Synology RackStation: Virtualization storage on the cheap

Synology finally hits the midrange sweet spot in price, performance, and capacity with the 10-drive, rack-mount RS3411RPxs

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The Web UI, which runs on the newest version of Synology's DSM (DiskStation Manager), is laid out differently from prior versions of the interface. The new GUI is one of the only things I don't like about this device. The previous layout provided a hierarchical tree view on the left and focus frames on the right -- a staple in the computing world. The new version has a desktoplike look and feel, with positionable windows within the browser interface and a single drop menu at the upper left. Open windows have their own icons in the menu bar, and you can even drag and drop icons to the desktop itself for quick access.

All this is very well done, and the presentation is impeccable. But this isn't a desktop computer, it's a storage device. I find myself poking around in various windows to find what I want, when I'd much prefer having all the options presented in a single tree. Don't get me wrong -- it's a functional interface. But it seems to get in its own way.

The RS3411RPxs offers the same set of services and options as most other Synology devices, including the basics of SMB, NFS, and AFP file sharing. It also provides iSCSI, HTTP, and FTP file access, along with built-in network backup tools to synchronize files and shares to another Synology device or even to a generic rsync host. It can bind to an existing Active Directory domain, or function with stand-alone authentication managed from the DSM UI.

Then there's the plethora of other services, including iTunes sharing, photo collection organization, BitTorrent protocol support, surveillance storage target, and even mail services. The device can function as a network firewall and router. Further, you can fire up PHP, MySQL, and Apache and use the RS3411RPxs as a LAMP application server should you so desire. But at this level, it's unlikely you're going to use the RS3411RPxs as a router, a firewall, or even an application server. It's designed to be used as storage, and it does that job quite well.

Synology RackStation: Virtualization tests at 10GbE
I tested the RS3411RPxs with a variety of operating systems running at 1GbE and 10GbE speeds. I performed a significant number of tests using VMware vSphere 5 to gauge the virtualization performance as well. In all tests, the RS3411RPxs performed very well for its price point, pushing over 700MBps streaming reads from a RAID10 array, and over 600MBps streaming writes. In the virtualization tests, the benefits of the 10GbE interface were clear. Migrating a 16GB VM from an NFS share to an iSCSI LUN on the same device took 62 seconds over 1GbE, but only 14 seconds over 10GbE. Suffice it to say, you won't be disappointed with the virtualization performance of the RS3411RPxs unless you're pitting it against $25,000 solutions.

There are enterprise-level features that the RS3411RPxs is missing, like the VMware storage offloading APIs that make a huge difference in storage performance for large virtualization infrastructures. But again, we're talking about a device that costs $4,999 (without disk). Trade-offs are to be expected.

Shops with smaller virtualization deployments will find that the RS3411RPxs has the right blend of redundancy and performance to kick their VMs up a notch without breaking the budget. Others will find that using the RS3411RPxs as a backup target, application server, or general file server provides peace of mind.

This article, "Synology RackStation: Virtualization storage on the cheap," 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.

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