance. If you want the biggest selection of apps, we recommend Qnap or Synology appliances but if you’re looking for enterprise-class data protection out of the box, the XN5012RE is a great choice.

7.8 Total Score

The XCubeNAS XN5012RE is a little short on features but looks good value and delivers a reasonable 10GbE performance. If you want the biggest selection of apps, we recommend Qnap or Synology appliances but if you’re looking for enterprise-class data protection out of the box, the XN5012RE is a great choice.

Performance
7.5
Features
6.5
Build quality
8
Usability
8.5
Value
8.5
PROS
  • Good value
  • Decent 10GbE performance
  • ZoL operating system architecture
  • Great data protection features
  • WORM support
CONS
  • Basic range of apps
  • Limited expansion card support
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