At first glance, Qsan’s XCubeNAS XN7008R appears to be a standard 8-bay rack NAS appliance but take a look round the back and you’ll find six SFF bays with two supporting NVMe U.2 SSDs. This arrangement adds extra levels of versatility as these can be used to provide a chunk of high-speed storage, present a performance-boosting cache or function as a read cache for Qsan’s deduplication engine.
There’s more going on under the hood too, as Qsan’s QSM ZOL (ZFS on Linux) software presents a solid range of enterprise-class data protection features. Whereas many competing NAS vendors had to implement support for BTRFS to provide snapshot services, QSM employs the standard ZFS copy-on-write feature which supports unlimited snapshots.
The XN7008R is offered as a more affordable alternative to Qsan’s XN8008R although the only difference between them is the former employs a dual-core 3.9GHz Core i3-7100 whereas the latter sports a more powerful quad-core 3.3GHz Intel Xeon E3-1225 v6. It is, however, enough to drop the starting price by $800 and the XN7008R also supports up to 64GB of DDR4 memory and comes with dual hot-plug PSUs.
The XN7008R is solidly built and uses equally sturdy metal lockable drive carriers. The lid is easily removed and underneath you’ll find the CPU topped with off with large passive heatsink and four standard DIMM memory slots alongside with two occupied by 4GB modules.
Cooling is handled by three main cold-swap fans mounted on a removable tray while the rear SSD cage gets its own personal fan. 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. Two PCI-Express slots are available but these only support Qsan’s own 10GbE, 40GbE, Thunderbolt 3 and dual-port SAS adapters.
Installation and 10GbE performance
Deployment is a cinch as we fitted four 16TB Seagate IronWolf NAS drives and used Qsan’s discovery web portal to locate the appliance on the lab network. This presented a quick start wizard which loaded the latest QSM 3.2 software after which we created RAID5 storage pool.
For 10GbE testing, we installed Qsan’s dual-port 10GbE fibre adapter and connected it directly to an HPE ProLiant DL180 Gen10 Xeon Scalable rack server running Windows Server 2019. With a share mapped to the server over 10GbE, Iometer reported fast sequential read and write rates of 9.2Gbits/sec and 8.9Gbits/sec.
For real world testing, we copied a 25GB test file between the server and appliance and recorded good read and write averages of 4Gbits/sec and 3.9Gbits/sec. General backup performance is reasonable as our 22.4GB folder with 10,500 small files was secured to the share at 1.9Gbits/sec.
IP SAN performance is also good with a 500GB target returning Iometer sequential read and write rates of 9.2Gbits/sec and 8.3Gbits/sec. We then created a dual 10GbE MPIO link to the HPE server and saw read and write speeds ramp nicely up to 16.5Gbits/sec and 11.1Gbits/sec although during this test, we did notice CPU utilisation peaking at 82%.
The XN7008R offers plenty of enterprise-class storage features as ZFS augments its data deduplication services with intelligent real-time data tiering and support for self-encrypting drives (SEDs). Businesses that don’t want their data tampered with will like the WORM (write once read many) feature.
One of three WORM policies can be applied to NAS shares where data retention periods are set in days and can protect existing data or files subsequently added to them. Be very careful with the ‘WORM forever’ policy as this will stop share contents from ever being modified or deleted and will not permit the volume containing the share to be removed either.
Deduplication is also applied to selected pools and volumes and required a read cache assigned to it. Data reduction rates are good as after backing up our Windows 10 workstations to a share on a deduplicating volume, we saw a near 60% reduction in actual storage usage.
App choices are fairly limited as Qsan only offers ten although these do cover all the basic business requirements. They comprise backup, file management, hardware monitoring, media management, cloud syncing, antivirus, VPNs, SQL databases, web services and virtualisation.
NAS share and iSCSI LUN snapshots are managed from the Backup app where you can create them on demand and use a schedule to run snapshots regularly as often as every 5 minutes. To restore data, entire snapshots can be rolled back or you can browse NAS share snapshots and restore individual files and folders.
The Backup app can also secure data to any Rsync-compliant remote appliance, use Alibaba Cloud OSS, Amazon S3 and HiCloud S3 public cloud accounts and replicate folders between XCubeNAS appliances using the Xmirror service. The Cloud Sync app manages one-way and two-way sync jobs with Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive while scheduled Windows workstation backup is handled by the Acronis-powered XReplicator software which comes with a 5-user license.
The Hypervisor Manager app allows the appliance to host just about any OS you choose and offers an option to load them from the VMware, Bitnami and Turnkey app marketplaces. We created a Windows Server 2019
VM in 20 minutes, isolated it from the main network with the app’s vSwitch feature and used its snapshot service to take instant on demand and scheduled VM backups.
The XCubeNAS XN7008R may not offer the same range of apps as Qnap or Synology but it does deliver a powerful network storage solution at a good price. The six rear SFF bays add a lot of versatility, 10GbE performance is good and Qsan’s ZFS-based QSM software provides an abundance of enterprise-class data protection features.
- Good value
- Fine 10GbE performance
- Extensive ZFS data protection features
- Versatile mix of LFF and SFF drive bays
- WORM support
- Dual hot-plug PSU
- Minimal app choices