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Synology RackStation RS3618xs Review

Moving into the upper echelons of Synology’s enterprise-class NAS appliance family, the new 12-bay RackStation RS3618xs targets storage-hungry businesses that also have an eye on data backup and virtualization. Keeping up with Synology’s two-year refresh cycle, it steps in as the successor to the RS3617xs and offers a more versatile hardware package.

The aging quad-core 3.3GHz E3-1230 v2 Xeon in its predecessor is replaced with a modern quad-core 2.4GHz Xeon D-1521 and a big advantage is its support for up to 64GB of DDR4 memory. The RS3617xs can only handle up to 32GB of slower DDR3 making the new model a more capable host for Synology’s Virtual Machine Manager app.

The RS3618xs has 8GB of memory preinstalled and the price hasn’t increased with a diskless model costing $2,599 – the same as the RS3617xs with 4GB when it was launched in 2016. You still get a quartet of Gigabit ports but the two PCI-Express slots provided for 10GbE upgrades are now both high-speed X8 slots.

Expansion potential is very good as the dual Infiniband ports are used to connect up to two 12-bay RX1217 or RX1217RP disk shelves. Pushing the total SATA drive count to 36 and maximum capacity to 432TB, these can be connected without powering the main unit down and existing arrays expanded into them.

A speedy performer

Synology’s DSM 6.2 beta offers a wealth of data protection and backup features

For high-speed testing, we installed four 10TB Seagate IronWolf SATA drives and allowed the quick start wizard to create a large 27.3TB SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID) array. Our host system was an HPE ProLiant DL560 Gen10 rack server equipped with Xeon Gold 5120 2.2GHz CPUs and running Windows Server 2016.

With an Emulex dual-port 10GBase-T card fitted in the appliance, we saw Iometer raw sequential read and write rates for a mapped NAS share settle at 9.2Gbits/sec and 7.9Gbits/sec. For real world testing, we copied a 25GB file between the HPE server and appliance for sustained read and write speeds of 5.2Gbits/sec and 4Gbits/sec.

The RS3618xs makes a speedy backup target as our 22.4GB folder with 10,500 small files was secured at an average of 2.7Gbits/sec. The CPU’s embedded AES-NI engine delivers the goods too, as our 25GB file copy to an encrypted folder averaged 2.2Gbits/sec with CPU utilisation at only 22 percent.

IP SAN performance was equally good with a 500GB target mustering Iometer read and write speeds of 9.2Gbits/sec and 9.1Gbits/sec. We upped the pressure with a dual 10GbE MPIO link and watched speed ramp up nicely to 15.4Gbits/sec and 15Gbits/sec.

A great virtual host

The VMM app can take advantage of the higher memory capacity of the RS3618xs

The appliance is well-suited to Synology’s slick Virtual Machine Manager app which allows it to host just about any OS you choose. Available memory capacity will determine the number of virtual machines (VMs) you can run simultaneously and the integral vSwitch feature can isolate VM traffic on selected network interfaces.

The app is easy to use and we had a couple of Windows Server 2016 VMs deployed on the RS3618xs in 30 minutes. The dashboard provides easy access to VMs with options to power them on and off, link them to a specific vSwitch and set up user access permissions.

You can connect directly to a VM but don’t use Microsoft Edge when managing the VMM app as it will fail to connect to the server. We had no problems with Google Chrome and were able to remotely control selected VMs with ease.

Protection plans keep your VMs safe as you can create a schedule to run snapshots at regular intervals and apply a retention policy for a specific RPO (recovery point objective). Other very useful features are VM cloning, migration and a high availability option when you have separate active, passive and VM storage hosts placed in a cluster.

File sharing and backup features

The Acronis True Image app can back up data from your iOS and Android mobiles

The DSM 6.2 web interface very well designed and makes light work of NAS share creation. We selected a volume, entered shared folder names, chose the level of access security, applied per–user volume quotas and decided whether to encrypt them.

IP SANs are just as easy to create from the new iSCSI Manager app as a wizard helps create LUNs and assign targets. Choosing thin provisioning during LUN creation enables features such as LUN snapshots, cloning and support for Microsoft ODX and VMware VAAI.

DSM data protection services are outstanding with the Hyper Backup app managing local, remote, Rsync, cloud and iSCSI LUN backups from a single console. It links directly to Synology’s C2 Backup cloud storage for off-site backups and you have the Cloud Station Server app for syncing workstation data with the appliance.

Appliance data is well protected as the Snapshot Replication app manages scheduled NAS share snapshots on BTRFS volumes while the iSCSI Manager app handles them for advanced LUNs. The Active Backup app provides agentless backup of Windows and Linux systems and just requires their IP address and user credentials to secure shared drives or directories to the appliance.

The Acronis Mobile backup app secures iOS and Android mobile data to the appliance although it places the data in a hidden location which can’t be backed up itself. It’s easy to use though, as after loading the Acronis Mobile app on our iPad, we scanned in a QR code to link it to the RS3618xs, watched it back up our contacts, photos, videos, calendars plus reminders and used the app to recover selected items with ease.

Conclusion

A high capacity, fast 10GbE performance and great data protection features makes the RS3618xs an ideal file sharing and backup storage vault for SMEs. The increased memory support makes it a superior choice for virtualization duties than the RS3617xs, it offers a very high storage expansion potential and it’s also good value.

8.8 Total Score

A high capacity, fast 10GbE performance and great data protection features makes the RS3618xs an ideal file sharing and backup storage vault for SMEs. The increased memory support makes it a superior choice for virtualization duties than the RS3617xs, it offers a very high storage expansion potential and it’s also good value.

Performance
8.5
Features
8.5
Build quality
9
Usability
9
Value
9
PROS
  • Big expansion potential
  • Great value
  • Supports 64GB of DDR4
  • Fast 10GbE NAS performance
  • Data protection features
  • Smart Virtual Machine Manager app
CONS
  • Acronis Mobile app uses a hidden backup location
  • Microsoft Edge has issues with the VMM remote console
  • No dual PSU options
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2 Comments
  1. Reply
    bretm May 4, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    How loud was the unit? I’m considering one for a home lab, and curious whether it’ll burst eardrums/etc.

    • Reply
      SRadmin July 27, 2018 at 10:17 am

      Hello
      Not sure about bursting eardrums – but its loud unless you have a place that can shield the noise away from the main rooms i.e. basement etc.

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