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Synology RackStation RS3614xs+ NAS Review

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Synology has been steadily moving up the storage food chain with the enterprise market firmly on its menu. The RS3614xs+ on review is a prime example as this 12-bay rack NAS appliance offers an impressive range of features at a very tempting price.

It ticks all the right boxes for big businesses as along with top performance, it has a high expansion potential and plenty of hardware redundancy. Only SATA drives are supported (if you want SAS as well check out Synology’s RS10613xs+) but you can add two 12-bay RX1214 or RX1214RP disk shelves to push maximum capacity to 216TB using the latest 6TB drives.

The disk shelves can be added on the fly and existing RAID arrays expanded into them. Performance won’t be an issue as the shelves are connected via the high-speed Infiniband ports on the main unit.

There’s plenty of power under the hood as the appliance has a quad-core 3.3GHz Intel Xeon E3 processor. This is partnered by 8GB of DDR3 memory supplied as a pair of 4GB sticks which you’ll need to lose if you want to expand to the maximum 32GB using the four DIMM slots.

Simple setup and DSM

We slipped in a quartet of 4TB WD Enterprise SATA hard disks for testing but did find the drive carrier release levers fiddly to open. With the system powered up, we used Synology’s discovery cloud portal which found the appliance, downloaded the latest production DSM (Disk Station Manager) software and created a Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) array for us.

SHR allows hard disks of different capacities to be used in the same array but we did have to wait over 10 hours for our array build to finish. However, make the most of SHR as the next version of DSM drops support for them in favour of standard RAID arrays.

Synology’s DSM web interface is well designed and provides easy access to all features. Creating NAS shares from the Control Panel is simple as we just picked a volume, provided a share name and chose the level of access security along with setting per–user volume quotas.

Synology’s DSM 5 web interface

Synology’s DSM 5 web interface is well designed and very user friendly.

IP SANs are configured from the Storage Manager where we created LUNs by choosing the parent volume, the LUN size and whether to use thin provisioning. Enable the advanced LUN feature during this phase if you want support for VMware VAAI, Windows ODX data offloading, LUN snapshots and clones.

The DSM Storage Manager provides a central point for managing disks, arrays, volumes and IP SANs.

The DSM Storage Manager provides a central point for managing disks, arrays, volumes and IP SANs.

The future looks cloudy

Synology’s support for cloud services just keep on getting better. For starters, you get a good range of cloud backup services with support for ElephantDrive, Symform, HiDrive and Amazon’s low-cost Glacier service. We tested the latter using our Amazon Web Services account and swiftly created scheduled backups of selected folders on the test appliance to a Glacier vault.

We particularly like the Cloud Sync package which can synchronize folders on the appliance with Google Drive, Dropbox and Baidu Cloud accounts. Testing with our Google Drive and Dropbox accounts was remarkably simple to use and vastly superior to Thecus’ inept attempts at Google Drive support.

The Cloud Station gets more versatile as along with synchronizing files from your PCs and mobiles, it can now do it between two Synology appliances. We had no problems testing this feature with the lab’s DS1813+ desktop appliance and were able to pair it with the RS3614xs+ just by using its QuickConnect ID.

Top 10GbE performance

The RS3614xs+ is 10GbE-ready as it has two PCI-Express expansion slots which support industry standard Intel and Emulex cards. We fitted an Emulex OCE11102-NT dual-port 10GbaseT card which was accepted without any problems.

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For performance testing, we used a direct copper connection with a rack server sporting a pair of the latest 14-core E5-2683 v3 Xeons, 64GB of DDR4, mirrored SSDs, dual embedded Intel 10GbE and running Windows Server 2012 R2. Using a mapped share, we saw Iometer deliver storming raw sequential read and write speeds of 1070MB/sec and 1140MB/sec respectively.

Using our 50GB Iometer test file to measure sustained real world NAS speeds, we saw drag and drop copies return super-fast read and write rates of 438MB/sec and 430MB/sec. The RS3614xs+ handled our backup test very well with a 22.4GB folder containing 10,500 small files copied to a share at a speedy 241MB/sec.

DSM 5.1 beta

Every new release of DSM usually delivers plenty of extra goodies but Synology’s v5.1 beta goes way beyond our expectations as it’s packed to the gills with new features. We loaded it up on the RS3614xs+ and despite the release notes stating SHR volumes are no longer supported, it left our test SHR volume intact.

Security is a key focus with the new Security Advisor scanning the appliance and offering advice on closing any potential weaknesses. It confirmed we were malware free, spotted one account with a weak password, recommended changes to our network settings and services and advised us that some packages needing updating.

DSM 5.1 beta

The new DSM 5.1 beta and its handy Security Advisor spots any holes in your storage armour.

You can decide which network ports services are enabled on, set application privileges for local and domain users, assign IP-based access rules, stop untrusted apps being installed and enforce 2-step verification on users.

This is the tip of the iceberg as Synology’s LUN backup performance has been improved, snapshots can now be scheduled and the space reclamation feature of Windows Server 2012 is supported. The Windows Data Replicator backup tool gets its marching orders as Synology now prefers you to use its Cloud Station for backup functions.

PROS:
  • Good value
  • Storming 10GbE performance
  • Stunning range of storage features
  • Big expansion potential
  • First-class cloud services

CONS:
  • Lengthy RAID array builds for big disks
  • Fiddly disk carrier release levers

Summary

Synology’s RS3614xs+ delivers an impressive range of enterprise NAS and IP SAN features at a small business price. It offers a high expansion potential, performance over 10GbE is beyond reproach and the new DSM 5.1 promises heaps of new features.

9.2 Total Score
Impressive Features at Small Price

Synology’s RS3614xs+ delivers an impressive range of enterprise NAS and IP SAN features at a small business price. It offers a high expansion potential, performance over 10GbE is beyond reproach and the new DSM 5.1 promises heaps of new features.

Performance
9.5
Features
9.5
Build Quality
8
Usability
9.5
Value
9.5
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