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Thecus N8880U-10G Review

N8880-10G FrontStepping up as Thecus’ flagship SMB rack appliance, the next generation N8880U-10G delivers a greatly improved hardware specification and has Thecus’ signature feature – a 10GbE adapter included in the price. This 2U appliance supports eight hot-swap SATA drives in lockable trays and provides an extensive range of business storage features.

Aimed at performance hungry SMBs, the N8880U-10G is endowed with a 3.3GHz Core i3-2120 CPU and a generous 8GB of DDR3 ECC server-grade memory which can be boosted to 32GB. This is a marked improvement over the older N8810U-10G  which is powered by a more basic 2.9GHz Pentium G850 CPU partnered by 4GB of memory

Along with Thecus’ pre-installed single-port 10GBase-T adapter card, you get two embedded Gigabit ports, a pair of USB 3 and quad USB 2. There’s more as the price also includes dual hot-plug 400W PSUs.

We can’t criticise Thecus for build quality as its rack appliances are exceedingly well made with a solid steel chassis and lid. The drives can be protected by a flip up door and internal cooling is also good as the four internal fans are all hot-swappable.N8880-10G Rear

Installation

For testing, we loaded up four 4TB WD Red drives in the appliance’s sturdy metal carriers, powered it up and used the Thecus Finder utility to locate it on the network. This provided quick access to the web interface where a wizard popped up and offered to help us with initial configuration.

The wizard started by setting up email notifications but insisted on creating a RAID6 array with our four drives. We were happy to trade dual-drive redundancy for more capacity so cancelled the wizard and manually created a RAID5 array.

Thecus offers plenty of RAID options including array expansion into new drives, migration from RAID5 to 6 and support for global hot spares. The appliance makes up for its lack of external expansion ports as its NAS Stacking feature allows up to five external iSCSI targets on other appliances to be made available as network shares.

Another reason for skipping the wizard is it defaults to the EXT4 file system but Thecus now supports the relatively new BTRFS. We chose this option during array creation as it enables support for manual and scheduled NAS share and iSCSI LUN snapshots for simple data protection and recovery.

Web console – could do better

N8880U-10G web interface

The appliance’s web interface is easy to use but hasn’t been updated for some time now

The appliance’s web console is easy enough to navigate but compared with Qnap’s QTS and Synology’s DSM, it is looking very dated. Whereas the competition is constantly updating and improving their interfaces, Thecus seems content to leave well alone and it shows.

Even so, we had no problems finding and configuring features such as Thecus’ slick DataGuard app which manages synchronized and scheduled backups of shares, LUNs and folders. It can use local storage, external USB devices and other remote appliances as destinations and it also provides tools to copy data directly to Amazon S3 cloud storage.

Syncing with cloud services has been improved with free modules for DropBox and ElephantDrive although Google Drive support was dropped some time ago as this module was virtually unusable. We had no problems using Dropbox but Thecus still doesn’t offer modules for backup integration with Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon’s Glacier.

HA and snapshots

N8880U-10G an ideal candidate for high availability clusters

It’s low price makes the N8880U-10G an ideal candidate for high availability clusters

The low price of the N8880U-10G makes it better suited to high availability scenarios than Synology’s much more expensive RS18016xs+. Two N8880U-10G appliances can be linked together using dedicated network ports for heartbeat functions and if one goes down, the other takes over all storage duties.

BTRFS snapshots can be taken on-demand or scheduled for regular daily, weekly or monthly intervals. We found the restore function worked perfectly as after deleting a set of files from a protected share, we restored it from the last snapshot in under a minute.

Support for BTRFS brings in instant data protection using NAS and IP SAN snapshots

Support for BTRFS brings in instant data protection using NAS and IP SAN snapshots

Thecus has also fixed its iSCSI snapshots which can now be scheduled and run correctly. Targets can only be restored directly from the web interface whereas NAS snapshots can be remotely browsed as shared folders and individual files restored using drag and drop.

Improved 10GbE speeds

For performance testing, we used a direct connection with an HP ProLiant DL380 Gen9 rack server equipped with an Emulex 10GBase-T adapter and running Windows Server 2012 R2. With a NAS share mapped to the server, we saw Iometer report good raw sequential read and write speeds of 1,117MB/sec and 400MB/sec.

Real world speeds were on the money with our 25GB file copy delivering sustained read and write speeds of 433MB/sec and 376MB/sec. We tested general backup operations by copying a 22.4GB folder with 10,500 small files to a share over 10GbE and which returned a very speedy average of 263MB/sec – noticeably faster that Synology’s more costly RS3614xs+ which managed 218MB/sec for this test.

PROS:
  • Improved NAS and IP SAN performance
  • 10GBase-T adapter as standard
  • Excellent value
  • BTRFS and snapshot support
  • Dual redundant PSUs

CONS:
  • Web interface looks dated
  • No external expansion ports

The good news continues with IP SANs as Iometer reported fast raw read and write speeds of 1,180MB/sec and 630MB/sec for a 500GB iSCSI target. I/O performance is equally good as dropping to a 4KB Iometer transfer request size returned a steady 97,000 IOPS.

The superior hardware has made noticeable performance improvements over Thecus’ N8810U-G . This returned lower Iometer read and write speeds of 875MB/sec and 365MB/sec for NAS shares and 1,040MB/sec and 450MB/sec for IP SANs.

Conclusion

The improved hardware clearly made its presence felt in our performance tests as the N8880U-10G is significantly faster than its predecessor for both NAS and IP SAN operations. It doesn’t come close to Synology and Qnap for features and its web console does need improving but, with a diskless model complete with 10GbE adapter costing only $1,899, it won’t be beaten for value.

7.9 Total Score
Excellent Value

The improved hardware clearly made its presence felt in our performance tests as the N8880U-10G is significantly faster than its predecessor for both NAS and IP SAN operations. It doesn’t come close to Synology and Qnap for features and its web console does need improving but, with a diskless model complete with 10GbE adapter costing only $1,899, it won’t be beaten for value.

Performance
9
Features
6.5
Build Quality
9
Usability
7.5
Value
7.5
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