MicroNet MaxNAS 2.5TB Server ReviewNemo - November 27, 2009
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The Storage section is where you manage all aspects of the disks and volumes on the MaxNAS. You can monitor hard drive status and health, set up RAID arrays and perform specialized RAID functions such as volume expansion and RAID level migration. You also use this section to set up the unit as an iSCSI target and allocate space. There are also other features contained in the eight subsections here.
The Disks section provides information on all the drives installed in the server, with each drive listed along with the formatted capacity, model number and current firmware version. The status of each drive is listed as well and will show a status of OK, Warning or Failed. Clicking on the status link next to each drive takes you to a detail page listing Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) output including tray position and drive temperature.
There is one configurable setting on this page for the Disk Power Management where you can set the disks to power down after a period of inactivity. The default is 30 minutes (the minimum) and ranges up to 300 minutes in 30-minute increments. Once you have chosen a value you will need to click the Update button for changes to take effect. In a business environment with multiple users the 30 minute minimum seems reasonable in order to avoid the wear and tear on the hard drives caused by numerous spin ups that might occur with a shorter period.
The RAID Information page provides you with a quick overview of the status of the current volume, the disks used, total capacity and disk space used. It also provides a pie chart showing the current distribution of available space and how it is allocated. It is not a representation of how much space your data is using. It is also through this page you can create new volumes and access features such as RAID volume expansion and migration.
The MaxNAS offers six different RAID levels, which include JBOD, or Just a Bunch of Disks, (multiple drives are configured as a single large volume and is not technically RAID) , RAID 0 (also known as striping where two or more identical drives are set up as one larger drive), RAID 1 (also known as mirroring where one drive maintains a copy of the other drive), RAID 5 (uses striping similar to RAID 0 but also provides redundancy for data protection), RAID 6 (similar to RAID 5 but provides protection against two drives in the set failing) and RAID 10 (a form of nested RAID that is basically a mirrored RAID 0 array. The pros and cons of each type of setup are outside the scope of our review but a concise explanation can be found in The Official OCC RAID Guide, Version 2.0.
As we mentioned earlier, the MaxNAS comes preconfigured with a RAID 5 volume across all five drives using 95% of the available space as shown in the screenshot below. If you want to use a different RAID type or allocate less space to the RAID to allow for a USB or iSCSI target you will need to remove the existing RAID volume and start over.
To demonstrate how some of the available features work, I will be creating a 3-disk RAID 5 array, designating a fourth disk as a hot spare and allocating a portion of the available space to the array. We'll then look at other features such as volume expansion, RAID level migration and creating USB and iSCSI targets.
Since there is already a RAID array present using all five drives we'll need to start fresh by clicking the Remove RAID button, which will destroy the RAID setup and any data on the drives. Did I mention you'll lose any data on the array if you do this? Since this is a fresh, out-of-the box unit, there is no data to lose, but if you're doing this on an existing array with data make sure you have a backup before you proceed. MicroNet also wants you to be sure as it will prompt for confirmation not once, but twice just to make sure. After clicking OK on the confirmation dialog, you will see a browser pop-up dialog asking you to confirm the deletion once again, but this time you must type in 'Yes' before it will allow you to proceed – and it means 'Yes', not 'yes' or any other variation. It's good to see that MicroNet takes such great pains to protect the data on the MaxNAS and protect users from accidentally dropping a RAID volume. It's also worthwhile to note that you may have to disable any pop-up blocker on your browser in order to see the second warning. Removing the array only takes a couple of minutes and you will get a system notification once it is complete.
Creating a New Array
Back on the RAID Information page you'll see that now the only available option is 'New' as there is no longer a RAID volume on the MaxNAS. This is what you would see if MicroNet had not shipped with a preconfigured array. Clicking the New button launches the RAID configuration screen where you can see the available options and begin the process of selecting which drives to use in building the array.
On the title header for the page you get a friendly reminder from MicroNet that JBOD and RAID 0 are not true RAID levels in that they do not provide any redundancy in the event of a hard drive failure. The different RAID level options can be selected by clicking the radio button next to the desired level. Once you have selected a RAID level, the available hard drives in the list become available and you can check the ones you want to use. Here I am choosing to build a RAID 5 array using disks 1-3 for the array and disk 5 as a hot spare. A spare drive is used by the system to automatically begin rebuilding the array if one of the primary disks should fail.
An additional option to set is stripe size and only applies to striped volumes (RAID 0/5/6/10 arrays). These types of arrays use striping where blocks of data are written to multiple disks simultaneously. Without going into a lengthy discussion here in the review, there is no single ideal stripe size. However, a couple of generalizations can be made. If most of your files are small files you will generally see better performance with smaller stripe sizes; larger files such as video and photo files will benefit from a larger stripe size. The best bet is to experiment with different sizes to see which one gives you the best results for your given usage pattern. The MaxNAS offers a range of choices ranging from 4KB up to 4096KB. For the purposes of this example I am going to set it to 4096KB (just note that all of the performance tests later in the review were run using the default 64KB setting). Finally, I chose to allocate 25% of the available space to the data portion of the RAID volume, leaving the remaining space unallocated for the moment. Use the Create button to start the RAID creation process which will begin after you click on the OK button on the confirmation dialog that will pop up. After a few moments the system will notify you that the settings have been successfully applied, but don't be fooled as the array building process is next and it can take several hours depending on the number and size of the drives in the array.
The RAID building process can be lengthy, in this case over four hours using only three drives and a spare. Building a RAID 5 or RAID 6 array using all five drives in the array can take 8-10 hours.
Now that we have the array built let's move on and look at some of the other options for allocating space and expanding the volume.