The six-bay Iomega StorCenter px6-300d is the largest array you can get from Iomega before you venture into rack-mount servers, and it's just the kind of box you'd expect to see in a remote office or small to medium-sized business. Considering Iomega's parent EMC is a leader in the enterprise storage market, I had high expectations for this solution.
As it turns out, Iomega's hardware and performance are merely average. However, the Iomega Personal Cloud, which combines easy NAS-to-NAS replication and Web-based file access at no additional charge, distinguishes the Iomega StorCenter NAS. If Iomega keeps the pricing reasonable and works on increasing the performance numbers, it could give Netgear and QNAP a run for their money.
The unit I received for testing has six Hitachi 2TB drives (Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 HDS723020BLA642), but Seagate and Western Digital 1TB and 2TB drives are supported as well. If you want to splurge for 3TB drives, the only choice is the Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 HDS723030ALA640.
Iomega StorCenter px6-300d: Hardware considerations
The Iomega hardware seems rather cheap in comparison to the Netgear ReadyNAS and other NAS boxes I tested. The front cover of the unit is flimsy plastic, and the six hot-swappable hard drive trays are a low-grade plastic. Apart from the build quality, the biggest issue I see with the front cover and drive trays is that there's no way to lock them. If I were putting this unit in a branch office, I'd want at least a modicum of protection against someone opening up the unit and taking out a drive.
The other major criticism is the external power brick. In smaller companies that comprise the Iomega StorCenter's target audience, an external power brick seems like another item that could get lost or damaged.
Iomega StorCenter px6-300d: Software and administration
Although the hardware quality is mildly disappointing, Iomega steps up its game on the software side. Setup was easy (as it was with most of the NAS boxes in this roundup), and the box was quickly up and running on the network. The Web interface takes some getting accustomed to, but overall the breakdown of the various functions and the organization of the GUI (Cloud Services, System, Media, Storage, and so on) are straightforward. In a nice touch, you can even take a peek at the interface before you buy, using Iomega's online emulator.
Like most of the NAS boxes in this class, the StorCenter has a Windows and Mac client -- called Storage Manager -- that includes a configuration wizard for initial setup. It's an easy way for a nontechnical person to configure the hardware, though it had problems detecting the NAS device on the network. Also, the software ends up dropping you on a Web page, which could be confusing to some users. The Iomega software provides great flexibility in setting up your volumes and shares, and the defaults will be perfect for most deployments, but it's not as polished or straightforward as Netgear's software.
Iomega has included many software applications that seem more oriented to home users than business users. These include a torrent download manager, media servers (UpnP, DLNA, iTunes), automatic transfer of photos from digital cameras using the USB port, and social media sharing with Flickr, Facebook, and YouTube. Iomega's thinking is that a small to medium-sized business might want these capabilities as part of the NAS instead of deploying separate servers. Point taken, but I think that would be a slim minority of the customers. The exception is the video surveillance application, which allows you to connect up to 10 IP network security cameras. Unlike some of the other options, this clearly has a business case. Many of the other NAS boxes bundle a video surveillance app as well.
Iomega StorCenter px6-300d: Backup and cloud services
Here is where Iomega hits the ball out of the park. All of the NAS boxes in this roundup allow you to do backups using rsync, but for most people (especially the nontechnical), rsync can present a big hurdle. Most of these boxes allow you to connect an external USB hard drive to do backups, but this only works if people remember to do it regularly. Iomega also makes it push-button simple to use cloud storage services such as Amazon S3 and Mozy (another EMC-owned company) to back up data offsite and keep it protected. Although these services come with monthly fees and per-gigabyte charges, they can be useful if you have a small subset of data that is critical to your organization.
Iomega one-ups the competition with the Iomega Personal Cloud, a Web-based service that combines data replication and offsite file access and sharing. The data replication piece allows you to synchronize directories in two Iomega StorCenter devices without any monthly fees. For a small to medium-sized business, the Iomega Personal Cloud is an easy and straightforward way to have your data replicated to a second NAS for protection. Most companies will likely replicate all their data, but Iomega has made the system very flexible to allow replication of subsets of data and to have these backups done on different schedules (such as after hours or weekends).
Iomega StorCenter px6-300d: Performance
Performance of the Iomega StorCenter was disappointing compared to other NAS devices in this shoot-out. I tested the hardware in various scenarios, including hosting NFS, AFS, and SMB/CIFS shares, hosting VMware images, as a iSCSI target, and as an Apple Time Machine backup server. I tested the unit in both its default RAID 6 configuration and in RAID 10. A business could come up with many ways to use a box like this, and I wanted to get a feel for its performance in several scenarios.
Finally, Iomega also sent me two 128GB Micron RealSSD drives to test with. I figured that the SSDs would offer a huge performance boost in a scenario such as a virtual desktop infrastructure of a branch office. I tested the two SSDs as a RAID1 using the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit and saw only minor speed improvements -- nowhere close to what I was expecting. I asked Iomega reps about the business reasons for adding SSDs, and they said simply that customers were asking for them. Based on my performance testing, I think most customers would be better off skipping the SSD option. The minor improvement isn't worth the extra expense.
For the results of my performance tests, see the mainbar, "NAS shoot-out: 5 storage servers battle for business." For the reviews of the competing products, follow these links: Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 6 | QNAP TS-659 Pro II Turbo NAS | Synology DiskStation DS1511+ | Thecus N5200XXX.
Iomega StorCenter px6-300d Network Storage
|Drives tested||6 x Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 (model HDS723020BLA642). Specs: 2TB, 7,200 rpm, 64MB cache, SATA 6.0Gbps interface|
|Pricing||18TB, $3,999.99; 12TB, $3,299.99 (as tested); 6TB, $1,699.99; Diskless, $1,199.99|
This article, "NAS shoot-out: Iomega StorCenter px6-300d," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in storage at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.