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Synology FlashStation FS6400

Targeting I/O intensive applications such as multimedia post-production, virtualization and big databases, Synology’s FlashStation FS6400 aims to offer SMEs a powerful, all-Flash storage solution at an affordable price. Stepping up as the replacement to the FS3017, this 2U rack appliance delivers a major hardware upgrade while Synology’s DSM software provides an impressive range of features out of the box.

The initial asking price may seem high but value gets a boost as the FS6400 combines support for high-performing, high-cost SAS3 and low-cost, high-capacity SATA SSDs. Appliances from many blue chip storage vendors only support SAS SSDs as standard so it’ll be more costly to populate them.

The FS6400 has 24 hot-swap SFF bays and delivers a mighty hardware package as it’s powered by a pair of 8-core 2.1GHz Intel Xeon Scalable Silver 4110 CPUs. The price includes 32GB of fast 2,667MHz DDR4 ECC RDIMM memory which can be upgraded hugely to 512GB.

Hardware and design

Synology’s unique RAID F1 arrays can efficiently manage long-term SSD wear

The FS6400 is well built with a sturdy steel chassis and a handy removable panel on top that provides easy access to the four hot-plug cooling fans beneath. Along with dual Gigabit, the appliance offers a pair of embedded 10GBase-T ports and power redundancy comes as standard with dual 800W hot-plug PSUs.

Synology has improved the storage HBA arrangement over the FS3017 by replacing its triple Avago SAS3 PCIe adapter cards with two Synology SAS12G SAS3 models. Both cards have external SAS3 expansion ports but only the first can be used to connect up to two 12-bay RX1217sas or 24-bay RX2417sas disk shelves (the second card’s port is labelled for manufacturing use only).

The appliance may not support redundant links to external disk shelves but it’s cheaper to expand than its predecessor as this required Synology’s optional FXC17 SAS3 card which costs around $800. Internal expansion hasn’t changed though, as the FS6400 also offers two spare PCIe slots which support industry standard 10GbE adapters from Intel plus 25GbE and 40GbE Mellanox cards.

Deployment and RAID F1

The appliance’s powerful hardware package delivers top random throughput and low latency for IP SANs

For testing, we installed four enterprise-class 1.92TB Micron 5200 Max SATA SSDs and used Synology’s discovery web portal to find the appliance and load the latest DSM 6.2 software. This offers the full range of RAID arrays options and if you’ve loaded SSDs it will default to Synology’s RAID F1.

This is a unique feature of Synology’s all-Flash appliances which is designed to counteract potential SSD wear caused by program/erase (P/E) cycles. When the RAID F1 array is created, DSM automatically nominates one SSD to receive more parity bits that the rest.

The thinking here is that this SSD will wear out quicker than the rest and can be replaced when it reaches the end of its life. When a new SSD is installed, the array takes the next oldest one to receive the extra workload and you can monitor estimated lifespan from the Storage Manager app.

10GbE performance

To test performance, we used a Dell PowerEdge T640 Xeon Scalable tower server running Windows Server 2019. With a NAS share mapped to the server, we recorded high sequential read and write speeds of 9.2Gbits/sec and 9.1Gbits/sec.

Setting Iometer to 4KB blocks returned I/O throughput speeds for sequential reads and writes of 162,000 IOPS and 129,500 IOPS. Random reads and write operations saw speeds of 158,000 IOPS and 92,000 IOPS.

Mapping another share to a second Xeon Scalable Windows server over a dedicated 10GbE link saw cumulative sequential read and write speeds settle comfortably at 18.5Gbits/sec and 17.2Gbits/sec. Cumulative throughput for the two servers was very good with Iometer recording 296,500 IOPS and 171,500 IOPS for random reads and writes.

Performance for IP SANs was equally impressive with a 500GB block-based target delivering Iometer sequential read and write speeds of 9.2Gbits/sec and 9.1Gbits/sec. A dual 10GbE MPIO link to our Dell server saw speed increase to 18.5Gbits/sec and 12.6Gbits/sec.

IP SAN I/O throughput was good with the MPIO link recording sequential read and write rates of 185,200 IOPS and 167,000 IOPS. Only a small drop was recorded for random operations with Iometer returning 181,300 IOPS and 155,500 IOPS.

Virtualization features

The VMM app provides impressive virtualization features teamed up with solid VM protection services

The high CPU core count and large memory capacity makes the FS6400 a great virtualization candidate and DSM’s Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) app offers an impressive range of features. It allows you to host VMs running just about any OS and use the vSwitch service to isolate them on specific network ports.

VMM is simple to use and we created a Windows Server 2019 VM from an ISO and had it running in only 12 minutes. From the VMM dashboard, you can use protection plans to backup selected VMs using snapshots and run them to a schedule with a retention policy for a specific RPO (recovery point objective).

The cloning feature can create multiple identical copies of VMs and migrate them to another Synology appliance running the VMM app, although the latter requires a paid-for VMM Pro license. VMM also links up with Synology’s Active Backup for Business app to provide smart disaster recovery features by creating on-demand VMs using bare-metal or VMware VM backups.

DSM supports Windows Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX) for improved data transfer speeds and is fully certified for VMware vSphere and VAAI. To protect iSCSI LUNS with snapshots and to enable VAAI, ODX and cloning support, you select thin provisioning and enable the advanced options during their creation.

Conclusion

The FS6400 may initially look pricey but it is good value as Synology’s DSM software comes with nearly everything included so you don’t need to factor the cost of additional options such as enhanced snapshots and replication. Its classy Xeon Scalable hardware package delivers great performance while support for low-cost SATA SSDs makes the FS6400 an appealing choice for budget-conscious SMEs.

8.6 Total Score

The FS6400 may initially look pricey but it is good value as Synology’s DSM software comes with nearly everything included so you don’t need to factor the cost of additional options such as enhanced snapshots and replication. Its classy Xeon Scalable hardware package delivers great performance while support for low-cost SATA SSDs makes the FS6400 an appealing choice for budget-conscious SMEs.

Performance
9
Features
8.5
Build quality
9
Usability
9
Value
7.5
PROS
  • Dual Xeon Scalable CPUs
  • High memory capacity
  • Excellent performance
  • SAS3/SATA SSD support
  • Great virtualization features
  • 5-year warranty
CONS
  • Single external expansion port
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