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QNAP TS-2483XU-RP review: 24-bay NAS

QNAP produces very interesting monstrous NAS-s for working with large amounts of data. Considered today, the model with the long name TS-2483XU-RP is a storage system with a head unit on 24 3.5-inch hard drives. This gives the customer the opportunity to pack 384 TB of data into one system, using 16-terabyte hard drives, and do without expansion shelves at all, which may be quite enough for the needs of a small enterprise.

And at all despite the fact that the scaling possibilities here are significant: up to eight 16-disk shelves, and even strange RAID-modules with USB 3.0 interface, I can say that the QNAP TS-2483XU-RP is in all respects an interesting, ambiguous model of NAS-a, which has something to praise and scold.

Hardware Platform

At the heart of the storage is a 6-core (12-stream) Intel Xeon E-2136 with a nominal frequency of 3.3 GHz, increasing at load up to 4.5 GHz. By default, the NAS has 16 GB of DDR4 ECC RAM (two modules of 8 GB each) expandable up to 64 GB.

Ask me, and I would prefer to see an AMD processor in a similar machine, because security problems in the architecture of Intel processors pop up on average once a quarter, and patches that close them lead to a significant drop in performance. And QNAP, unlike other NAS manufacturers, still not so vain there are several lines where AMD processors are used, in particular, Ryzen in models with the index TS-x77. Yes, who would have thought that the time would come, and we will consider the Intel server processor a disadvantage… But even among Intel processors, there are much more worthy candidates for a place in the NAS. For example, the recently updated Xeon D-1600 or Xeon D-2143IT series: these processors have built-in 10-Gigabit network controllers and more PCI Express lines, and in general, they were specifically created for NASes.

As for the layout of the QNAP TS-2483XU-RP, it is purely server: a high 4-unit body did not limit the imagination of developers, because they could realize any desire in the form of an expansion Board of full length and height. One such desire was to support RDMA (iSER), a direct memory access technology for Ethernet frame transfers. For iSER to work, its support is needed both on the storage and on the connected client or switch, and the best implementation of this chip is network cards manufactured by Mellanox. In QNAP TS-2483XU-RP the Mellanox ConnectX-4 Lx network card is installed, the powerful network controller with ASIC processor allowing to rank this Board to a class of “smart” network controllers SmartNIC, which are capable to carry out some functions on the analysis of network traffic without loading of CPU.

Returning to iSER, we can talk about such an advantage of this technology, as an increase of 40-60% of the speed of random access and a decrease in access time. Also, with intensive network traffic, the CPU load of the server decreases. The installed controller has 2 10GbE Ethernet slots of SFP + format, optional 25 and 40 Gigabit interfaces are available.

On the motherboard itself, you have four 1-Gigabit network ports, as well as six USB 3.1 (two Type-C and four Type-A). The network port configuration is optimal for using the device as a network gateway: optical Uplink for WAN and 4 copper interfaces for LAN.

As for USB 3.1, QNAP has a very interesting take on this interface: the company offers rack-mount expansion shelves that have their own RAID controller. Probably, permanent direct access to the data on these disk shelves is not intended, and it is planned to use them for backup or for archival data. In such disk shelves RAID-array configuration can be carried out through a common Web-interface, and jumpers on the body, at the same time, you can easily disconnect such a shelf from the storage and connect to a laptop, well, for example, if you are standing near the server cabinet, and you suddenly ran out of space on the laptop disk :). But in general so it is not accepted: serious storage represents one head device plus shelves of expansion which in turn-no more than SAS backplane in the steel case with the power supply unit. QNAP has also such expansion modules on 16 disks which you can connect to considered NAS already to 8 pieces sequentially, on 4 on each port of the SAS-adapter SAS-12G2E (it is got separately). To date, QNAP has 3 expansion modules with RAID controllers and USB 3.1 interface (TR-series): one 4-disk for rack installation and two desktop for 2 and 4 disks.

For SSD caching, a sign of good form is the installation of separate compartments, usually behind the storage case, and QNAP has such solutions in the corporate segment, but the TS-2483XU-RP is still a budget solution, and there are no separate compartments for solid-state drives here, so either donate one of the 3.5" compartments for SSD (the benefit of as many as 24 pieces), or install a special PCI-E Board for mSATA/M. 2 drives. And I must say that in the production of such boards QNAP succeeded like no other. They learned to produce combo boards that have a 10-Gigabit controller and 2 mSATA/M. 2 slots. Keep in mind that there are different adapters for mSATA and M2 drives: cards with index QM2-2S-for mSATA and QM2-2P - for PCI Express M. 2. Well, if you do not need a 10-Gigabit twisted pair network, then there is an option of such a Board without a network, including a 4-disk one. Please note-this controller has active cooling for the drives, and the fan status is monitored through the operating system of the storage, so it makes no sense to use non-original components here. In General, if you put aside fears about the unreliability of SSD drives, and do not think about the lack of hot swap, then these adapter cards are the best solution for NAS, which has 4 PCI Express slots empty.

For testing, we used Toshiba N300 hard drives designed specifically for NASes. In our testing, we used both helium HDDs with a volume of 14 TB, and conventional, “air” with a volume of 6 TB. In the presence of a good SSD cache to hard drives, as a rule, there is only one requirement: to work without breakdowns. According to Backblaze statistics, Toshiba hard drives have a failure rate of less than 1.5%, and although this is not a record, they are still worthy of working in the data Center.

To cache read / write operations, you must use a fail-safe RAID array of solid-state drives, at least-RAID level 1, that is, a mirror of two disks. Even if you have installed 2-3 QM2 adapters, you can combine the SSDS on these controllers into one common array. By the way, I do not get tired to repeat that besides traditional, simple and clear SSD-caching, QNAP still has a function of QTier, for automatic division of storage space into layers: slow for hard drives and fast for SAS HDD / PCI-e SSD. We have considered this technology in detail not only on the example of the corporate QNAP TDS-16489, but also on the desktop TVS-951 for digital studios . For those who are too lazy to read, we recall that QTier, unlike SSD cache, sums the volume of solid-state RAID array to disk, and transfers the most popular data blocks to the SSD on a schedule. Moreover, it may not necessarily be the whole file, but also some parts of iSCSI-LUN-s.

A tale of a failed GPU experiment

Last year, QNAP reasonably decided that the future is for storage, in which you can install the GPU for tasks related to AI and ML-calculations, and even released several desktop devices optimized for such tasks. In our review of the QNAP TDS-16489U, we tested the possibility of installing a graphics card in a NAS with a virtual machine running on an embedded hypervisor, for example for CAD applications. Then I complained that that old NAS did not have additional power for any powerful video cards, and our remarks were heard by developers.

From the power point of view, everything is perfect: the fault-tolerant Delta unit with a capacity of 800 watts ensures that there is enough electricity even if you completely fill the NAS with hard drives and put a couple of gaming graphics cards.

The storage enclosure allows you to install two 2-slot video cards in order to further use them for transcoding video, accelerating artificial intelligence or probros in virtualku, where you can do what you want with them. If you just need to run Python code under Tensorflow-Jupiter server is available to you, run in a container via Container Station. Of course, it only works with Nvidia graphics cards, but that’s not a problem.

There is, however, one “but”: the video card should be in the compatibility list listed on the website QNAP, and this list is small: there are no professional Tesla accelerators, no proletarian P106-xxx, so the cards created for GPU calculations go past the cash register. Personally, I do not understand what such calculations on the GPU can be discussed and why then add tensorflow support to the NAS, if The NVIDIA license agreement does not allow the use of gaming graphics cards for professional calculations and work in 24x7 mode. My experiment failed: with installed P106-090 QNAP TS-2483XU-RP did not start. At the same time, when you install a compatible gaming or office video card, you can use the GPU to run a virtual desktop, run the GPU in Windows-virtualka environment to work with any codec, and so on: all this is described in our review.

Mustang_1 Mustang_2 Mustang_3

QNAP also has its own Mustang series computing accelerators, but they are made on exotic chips: Arria 10 1150GX (Mustang F100), Intel Movidius Myriad X VPU (Mustang V-100) and rather eccentric Mustang-200, which is two computers with Core i5/i7/Celeron processors, memory and SSD on one PCI Express Board. They are planned to be used to work with ready-made models of artificial intelligence, for example, for facial recognition in video surveillance systems.

For this purpose, QNAP announced an OpenVINO platform that supports native accelerators, into which a model from Tensorflow or Caffe can be loaded. I hope that soon we will be able to test this solution, but as you know, you will have to create a model yourself.However, given that today everyone is literally obsessed with computer vision, here QNAP has a very good start for the future.

Today, major vendors in the field of server engineering are slowly abandoning hot-swappable fans, and QNAP has supported this trend. Well, cooling systems in such machines almost always work at minimum speeds, due to which they quietly work without replacement for 10 years, and often even more. The use of 92mm fans allows the QNAP TS-2483XU-RP server to operate at a noise level of only 28.7 dB, meaning it can be kept in an open Cabinet in the same room as the staff.

Software

Today, major vendors in the field of server engineering are slowly abandoning hot-swappable fans, and QNAP has supported this trend. Well, cooling systems in such machines almost always work at minimum speeds, due to which they quietly work without replacement for 10 years, and often even more. The use of 92mm fans allows the QNAP TS-2483XU-RP server to operate at a noise level of only 28.7 dB, meaning it can be kept in an open Cabinet in the same room as the staff.

One of the most popular features today is snapshots. Yes, of course, all storage manufacturers have them, but QNAP managed to implement it on the EXT4 file system, which along with NTFS has earned a reputation as the most reliable and fast. You can replicate snapshots to external data storage, thus replacing backups. Snapshots work for both regular file folders and iSCSI LUNs, and in the snapshot Manager you can:

  • to configure snapshots on schedule,
  • reserve space for snapshots,
  • import snapshots from another NAS,
  • restore a single file or LUN to its previous state,
  • clone a snapshot into a new LUN or volume.

Not enough, except that, the ability to mount a snapshot in iSCSI target to work with multiple versions of data at the same time, but this is a rare opportunity, and few people have.

Configuration of the testbed:

  • Processor: AMD EPYC 7551p
  • Cooling: Noctua NH-U9 TR4-SP3
  • Motherboard: ASRock Rack EPYCD8-2T
  • Network card: Intel X520-DA2
  • Memory: 48 GB Transcend DDR4-2400
  • SSD: Transcend TS1TSSD230S

NAS:

  • 3 x HDD Toshiba NAS N300 6Tb
  • 3 x HDD Toshiba NAS N300 14Tb
  • 2 x SSD Transcend TS256GMTS800 256Gb

OS:

  • Windows Server 2016
  • ISCSI connection
  • The file system LUN is NTFS, 4kb

We start with traditional synthetics when connecting via iSCSI for a disk formatted in NTFS with a cluster size of 4 KB.

Moving on to sequential access.

The SSDS used in the test are frankly weak in streaming write tests, so the advantage over the HDD we see only in reading, where the speed is suitable for the network port bandwidth.

In addition to the traditional IOPS values we’ve used in previous NAS reviews over the past two years, we’re looking at response times, and here’s why. Today, in almost all cases of using NAS-es, SSDS are used to speed up the work with the disk system, and the IOPS values, going off the scale for hundreds of thousands, remain unclaimed: there are simply no such workloads. But the access time is swimming very much, and as cool depends on the type of load, intensity and architecture of the storage system. Some experts believe that this is the main estimated parameter of storage performance, and the access time should not exceed 20 ms. Well, let’s look at the array of two SSDS Transcend TS256GMTS800 256Gb installed through the adapter QNAP QM2 and combined in RAID 1.

QNAP TS-2483XU-RP even with simple SSD drives easily keeps the synthetic load below 1ms to 16 threads, but under databases, of course, it is better to choose expensive enterprise-level SSDS.

Recommendations for the use of QNAP TS-2483XU-RP

The size always matters, and 24 disks in the head unit is an opportunity to build a storage at all without expansion shelves, and therefore without unnecessary costs. Such a huge volume is enough for any task, and this niche is the native habitat for QNAP TS-2483XU-RP, here it has no equal, especially given the software capabilities of QTS and 4 free PCI-E slots inside. If you put in this NAS two boards on 4 NVME drives each, then completely close the issue with a fast SSD layer, which you can use both as a cache and as a separate volume, and let you not have a Hot Swap for these SSDS, but as they say, be patient. Other usage scenarios run into a weak processor or a small maximum amount of memory, and to make it easier for you, refer to the following list.

The purposes for which the QNAP TS-2483XU-RP would suit best:

  • storage of video recordings of your NVR system
  • creating and storing backups (the server can be started on the NAS itself)
  • hosting virtual machine images
  • network gateway with OpenVPN and DPI at speeds of 10 GB/s
  • shared file sharing node (block and file access for DBMS, SAP and other applications with high read/write intensity).
  • media server with transcoding on the GPU

The purposes for which the QNAP TS-2483XU-RP will not work:

  • for serious virtualization
  • for machine learning / artificial intelligence tasks
  • as a Python compute node

Predictive Troubleshooting has become one of the most interesting trends in storage in recent years. This is when, for example, all NAS-s of the company send telemetry to the head office, and artificial intelligence based on sensor readings tries to predict in advance the failure of a component. This approach allows you to solve cases before they appear. QNAP does not have this technology yet, but it is available in Seagate IronWolf hard drives. All QNAP network drives support Seagate’s advanced IronWolf HealthManagement disk health diagnostics, and you can get partial predictivity of the most valuable storage element simply by selecting specialized hard drives designed specifically for NASes.