MicroNet MaxNAS 2.5TB Server Review
Reviewed by: Nemo
Reviewed on: November 27, 2009
Running a small to medium size business presents enough challenges of its own without having to worry about infrastructure, but businesses need storage capacity just like home users do; however, their requirements extend beyond just the need for more space. Downtime and lost data are two things businesses can't afford. Statistics concerning small businesses and data loss are very sobering, with a staggering 70 percent of small firms that experience a major loss of data end up closing their doors within a year1.
It's not only ensuring reliable access and securing the data that businesses need worry about. Relying on direct attached storage or local drives can result in storage 'silos' making sharing and data backups more difficult. The obvious answer to these issues is some sort of network based storage solution. While placing your data on the network does not protect you against catastrophes such as fire or natural disasters, it can offer protection against hard drive failures and make implementing a robust backup plan easier.
Perhaps you've noticed the emphasis on the business-related aspect of network storage. While there are similarities between home/small office requirements and those of small/medium size businesses (SMB) and some products are marketed to both segments, businesses have other unique requirements and don't necessarily need some of the bells and whistles used to attract home buyers when it comes to networked storage. One of those areas is the ability to implement a storage area network (SAN) using a network appliance as well as emphasis on offering a complete solution, which is where the MicroNet MaxNAS unit being reviewed here comes into play.
MicroNet may not be a name that's familiar to a lot of people, but the company has been around for over 20 years as a provider of storage solutions for SMBs. Based out of Torrance, California, MicroNet and Fantom Drives are part of the same family, offering a wide range of storage products from single-drive external units to enterprise-class multi-bay rack-mount storage arrays. The particular unit under review is the MaxNAS 2.5TB RAID with SCSI, a 5-bay unit that ships with five 500GB drives with support for RAID 0/1/5/6/10 volumes and works as a NAS unit as well as operating as an iSCSI target to allow you to build a SAN using existing IP infrastructure. MicroNet also offers the MaxNAS in 5TB and 7.5TB models.
Generally, this section leads off with a tour around the box the unit comes in, including a look at all the pictures and features described on the box's exterior. We're going skip that as MicroNet takes a more business-like approach with the MaxNAS, which ships in a plain brown corrugated cardboard box devoid of any pictures. The lack of any external marketing is understandable as MicroNet probably figures any business has already performed the necessary research before purchasing one of these units.
Opening the box reveals the set of five hard drives enclosed in anti-static bags and safely nestled in an open-cell foam insert. Once we lift the set of drives and the separate foam insert out of the box, you can see the main unit has its own set of inserts protecting during shipping. The chassis is enclosed in a plastic bag to provide additional protection against scratches.
Once we have the unit out of the the plastic bag, you can get a better look at the front of the unit. Running down the left side of the case's front are a series of LED status indicators for LAN activity and USB copy and error status indicators. Hard drive activity and power indicators are included on the individual drive bays. Below the bank of LEDs is a front USB expansion port and a large power button with its own LED indicator in the middle. The front cover to the drive bays includes four mesh panels for cool air intake. At the bottom of the unit there is an LCD control panel with a series of four buttons for navigating through the options on the screen.
Looking at the unit from the side, we see a series of perforations that offer additional air intake for the drives and mainboard inside the case. Taking up the majority of the rear panel is the unit's 92mm cooling fan exhaust. The back of the unit has a series of additional connectors located on the right side, including an eSATA and two additional USB connections. Below that is a type B USB port for connecting the unit to another host and having it appear as a USB target and a serial port for communicating with a UPS device. There are also two RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet ports that can function independently or in load balancing, failover or link aggregation modes. The integrated power supply has its own connector, power switch and 40mm exhaust on the bottom of the panel.
The bottom of the unit has a set of four rubber feet for keeping the unit from sliding around and makes stacking the unit easier. It also provides a little bit of extra clearance underneath for air to enter the cooling vents at the front of the bottom panel (located on the right in the screenshot).
Now that we've had a chance to get a look at the unit from the outside, let's check out the disk installation and initial setup.
1Impact on U.S. Small Business of Natural & Man-Made Disasters http://www.score.org/pdf/HP_Download_ImpactofDisaster.pdf
The MaxNAS comes from the factory with five hard drives as part of the package. As we saw on the previous page, the drives are packaged separately and must be installed in the unit by the user. The door to the drive bays can be opened by pressing on the center of the left edge to release the catch and the door will swing open with the hinges on the right side. Looking in the interior you can see the SATA backplane in the rear of the unit with the drive rails running along either side of the bays. The use of the backplane makes the drives hot swappable, meaning they can be removed and replaced without powering down the unit.
MicroNet has made installation as painless as possible by shipping the drives already mounted in the drive trays. All the user has to do is open the latch on the tray and gently slide each tray into its respective slot and make sure it is firmly seated onto the backplane. Doing so will cause the latch to close most of the way and you want to make sure to remember to close each latch the rest of the way to secure it firmly in the bay. That's all there is to it! Total time to remove the drives from the anti-static bags and install them takes no more than a couple of minutes, even if you've never done this before. The drives come from the factory preconfigured as a RAID 5 array but you needn't worry about the order in which you insert them.
Once you have the drives installed in the enclosure, all that is left is to connect the power cord to the rear of the unit and connect it to yout network using one of the included Ethernet cables. MicroNet includes a Quick Installation Guide on the setup CD and also covers the installation process in a section in the user manual.
Next, it's time to look at the management UI and the other configuration options offered.
Once you have the hard drives installed and the unit connected to the network, you're ready to begin the setup process. After powering on the unit, the boot process takes less than a couple of minutes and the front LCD panel should report the unit is ready. As is typical of most NAS units, MicroNet provides a setup CD containing a discovery application that will locate the unit on the network. You will need to insert the CD in your optical drive and navigate to the setup application if you don't have autorun enabled on your PC. The setup program is located in the \Micronet Wizard folder and contains separate applications for Windows and Mac computers. Running the setup application will install the program on your computer – you can't run the wizard directly from the CD.
Running the setup program takes you through the typical process where you confirm the location and the fact you actually want to install the program. Once the installation is complete, you will see the Device Discovery window that will automatically try to locate the MaxNAS on your network – just make sure your PC and the unit are part of the same subnet and the program will report back with the name of the unit and the IP address. Since the unit is initially set up to get an IP address from your router or other DHCP sever, it should look like the first screenshot below. Once the discovery process finishes, you can click on the entry for the MaxNas in the window and click the Next button. Here it will ask you to log in to the system using the default user name and password, which is admin/admin. Again, you need to click the Next button to proceed to the next step where you can choose to allow the unit to automatically pull an IP address using DHCP or assign it a fixed IP address. I want to assign a static IP address so I clicked the Fixed IP radio button in the IP Type section and filled in the IP setting information. You can also assign a unique host name to the unit, which defaults to "MaxNAS." Clicking the Next button takes you to the Change Password screen where you can change the default password for the administrator account. It's always a good idea to change the default password and use a strong password of at least ten characters. Leaving it set to the default of 'admin' makes it ridiculously simple for anyone to gain access to the management UI. That completes the discovery and initial setup and clicking the Next button brings up a dialog showing the results and once you click OK, you reach the final screen that allows you to set up another device, launch the browser to go into the management UI or exit the application.
The MaxNAS unit comes from the factory preconfigured with a RAID 5 volume across all five drives and a /Public folder created ready for storing data. This is a really nice feature that can save several hours of setup work and the box can be essentially ready for use as soon as the drives are installed.
The next thing we want to look at are the configuration options and features available.
MicroNet provides a web-based management interface that you use to configure the different options on the MaxNAS. Accessing the UI is done through your browser using the IP address you set up in the initial configuration section earlier, in our case that would be http://192.168.1.32 since we assigned the unit a fixed address. The first page is a login screen where you will need to use the administrator ID and password. The default values are admin/admin, but if you changed the password earlier like I suggested, you will need to use the new password in place of the default. Once you log on, the system defaults to a product information page.
The different options for managing and configuring the MaxNAS are divided into six different sections that can be seen in the menu bar at the to of the page. Moving your mouse across each heading will bring up a drop down list of the different options available.
Status – this section offers a series of displays about the general system status, printer and UPS information as well as configuration screens for power management and wake-on-LAN features.
Storage – the Storage section provides information on disk status and health and is also where you configure the volumes on the unit in different RAID configurations, set the iSCSI target, create folders (shares) and make use of more advanced features such as volume expansion and RAID level migration.
Network – you use this section to set up the WAN/LAN connections and enable/disable the different network services on the MaxNAS such as Apple File Protocol (AFP), Network File System (NFS) and File Transfer Protocol (FTP).
Accounts – this section is where you set up user accounts and groups and set the unit up to use Windows server services such as Active Directory (AD).
System – various system control functions are available in this section such as configuring alert notifications, setting the system time, checking system logs and rebooting/shutting down the server.
Language – the MaxNAS supports multiple languages, which can be selected in this section.
You can choose from seven different options in the Status section.
The System information page presents a snapshot of various aspects of the system and services on the MaxNAS. The System Status pane shows the CPU utilization rate, the status of the CPU and system fans and the uptime of the server. The section does not report the actual fan speeds, however. Under the Service Status section you can check which services are running on the box. Only the SMB/CIFS and Nsync services are enabled by default. Later in the review we'll look at how to manage the different services when we get to the Network section.
The System Information screen enables you to provide a detailed description of the particular server to differentiate it from other servers you might have on the network.
The MaxNAS can function as a print server for a printer attached to one of the unit's USB ports allowing you to share the printer across the network. There are no configuration steps involved as the unit will automatically detect any connected printers. You can use the Remove button to clear out the print queue and restart the print service using the Restart button. Unfortunately, the documentation does not tell you how to access the printer. In order to access the printer you will need to set it up in your operating system by pointing it to the URL “http://MaxNAS_IP_ADDRESS:631/printers/usb-printer” where 'MaxNAS_IP_ADDRESS' is the IP address of the server on your network, which is where having a fixed IP address assigned to the server is useful. Under Windows you can also substitutue the NetBIOS name (e.g. MaxNAS) for the URL. Once you have the printer assigned you will need to install the printer driver on the local machine.
The MaxNAS can be set up to monitor a UPS attached to the serial port on the rear panel. Once you have enable UPS monitoring you will need to select the manufacturer and model number from the drop down lists. You can configure the unit to send notifications when a power failure occurs and also have it continue to send notifications on a periodic basis. You can also set it up so the server powers itself off gracefully once the UPS battery level reaches a certain point, which is quite useful in preventing data loss and RAID corruption.
Unfortunately, my UPS, an APC Back-UPS XS 1500, only supports a USB connection and can't connect via a serial cable. Plugging the cable from the UPS into one of the rear USB ports didn't work. While the user manual provides a list of compatible UPS units in Appendix D, it would have been nice to have the unit automatically detect the proper UPS unit as we saw with both the QNAP TS-509 and Synology DS408, both of which accommodate USB connections.
Wake-up On Lan
You can enable the Wake on LAN (WOL) feature that will enable the MaxNAS to respond to specific network commands to power itself on during any scheduled downtime. The command must conform to the Wake on LAN protocol called Magic Packet.
The MaxNAS includes a power management feature where you can set up a schedule to turn the unit on and off. Clicking the Enable Schedule Power On/Off checkbox enables the schedule window where you can set two on/off events each day. The times use 24-hour/military time and can be set in five minute increments. During scheduled powered off periods the unit will respond to WOL commands if that feature is enabled.
During testing I was able to get the unit to shut down on schedule and then respond to a WOL command and restart with no issues.
The About page provides information on the unit including name, firmware version and uptime and is the page you see upon initial logon as described above.
The next item on the configuration agenda is to look at how you set up different volume types, allocate space, create folders and manage the disk array.
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.
Expand RAID Space
In the previous example we built the array and allocated 25% of the available space to data storage. If your future storage requirements end up requiring more space you can go the RAID Configuration screen and use the Expand button to allocate additional space. The Expand RAID Space page shows 75% of the space on the volume as unallocated and you can specify some or all of that to be allocated to data storage. I specified 30% thinking it would add an additional 5% to the amount already allocated, but instead its additive so I ended up with a total of 55% of the disk space being allocated. There is no provision to reduce the allocation once you finalize the process which again requires a double confirmation by clicking OK to confirm then typing 'Yes' in the pop-up window just like we deleted an existing array.
Volume expansion is a very useful feature and provides a lot of flexibility. One example that comes to mind is if you one day need more space that five 500GB drives can offer, you could increase your storage capacity by replacing all the disks with larger drives one at a time letting the array rebuild after installing each drive. Once all the drives have been upgraded you could use the Expand RAID Space function to access the newly available space.
The MaxNAS also offers the ability to migrate an existing RAID array to a more comprehensive level such as moving from RAID 1 to RAID 0 or RAID 0/RAID 1 to RAID 5. In addition you can use the migrate feature to append an unused drive to an existing RAID 0 or RAID 5 array.
We started this example with a 3-drive RAID 5 array and intentionally left one drive (disk 4) unused. We can go into the RAID Configuration page and choose Migrate RAID to append the unused volume to the array. The RAID 5 -> RAID 5 radio button is the only option available so clicking it allows you to choose Disk 4 by clicking the Available Disk checkbox. Again, you must go through the two-level confirmation process to make sure this is what you intend to do. You'll receive a system notification that the RAID setting were successful and the rebuild process begins. Even though you are only adding a single drive, the process is similar to building a new array from scratch and will take several hours during which the RAID volume will be unavailable.
The final option on the RAID Configuration page is the Space Allocation button which enables you to reserve space for USB and iSCSI targets.
The MaxNAS has a USB Target Mode Port on the rear panel that enables it to be connected directly to a client PC with the included cable and be used as an external USB drive. In order for this to work you need to allocate space on the RAID volume to store the data. Clicking on the Space Allocation button bring up a second RAID Information page where you can use the Target USB button to allocate any free space to be used for the target USB drive. You can choose a percentage value of the remaining free space to be used for the USB drive. Once you click OK and confirm the create process you'll receive a system notification that the space was successfully allocated.
Internet SCSI (iSCSI) is a storage networking protocol that allows block level I/O across IP networks. It can be used to set up a storage area network (SAN) using existing Ethernet infrastructure and allows clients called 'initiators' to send SCSI commands to SCSI targets on the network. It is not a file-sharing protocol like SMB/CIFS and is intended to connect a single client to the storage device. With the proper initiator (either hardware of software) configured on the client, the storage volume on the MaxNAS will appear as a local drive on the client side.
Just like allocating space for the target USB, you can also allocate space for an iSCSI target off the RAID Information page using the iSCSI Target button. As before, you can choose a percentage of the available space to allocate to the iSCSI target and click the Enable radio button to make the target visible. Other options include setting up the iSCSI qualified name (IQN) consisting of the target name, IQN year and month as well as enable the challenge-handshake authentication protocol (CHAP) if desired. Clicking the OK button and responding to the confirmation dialog will result in a system confirmation message telling you the target was successfully created. You can create multiple iSCSI targets and use the Modify button to change any target information.
Now that we've created the initial array and set up space for the data and USB and iSCSI targets the RAID Information page shows a nice snapshot of our handiwork.
There are a few more options in the Storage section we need to check out.
The Folder section is used to create folders or shares on the volume and assign access permissions. When you create a volume the system sets up default folders for the nSync backup function, the USB Hard Drive and USB Copy. To create a new folder you click on the Add button and specify the RAID ID and a name and description for the folder. The RAID ID is used when there are multiple RAID arrays on the MaxNAS to determine which volume to use. You can also set whether the folder can be seen when browsing the network and whether the folder is publicly accessible. The final option is the share folder limit where you can specify the maximum amount of storage space in gigabytes available to the folder, setting it to 0 means there is no limit.
Once you hit the Apply button you'll see a system confirmation message letting you know the folder was successfully created and it will show up on the Folder page along with the others. The are four buttons to configure aspects of the folders: NFS for setting up access using the Network File System protocol, ACL used to manage the access control list and assign user and group rights, Edit which allows you to change the folder characteristics such as name, description and whether the folder is browseable or public and the Del button which will remove the folder and all of its contents so it should be used with caution.
NFS is a file system used by Linux/UNIX systems and this button allows you to set up and manage mount points for the shares on the MaxNAS. Clicking the NFS button brings up the Config NFS Share page where you can use the Add button to create a new mount point. On the New NFS Share page you need to enter the IP address or range of the allowed hosts, the privilege level and the guest OS access the share. Once you click OK, you edit or remove the mount point from the Config NFS Share page.
You'll notice in the screenshot that the ACL button next to the Public folder we created, used for setting access rights, is grayed out since we declared the folder to be public, meaning anyone has access and there is no need to set rights. I created another folder, OCC Test Folder, and made it non-public. The system recognizes this and reminds you to set up the access control list (ACL) for the folder. Clicking the ACL button next to the folder on the Folder page brings up a separate window for managing the access to the folder. I created a test group along with several users (covered later in the review) in order to demonstrate the features. Along the left side you'll see a color-coded list of groups and users. You can highlight one or more entries in the column and then click the Deny, Read Only or Writable button depending on the level of access needed. You can also use this screen later to remove access if needed. You will need to press the Apply button for the changes to take affect.
The last button, Del, is for deleting shares. Using this button will delete the folder and all of files in it so it should be used with caution. The system will ask you to confirm the delete twice, once with by pressing the OK button on a confirmation dialog and again by asking you to type 'Yes' into a pop-up prompt to ensure you agree to the deletion. The Del button is only available for user-defined folders and will be grayed out for system shares.
You can perform a manual check on the file system on the MaxNAS in the event of a suddent power loss or other event that may have led to corruption of the file system. Under normal operating conditions it should not be necessary to run this option.
In addition to serving up its own iSCSI targets, the MaxNAS can function as a stackable iSCSI host service where you can specify up to five iSCSI targets and have the MaxNAS offer networking services to those targets. Clicking the Add button launches the iSCSI page where you can specify the necessary information about the target.
ISO Mount is a way to mount an ISO image and make the files contained in the image available over the network. Up to 50 different ISO files can be mounted using this feature. The first step is to select the folder containing the ISO image from the drop down list and hit the Select button. Once you have chosen a folder the screen will show you the folders within that ISO and then all the files from a selected folder. You can specify a mount name and then click the Add button to mount the ISO. You will be prompted to confirm you want to mount the image and after you click OK, you'll see another dialog telling you it was mounted successfully. Once you return to the main page you'll see the mount path and the ISO path.
If you map a drive from your local client to the /Public folder on the MaxNAS you can see the mount name showing up as a folder. You can then access the files within the ISO image like any other files on the system. This is a real handy feature as it eliminates the need to burn the ISO image to a CD/DVD and makes the files available to any user on the network.
nSync is synchronization method used by the server to backup and restore shares to another MaxNAS unit or to an FTP server. The other server can be on the same network or anywhere it can be accessed via a valid IP address. Clicking the Add button will allow you to set up an nSync task that will perform the backup on a set schedule, either daily, weekly or monthly. You will need to specify the source folder to back up and the login credentials on the target server. Once the task is created it will appear in the task list page. In addition to creating new asks, you can modify existing tasks, start a restore from a backup or delete a task. You can also manually launch a task using the Start button located to the right of the task name. The Restore function is an atomic function, meaning its restores all of the files from the backup set, there is no option to select individual files to restore. The manual also mentions an option to set bandwidth limits used by nSync but I did not see any option for that function on the page.
This page offers the option to display the host name on the LCD panel on the front of the unit.
That brings us to the end of the Storage section and all of its features and now let's move on to the Network section.
The Network configuration allows you to configure the WAN/LAN ports on the server as well enable and configure the various network services on the unit.
As we saw in the Closer Look section, the MaxNAS has two Gigabit Ethernet ports referred to as either LAN1 or WAN and LAN2 or simply LAN. The WAN port is the bottom-most of the two ports on the rear panel and is used to connecting to the main network and to grant access to the Internet. During the initial setup we used the discovery wizard to assign a fixed IP address along with the unit along with the host name, which you can see in the screenshot below. Alternatively you could choose DHCP and let your router automatically assign the IP information. In addition, you can specify the domain name, which is necessary for joining a domain and participating in a Windows Server Active Directory Service (ADS). The MaxNAS also provides jumbo frames with support for MTU sizes of 4000, 8000, 12000 and 16000 bytes. Our test machine's NIC closest match is 4088 bytes and based on our experience with the Thecus N3200PRO, doesn't offer any real advantages. It would have been more useful to see a 9000 byte frame size in order to see any real performance gains.
Other options include IP Sharing Mode, which acts as a bridge between the WAN and LAN ports so that PCs connected to the LAN can access the WAN that we left disabled to ensure optimum performance and Link Aggregation. This later option shows the MaxNAS business class heritage as it is intended for use on networks with managed switches in order to take full advantage of its capabilities and to ensure high reliability. Load Balance mode allows network traffic to balance traffic across both Ethernet ports simultaneously. Failover mode allows one port to take over networking duties if the other one fails. Finally 802.3ad mode links both ports together for higher throughput but you must have a managed switch which supports link aggregation or NIC teaming.
The LAN2 port can be configured with a fixed IP address and set up to use jumbo frames if needed. The MaxNAS can also act as a DCHP server for any devices connected on the same subnet in lieu of using a router or other server for DHCP duties.
You can enable basic network services on the MaxNAS using the Service section, including WebDisk support used for managing files and folders via the Web. The Server Message Block (SMB) network is supported by major operating systems for sharing access to files and printers over the network and is mandatory for clients running Windows operating systems. These two services are enabled by default. You can also enable the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) service that allows the MaxNAS to be automatically detected by other devices on the network that support the UPnP protocol.
The Apple Filing Protocol service can be enabled for use by any client machines running an Apple operating system. You can specify character set and any AppleTalk zone if needed. By default the AFP service is not enabled.
The MaxNAS can support the Network File System (NFS). With this service enabled you can specify mount points for system shares (folders) for access by Linux/UNIX systems. This service is also disabled by default.
The MaxNAS can act as an FTP server, allowing users to access shares across the network and even from the Internet. Once you've enabled the service you can set the port used or accept the standard port number (21). You can also allow anonymous access for both directions, just for downloads or disable it altogether. Ticking the Auto Rename checkbox will cause the system to assign a unique name to any duplicate files uploaded. You can also set limits on the download and upload speeds independently at 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 or 32 MB/s or leave it set at Unlimited.
You can set the MaxNAS up to act as a target for nSync operations and use it to receive files backed up from another device using nSync. This service comes enabled by default.
I missed this option the first time through and only found out about it from reading the manual. I was fairly certain it wasn't there when I first started going through the option list and was curious to find out why. It turns out this option doesn't appear while the RAID array is being built and will disappear during a rebuild. It will also show up on the Status page in the Service Status pane once the array has been built.
The Media Server section allows you to enable media streaming service to home media adapters on the network that support UPnP or comply with the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standard. All you have to do is click on the radio button to enable the service and choose one or more shared folders containing your multimedia files. Although MicroNet claims the MaxNAS is iTunes compatible, I could not get iTunes to recognize the server as a shared resource.
Let's move on to the Accounts section and learn how to create users and assign them to groups.
The Accounts sections is where you set up local user accounts and groups and handle maintenance chores such as password changes and setting group memberships. Along with local accounts you can also set up authentication using Windows Active Directory or Windows NT (ADS/NT) if your MaxNAS is part of a Windows server domain.
The MaxNAS supports authentication using Active Directory Service or NT services as long as you have a Windows Server handling domain security on your network. If your network uses a separate Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) server to map IP addresses to computer names you can specify the IP address of the server. This makes it easier for other clients on the network to locate the MaxNAS using its NetBIOS name (in our example we set the host name to 'MaxNAS'). You also assign the workgroup or domain name here. If you are part of a Windows network domain you can choose the type of security authentication to use, either ADS or NT and give the credentials needed for authentication.
If you want to set up local users on the MaxNAS, as opposed to users maintained on a Windows domain, you can do this in the Users section by clicking on the Add button and specifying the user name and password. The system automatically assigns a unique user ID, which you can override, but it's probably best to let the system keep track of the IDs unless you have a specific numbering scheme you want to follow. The user is automatically added to the default 'users' group. Since we haven't set up any groups yet, we'll look at adding users to groups in the next section. The user account is created when you hit the Apply button and then confirm it by hitting OK at the 'Do you want to create this user?” warning prompt. You can later use the Modify button to go back in and change the user password and group memberships. Once a user has been created you cannot change the name or user ID. You can also remove a local user by highlighting the user name and pressing the delete button and clicking OK on the warning dialog to confirm the delete.
Groups are used to aggregate users with common access rights to system shares. This makes assigning and tracking rights much easier in place of performing the same functions for each individual user, especially when you have a large user base to maintain. The system comes preconfigured with the default group 'users'. To create a new group click the Add button and specify the group name and ID. As when creating new users, the system will automatically assign a group ID for you. The next step is to highlight one or more users and click the left arrow to move them from the User's List pane to the Member's List pane. Clicking the Apply button brings up a confirmation dialog where you click OK to create the group. Your can add or remove users from the group using the Modify button but you cannot change the group name or ID. You can delete the group using the Delete button.
Creating a large number of users at the same time can be rather tedious and involve lots of repetitive clicking of confirmation buttons. The MaxNAS provides a way to load a batch of users at one time using the Batch Create Users and Groups function. The function uses a comma separated value text file with each line consisting of 'username,password,groupname' with no spaces between the entries. You can create the file and then use the Browse button to locate it. The next step is to use the Import or Edit button (they seem to behave identically) to load the values into a window where you can review them prior to running the batch create process. Clicking one of the buttons brings up a confirmation dialog that makes it appear as if the user/groups are about to be created, but that is not the case. Clicking the OK button brings up a review pane where you can make any changes before clicking the OK button to perform the actual load. You'll have to click OK on the confirmation dialog again and this time the users and groups are added. You do not have to create the groups prior to loading the users as the system will dynamically create them for you during the load process. You can add users to multiple groups by repeating the user's information on multiple lines and changing the group name.
All that's left for us to look at now are the various system support functions on the MaxNAS in the next section.
The System section is the last of the configuration areas and contains tools for system management including setting up alerts, checking system logs and configuring the time function on the server.
The MaxNAS can be configured to alert you of problems whether they are warnings or less critical notifications. Notifications can occur in two different ways, either through beeps from the server itself or through e-mail notifications. Setting the audible alerts involves nothing more than clicking on a radio button. If a fault occurs the results in the alarm going off, the radio button on this page is the only to silence the alarm.
Setting up e-mail notifications takes a little bit more effort but is still relatively easy – as long as you have access to an SMTP server. Once you enable e-mail notification by clicking on the radio button you enter the server address and the login credentials along with the from/to e-mail addresses. You can send notifications to four different e-mail addresses. There is a Test button you can use to send out a test message to ensure everything is set up correctly. There is no ability to use Gmail as your SMTP server, though, as Google requires you to use transport layer security (TLS) when logging in.
The MaxNAS provides three types of logging that capture informational, warning and error messages. The logs are displayed in a tabular format that defaults to ten messages per page. You can scroll through the messages and switch from page to page and sort the messages by ascending/descending date and time. There is also an option to save the log files to your client in a .tar.gz format file. Rebooting the system does not truncate the log files as we have seen on other NAS servers.
You can manually set the date, time and time zone for the server on this page. You can also elect to use a network time protocol (NTP) server to automatically keep the time synchronized with an official time either by choosing an NTP server from the drop-down list or by manually setting it to a server of your choice.
The Configuration Management section provides the ability to save the all the system configuration settings to a file to an external location. Clicking the Download button will save the settings on the client PC in your browser's default download directory with a file name of 'conf.bin'. You can then use the Upload feature to restore these settings in case of a system failure or any corruptions of the preferred settings.
You can enhance the functionality of the MaxNAS by installing additional software from MicroNet called packages. Once downloaded from the MicroNet web site, you would need to unzip the files and then use the Browse button to locate the file on the client PC and then click the Install button to upload the software to the MaxNAS. Currently, MicroNet does not offer any additional modules for the MaxNAS.
This options lets you reset all the configuration changes back to the factory default settings. The system will delete any WAN/LAN configuration settings, set all the services you may have enabled back to the default settings and remove any user accounts and groups. It will also reset the administrator account password back to the default 'admin' setting. Your volume configuration and folders should be kept intact, but you should always make sure you have a valid backup of all your data before using this function.
Updating the system firmware is fairly straightforward and can be accomplished in a few steps from this page. Once you have located and downloaded the latest firmware version, you can use the Browse button to locate the upgrade file and then click the Apply button. Once the update is complete you will need to restart the system in order for the changes to take effect. The system came with the latest firmware installed (2.00.12) and there are currently no firmware updates offered on the MicroNet web site.
The password for the administrator account and the front display can be changed from this page by typing in a new password, confirming the change by retyping the password and hitting the Apply button. The password can only consist of letters and numbers; unfortunately, the system will not let you use special characters, which would have resulted in a stronger password.
Reboot & Shutdown
In order to perform an orderly reboot or shutdown without using the power button you can navigate to this page and choose the appropriate action. Pressing either button will bring up a confirmation dialog to make sure you want to perform the action.
Selecting Logout from the drop down menu allows you to log out of the management interface and you will get a chance to confirm the action.
The Language option off the menu bar allows you to specify the language used by the system. In addition to English you can choose French, German, Italian, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Spanish.
That concludes the tour through the configuration options on the MaxNAS. The next topic is the WebDisk user interface used for accessing files on the server.
WebDisk User Interface:
The MaxNAS presents a different user interface depending on which account you log in under. Everything we've looked at so far has covered the pages used for configuring the unit when you log in under the system administrator account. Once an account has been set up, regular users can also log in to the MaxNAS and access shares and files based on the access control list.
Earlier in the Network/Service section we saw options for enabling WebDisk and Secure WebDisk. With these services activated, a user can access files normally or in a secured mode. Pointing your browser to http://MaxNAS-IP, where “MaxNAS-IP” is the IP address of the server, will take you to the login screen. Alternatively, you could use a secure connection by using https://MaxNAS-IP. Since the unit uses a self-signed certificate for secure connections you may see warning messages from your browser warning about the dangers of accepting the certificate.
Once you have logged in you will see the WebDisk page listing all the shares/folders to which you have access. Also at the top of the window are two icons; the orange key will allow you to change your user password and the other, resembling a door, allows you to log off and exit. You can click on a folder name to view all the subfolders and files in the share. Across the top of the page there are four buttons that will allow you to move back to the previous level, create a new folder, upload a new file or delete an item from the list. The 'New folder,' 'New file (upload)' and 'Delete selected items' buttons will be visible only for users with write permission to the share.
WebDisk is a very basic file manager and has a few limitations. You can not use it to rename files or move files from one folder to another and the upload feature is limited to a single file at a time. If you have more than a handful of files to load you are better off using FTP or your client computer's file manager to copy multiple files. If you choose to delete a file using the Delete selected items function there is no warning message asking you to confirm the delete, so make sure you want to delete the item as the MaxNAS doesn't have a recycle bin.
Next it's time to take a look at the features and specifications before we check out the performance results.
|External Interface||Dual Gigabit Ethernet|
|Jumbo Frame Support||4000, 8000, 12000, 16000 bytes MTU|
|Additional Ports||1x eSATA, 3x USB, 1x USB target port|
|HDD Size||5 x 3.5" SATA Drives (included)|
|Drive Capacity||500GB drive (up to 2TB in some models)|
|CPU||Ultra Low Voltage Intel 1.5GHz Celeron M|
|SATA Controller||Marvell 88SX6081|
|NIC||Intel i82541 (x2)|
|HDD Configuration||RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, JBOD|
|Power Supply||200W Internal|
|Cooling||92mm (case) 40mm (power supply)|
|Dimensions||9” x 7.5" x 9” (H x W x D)|
Apple OS X
|Regulatory Certification||CE, FCC, BSMI, C-Tick, and RoHS Compliant|
|Warranty||2 Years Parts and Labor|
- Two Gigabit Ethernet ports with load balancing and failover
- Supports iSCSI intitiators
- RAID 0/1/5/6/10/JBOD/SPAN
- 3 USB expansion ports for storage and printer sharing
- Hot-swappable drives
- iTunes compatible streaming audio server
- Installation Wizard for PC/Mac
- Bundled with NTI Shadow Backup Software
- Embedded Synchronization/Backup Utility (NSYNC)
- Supports multiple RAID modes
- Auto rebuild
- Hot swappable
- Hot spare
- Disk roaming
- RAID level migration
- Online RAID expansion
- Disk status monitoring (S.M.A.R.T.)
- Disk idle spin-down
All information courtesy of MicroNet @ http://www.micronet.com/products/maxnas.htm
To test the MaxNAS I will use SiSoft Sandra 2009 using the File System benchmarks. I will also use the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (ver. 1.7) to gauge performance under several realistic usage scenarios. The tests will be conducted on all supported hard drive configurations without jumbo frames enabled. The MaxNAS will be connected directly to the Marvell PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet controller using a Category 6 Ethernet cable to eliminate any variations due to network components or traffic.
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.83 GHz
- Motherboard: Asus P5Q Deluxe
- LAN Controller: Marvell Yukon 88E8056 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller
- Ethernet Cable: 6' Category 6
- Memory: Patriot Extreme Performance 2GB PC2-9600 DDR2-1200MHz
- Video Card: PowerColor HD3450
- Power Supply: Antec TruePower 550
- NAS Device: MicroNet MaxNAS
- Hard Drives: Western Digital Caviar Green 500GB (WD5000AAVS) x 5
- Optical Drive: Lite-On LTR523275
- OS: Windows XP SP3
- SiSoft Sandra 2009
- Intel NAS Performance Toolkit 1.7
SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
The MaxNAS unit managed to post a drive index score of just over 36MB/s that, on the surface, seems like a fairly decent score. However, the score is not as impressive when compared to the QNAP TS-509 and the Synology DS408 units, which hit 50.7- and 39.7MB/s respectively.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
In the RAID 1 configuration we expect to see a drop in performance compared to RAID 0, with the MaxNAS hitting 28.8MB/s, with a slight improvement when set up as an iSCSI target. Both the QNAP and Synology units are still faster with about a 30% performance advantage in RAID 1.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
The QNAP TS-509 proved to be a stellar performer when we reviewed it and the TS-509 continues to dominate the MaxNAS in the RAID 5 tests with a better than 60% edge in speed. The Synology DS408 also posted a higher drive index score beating the MaxNAS, which is disappointing from the MaxNAS' point of view as it has five spindles in the RAID 5 array compared to the DS408's four.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
The MaxNAS fell even further behind the QNAP TS-509 in the RAID 6 tests with a score of 27.1MB/s compared to 47.4MB/s; that makes the QNAP unit almost 75% faster than the MaxNAS. It also means the Synology DS408 is about 40% faster than the MaxNAS.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
The MaxNAS is the first unit we've reviewed that offers support for RAID 10, something the other units don't have. Here we see speeds of around 28MB/s for the regular configuration, increasing to almost 34MB/s when set up as an iSCSI target.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
The Synology DS408 dropped out from this test as the version of the firmware we tested did not support JBOD configurations. It comes down to a one-on-one match-up against the TS-509. Again, the QNAP walked away from the MaxNAS, outperforming it by over 56%.
The MaxNAS offered fairly consistent performance across all volume configurations with scores ranging from 25-36MB/s, but performance was more consistent in the true RAID configurations. However, consistency didn't win the MaxNAS any blue ribbons against the comparison units as it was bested across the board, unless you consider the RAID 10 setup, which the other two units don't offer.
The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit is a set of tools used to test and analyze file systems and enable direct comparison of the performance levels of different network attached storage devices. It utilizes a set of tests based on real world applications such as HD video playback and record, office productivity, photo album manipulation and file and directory copying. The toolkit uses a set of traces based on these applications and mimics the file system traffic generated and records the system response. In our evaluation, the toolkit was run in batch mode, which runs the series of tests five times in succession and the median throughput value is used to report the results. The hard drives were reconfigured and the MaxNAS was rebooted before each test was run. The RAID 1 array contained two drives.
HD Video Playback (higher is better)
The HD Video Playback series of tests involve streaming a 720p HD video file using Windows Media Player and 256kb reads. The tests play either 1, 2 or 4 files simultaneously using different percentages of sequential reads (99.5% for the single file, 18.1% for the 2x HD Video Playback and 9.6% for the 4x HD Video Playback).
2x HD Video Playback (higher is better)
4x HD Video Playback (higher is better)
In this first series of three tests the emphasis is on reading large files. When set up in a RAID 0 configuration, the MaxNAS trails the QNAP TS-509 and Synology DS408 in all the tests; whereas the other units posted increasing throughput when going from a single stream to the 4x playback, the MaxNAS displayed the opposite trend with throughput dropping from around 38MB/s to 35MB/s. In RAID 1 the MaxNAS fares much better, besting the QNAP unit in all three tests and beating the Synology DS408 in all but one where it was only a fraction slower.
A business-class NAS server is more likely to be configured in RAID 5 or RAID 6 and the MaxNAS can't keep up with the QNAP TS-509 in either configuration. In RAID 6, the MaxNAS and DS408 traded spots a few times with Synology unit, taking four of the six tests, although two of those wins were very close.
HD Video Record (higher is better)
This test writes a single 720p HD video file to the NAS device employing 99.9% sequential 256kb writes.
In the HD Video record test it's all about writing to the NAS unit, and while the MaxNAS turned in solid results, it just can't quite manage to score a win in any configuration, and came in second across the board. Although it did best the Synology in three of the four tests, it lagged behind the QNAP TS-509 in both the RAID 5 and RAID 6 setups by a significant amount.
HD Playback and Record (higher is better)
The HD Video Playback and Record test combines the two previous tests and reads and writes a HD 720p video file simultaneously.
Adding write operations into the mix doesn't really change the standings much. The MaxNAS trailed both its competitors in RAID 0 and then turned around and posted the best throughput in RAID 1. Things get back to normal in the RAID 5 and 6 volumes with the MaxNAS beating the DS408 but coming in second to the QNAP TS-509.
Content Creation (higher is better)
This test simulates content creation on the NAS device such as might occur when rendering a video. There are 99 files used and is composed of 95% write operations with up to 64kb block sizes and consists of 39.1% sequential operations.
The content creation test involves a large number of write operations and it is not unusual to see rates drop on this test. With throughput dropping to the 10-12MB/s range, the MaxNAS unit lagged behind the QNAP server and managed to hang with the Synology DS408 in the RAID 5 and 6 configurations.
Office Productivity (higher is better)
The Office Productivity test is roughly evenly distributed between read and write operations using 607 small files consisting of 1KB and 4KB reads and mostly 1KB writes.
If you've read our previous reviews then you'll know that the office productivity test is a killer; it is the longest and one of the most arduous tests in the Intel NAS Toolkit suite and not many units make it through unscathed, the QNAP TS-509 being a rare exception. Here you'll see the results for the MaxNAS plummet to levels below 5MB/s, similar to what we saw with the Synology DS408. Obviously, the graphs speak for themselves when it comes to comparing it to the TS-509. One thing of interest is how the performance of the unit using iSCSI took off on this test. I'll spend more time on the iSCSI setup later in the review, but this test certainly played up to the strengths of iSCSI.
File Copy to NAS (higher is better)
The File Copy test copies a single large file to the NAS unit using 100% sequential 64kb write operations.
Copying a large file to the NAS resulted in throughput rates of 30-36MB/s, which put the MaxNAS behind the QNAP in all but the RAID 1 configuration where it eked out a win. The MaxNAS gave up the RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations to the Synology but came out a winner in the RAID 5 and RAID 6 configurations when compared to the DS408
File Copy From NAS
This test reads the single large (1.4GB) file from the File Copy test from the NAS using 64kb read operations.
Copying the large file back from the NAS produced similar results as the copy to the NAS. With throughput solidly in the 31-33MB/s range the only real change in position is in the RAID 5 configuration where a strong showing by the Synology DS408 put the MaxNAS in last place for that category.
Dir Copy to NAS (higher is better)
This test copies a directory structure with 126 files to the NAS device using predominantly 64kb writes but also includes a wide distribution under 16kb.
The MaxNAS held up very well on the directory copy to NAS test turning in similar results on the RAID 1 setup. In the RAID 5 and 6 volume configuration, the MaxNAS beat out the QNAP TS-509 and tied the Synology DS-408 on both setups.
Dir Copy From NAS (higher is better)
This test copies the same directory structure of 126 files from the NAS device using 64kb reads.
Performance when copying the directory back from the NAS ran in the mid 16GB/s range except for the RAID 6 setup where it dropped down to 14.7GB/s. Although these scores were not out of line with the other units, they were lower than the comparison units across the board, earning it a third-place finish.
Photo Album (higher is better)
The Photo Album test simulates the viewing of 169 photo files of various sizes stored on the NAS and consists of 100% read operations.
The photo album test is another one of those that stresses the units and test their ability to read large files. Like the other units, the MaxNAS turned in a consistent performance across all configurations, but was slower than both comparison units.
First, let's visit the RAID 10 performance that I intentionally avoided when going through the individual tests. I was pleased to see the MaxNAS offer RAID 10 as it is often touted as having the speed benefits of RAID 0 with the redundancy of a RAID 1 array. So why didn't I talk about it during the tests? On the MaxNAS, the RAID 10 performance was consistently behind both RAID 5 and RAID 6 setups. It compared favorably to RAID 1, but there's no compelling reason to implement it on the MaxNAS when you could have just as good or better performance using RAID 5 or RAID 6.
So now that we've come to the end of our performance testing, what conclusions can we draw? The MaxNAS offers good, solid performance in all but the office productivity test where, like the Synology DS408, it came up short. However, the QNAP TS-509 outperformed the unit in most tests, often by a rather significant margin.
After looking at the performance numbers it's time to examine some of the other performance characteristics of the MaxNAS such as cooling and power consumption.
The MaxNAS is cooled by a rear-mounted 92mm fan as well as a 40mm fan used to cool the internal power supply. The fans are audible but not overpowering, although it probably isn't well-suited for an HTPC setup where noise is a concern.
I used the NAS Performance Toolkit to run a full series of tests in a RAID 5 configuration and monitored the S.M.A.R.T. drive temperature readings as well as temperatures inside the enclosure. To monitor the interior case temperatures I inserted a digital temperature probe into the case with the probe positioned in the center of the case at the rear of the drives. Temperature readings were taken prior to the run with the hard drives spinning and then throughout the test.
|Ambient Room||21 C||21 C|
|Case Interior||26 C||27 C|
|S.M.A.R.T. Drive 1||28 C||31 C|
|S.M.A.R.T. Drive 2||28 C||33 C|
|S.M.A.R.T. Drive 3||30 C||34 C|
|S.M.A.R.T. Drive 4||31 C||35 C|
|S.M.A.R.T. Drive 5||29 C||33 C|
As you can see from the results, average drive temperatures increased about four degrees C over the course of the measurement period, which is certainly acceptable given the stressful nature and length of the test. The interior case temperature rose only one degree during this time.
When comparing a NAS server to a standard server or PC one of the benefits is the generally lower power requirements of a NAS device. In addition, most NAS servers have the ability to place the drives in a low-power state after a certain period of inactivity. With the MaxNAS you can set the drives to hibernate from 30 to 300 minutes.
I tested the various power usage levels of the MaxNAS at idle with the disks spinning but no activity, during a full RAID 5 test with read and write activity and finally in power management mode with all drives set to power down after the minimum 30 minute period. All measurements were taken with a P3 International P4400 Kill A Watt power meter.
|Power Mgt. Mode||44|
|RAID 5 Test||66-75|
With five drives in a RAID 5 configuration under heavy load, the MaxNAS managed to use 75 watts or less and only 44 watts in power management mode. The MaxNAS came equipped with Western Digital Caviar Green drives that helped contribute to the lower power usage. Overall I was impressed with the numbers, especially with the idle and power management power levels.
RAID Data Protection
Multi-drive NAS devices provide an added layer of data protection by allowing you to set up RAID arrays that serve to protect against data loss in case of a hard drive failure. It should be noted that employing a RAID array is not a substitute for backing up your data. The MaxNAS offers support for several levels of RAID arrays that offer redundancy, including RAID 1/5/6/10 that provide redundancy either through mirroring (RAID 1/10) or striping with parity (RAID 5/6). The MaxNAS also features RAID 5 + hot spare capability, which allows you to designate a drive as a spare drive that can automatically be added to the array in the event of a drive failure.
In order to test the ability of the MaxNAS to automatically recover from a single drive failure, I configured the volume in different RAID types and then simulated a drive failure by removing one of the drives in the array from the system. Because the MaxNAS supports hot-swapping, drives can be removed and replaced without powering the unit down. Removing a drive will cause the System Error LED on the front of the unit to show red; had a drive actually failed, instead of being removed, the Drive Fault LED would have blinked red to indicate which drive was at fault. Pulling a drive also results in an e-mail being sent by the MaxNAS alerting you of the problem.
The first test I did was with a RAID 5 array using all five drives. I 'failed' drive 5 by removing the tray from the system and checked the RAID Information page, which showed the array status as Degraded and the Disks Used column showed disk 5 was missing. I replaced the 'failed' drive by reinstalling the tray in the enclosure. In a real life scenario you would have physically replace the drive with a new one, but since I only have five drives for testing, I was forced to reinsert the old drive back in the system. On the RAID Configuration screen I clicked on the Spare checkbox for Disk 5 and then clicked on the Add Spare button. Because I was reusing an existing drive from the array, the MaxNAS popped up a warning dialog and after clicking the OK button, the RAID Information page shows the system has automatically begun rebuilding the RAID 5 array, a process that will take over 7.5 hours. During the rebuild process, the volume is still accessible with all files intact and no data was lost.
I repeated the test by 'failing' a drive in a 4-drive RAID 5 with a hot spare and saw the system automatically begin rebuilding the array using the spare drive with no user intervention. The same was true when I tested a RAID 1 array and RAID 10 array that both had a hot spare drive allocated. The MaxNAS performed its array recovery process flawlessly and sent e-mail notifications alerting of the failure, the start of the rebuild process and again when the array rebuild was complete.
If you read the performance test results, you noticed we showed results for iSCSI under each volume configuration and you may be wondering just what it is and how it’s used. Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI) is an Internet, or IP-based, protocol used in storage networks to exchange SCSI commands over the network. This allows you to consolidate storage in arrays such as the MaxNAS, while having the storage appear to the client as a local drive. Additionally, iSCSI lets you take advantage of existing IP network infrastructure without having to install expensive interconnections like Fibre Channel. As we saw in the configuration section of the review, the MaxNAS can function as an iSCSI target, but the client computer must have an iSCSI initiator, either a piece of hardware such as a host bus adapter card or a software initiator. We’ll be using Microsoft’s iSCSI initiator. Since we tested using Windows XP, I had to download the Microsoft iSCSI Software Initiator Version 2.08 from Microsoft's web site. The iSCSI initiator is included in Vista and Windows Server 2008 and later operating systems.
We already covered setting up an iSCSI target in the configuration section of the review, so let's take a look at setting up the initiator software and mapping a link to the iSCSI target. Launching the iSCSI initiator software brings up a dialog with several tabs. Clicking on the Discovery tab will allow you to add a target portal, which you do by clicking the Add button and keying in the IP address of the MaxNAS unit.
Once the target has been identified, you can use the Targets tab to log on to the target using the Log On button.
After you have chosen the proper target and clicked the OK button, you should be able to see a new disk show up under Computer Management>Disk Management in Windows. From this point you can initialize the disk and create a partition and Windows will treat the space on the MaxNAS iSCSI target just as if it were a direct attached disk on your computer.
I found setting up the target on the MaxNAS to be be very straightforward and setting up the initiator software to be quick and painless. Being able to use a storage pool for applications such as a database or an Exchange server gives you a lot of flexibility and doesn't lock you into a fixed amount of storage. I would like to point out that using an iSCSI target is meant to be used by a single application and is not for shared folders; for that you need to stick to using the shares on the NAS.
The MicroNet MaxNAS NAS server is a good way for businesses and enterprise workgroups to take advantage of a centralized data repository. The unit features a full range of RAID modes that includes RAID 0/1/5/6/10/5 + hot spare and advanced features like RAID level expansion and migration. MicroNet has further positioned this unit into the enterprise with its emphasis on iSCSI target volume support that allows you to use the device as part of a Storage Area Network. The RAID failover featured in several modes all successfully recovered from drive failures. As the MaxNAS is targeted as business users, it is missing some bells and whistles found on competitors' models like multimedia file sharing and web server applications. While these may be of dubious value to the business user, it is worth noting. Unlike other models we've reviewed here previously, the MaxNAS comes with disks drives that are already installed in the trays and formatted for a RAID 5 volume. With the disk roaming feature there is no need to worry about the order in which the drives are installed. Setup is quick and painless and with users not needing to tweak the configuration, could be up and running in a matter of minutes.
While the MaxNAS does offer jumbo frames support, this feature is of questionable value as choices for MTU size are limited to 4000, 8000, 12000 and 16000 bytes. As our test motherboard topped out at a more traditional 9014 bytes, I question the choice of frame sizes MicroNet chose to include. We didn't even bother testing this feature as the closest size we could match was 4000 bytes and the benefit to transfer speeds is negligible. While the MaxNAS is a solid performer, it was not in the same league as the QNAP-TS509 in terms of speed. Its interface was on par with that of the TS-509 but not as polished as the AJAX-based UI found on the Synology DS-509, although the MaxNAS did offer decent documentation found on the included installation CD.
With a street price of around $1,200, the MaxNAS may at first seem pricey compared to other units until you remember the unit comes with five drives included, whereas other units are barebones and drives must be purchased separately. Still, that positions the MaxNAS squarely in the enterprise/small business segment. Its full range of RAID modes with RAID level migration and volume expansion capabilities, iSCSI target volume support and more make this unit a good choice with solid, if not stellar, performance.
- Included drives already mounted and pre-configured
- RAID 0/1/5/6/10/5 + hot spare capability
- RAID level expansion and migration capabilities
- iSCSI taget volume
- Drive hot swapping using easy-removable drive trays
- Good documentation
- S.M.A.R.T. reporting
- eSATA Support
- Lack of 9000 byte MTU jumbo frame support
- No web camera support
- No DDNS support