QNAP's TS-EC1279U-RP rack-mount array combines midrange muscle, capacity, and redundancy at a low-end price
Surprisingly, in addition to four USB 2.0 interfaces, the chassis has two USB 3.0 ports. These can be used to connect large external hard drives for backup purposes, a UPS for automated shutdowns during power outages, or even printers. You can also expand the capacity of the QNAP TS-EC1279U-RP via two eSATA connections on the back, though the details surrounding this capability are somewhat murky.
The QNAP TS-EC1279U-RP comes with a quad-core Intel Xeon E3-1225 CPU, running at 3.1GHz per core, and 4GB of DDR3 ECC RAM, which can be upgraded to 8GB. The operating system is a customized Linux distribution, and the file system used is either ext3 or ext4. The ext file system can be slightly problematic at the larger densities due to inherent limits and the absence of snapshot support, but for normal small-business tasks, it provides sufficient features and performance.
Although the internals are Linux, the face of the system is a well-appointed Web UI that offers quick and simple access to all features and settings. Built with a left-hand hierarchical menu and a right-hand focus, the GUI sports a standard look and feel. Windows admins will have no problem adapting to the interface.
The TS-EC1279U-RP offers file sharing via SMB, NFS, FTP, AFP, and WebDAV, and it supports iSCSI targets. The setup for all of these services is quite simple, even when leveraging the Microsoft Active Directory authentication features. Note that NIS authentication is not supported, though it's not terribly common to find NIS in the target market for this unit.
Server virtualization at 10GbE
For shops looking to implement a small virtualized infrastructure, the QNAP TS-EC1279U-RP will be right at home. It supports VMware vSphere, Citrix XenServer, and Microsoft Hyper-V, and performance is excellent for a sub-$10,000 array.
Equipped with the 10GbE interfaces, the unit zipped along nicely during my virtualization tests, recording a time of 1 minute, 37 seconds to clone a 16GB VMware vSphere virtual machine -- quite fast for storage in this price range. Raw performance tests conducted with Linux VMs running with their virtual disks on an iSCSI LUN over 10GbE showed streaming 8K writes at an average of 490MBps and streaming 8K reads at around 505MBps.
Considering those impressive performance numbers, the redundant power supplies and network interfaces, the availability of RAID10 and RAID6, and the extremely reasonable price, the TS-EC1279U-RP hits all the right notes for many small and medium-size businesses that don't want to relinquish stability, reliability, and performance, but can't justify the higher cost of more enterprise-oriented solutions.
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