Review: Netgear's ReadyData makes a splash with flash

Netgear's better, faster rack-mount NAS and iSCSI SAN makes the case for enterprise workloads with read and write caching and unlimited snapshots

Netgear ReadyDATA 5200

Netgear's ReadyNAS appliances may be the most polished entry-level NAS products on the market. Now Netgear has set out to redefine this category of storage products with the ReadyData series. The new definition combines a variety of drive types plus innovative software to handle a wide range of storage tasks. The key here is flexibility. The ReadyData 5200 -- a 12-bay, 2U rack-mount system -- provides the building blocks you need to configure a storage system tailored to meet specific application profiles.

Many basics are assumed in a small to midrange enterprise storage system, including 10GbE networking, redundant power supplies, and support for SATA, SAS, and SSDs (solid-state drives). The ReadyData 5200 has all that covered and more. In addition to the hardware flexibility, the ReadyData delivers software features for both block (using iSCSI) and file (NFS and SMB) storage options to meet any need. Couple that with thin provisioning, data compression, and deduplication, and you have the kinds of features normally seen only on high-end products.

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A number of innovative features are used by the ReadyData to improve performance. If you have SSDs installed, you can configure them for either "Read Boost" or "Write Boost." Thus, you can use SSDs as a read cache or a write cache in front of rotating SATA or SAS disk drives to improve overall performance.

The system I reviewed came configured with a total of 10 SATA drives, plus one read-optimized SSD and one write-optimized SSD. Data management features of the ReadyData unit include the ability to take an unlimited number of block-level snapshots. The administrative interface for restoring a snapshot displays a timeline where you can choose to restore from any point in time. This feature could really come in handy when users have the "it was there yesterday" missing file problem. For saving space there is both compression and data deduplication. These features must be enabled for each volume and will affect performance.

Virtual networking is another key feature in the ReadyData box, allowing you to create multiple virtual network connections to any of the physical ports. This becomes really useful when you want to enable off-site data replication and use a different IP address for this function. It also helps when you need to provide a large number of iSCSI LUNS and you want to separate the traffic.

At $18,850 full retail, the ReadyData 5200 reviewed here costs more than twice the price of the 12-bay ReadyNAS 4220 I reviewed last month. If all you need is a backup target, or enough oomph to support light file sharing, the ReadyNAS will do the job for much less. For heavier duties -- such as a back end for virtual servers or database-driven apps -- the ReadyData delivers significant performance advantages, as well as advanced features the ReadyNAS can't match.

Setup and configuration
By default the ReadyData will attempt to establish an IP address using DHCP. A utility program called RAIDar (available from the Netgear support website) will probe a network subnet from a workstation looking for a specific hardware MAC address range. It will present all discovered Netgear NAS products in a menu and allow you to connect to any device through the Web admin interface. Once connected, you can change any number of default settings on the system, including the IP address.

The ReadyData standard configuration includes two 1GbE plus two 10GbE ports. These must be configured individually using the Web-based admin tool if you don't want them to have DHCP assigned addresses. Each physical NIC (eth0 through eth3) shows the status of the device, including speed and physical (MAC) address. One virtual NIC is associated with each physical interface card by default.

My test system came configured with one 50GB SSD devoted to log files, one 200GB SSD configured as a write-optimized drive, and a second 200GB SSD configured as a read-optimized drive. The remaining nine slots contained 7,200-rpm 1TB SATA drives: eight configured as a RAID 10 array and one as a hot spare. Default configuration for all new volumes is to have continuous protection.

One ding against Netgear's management GUI is that you have to know what the color codes stand for in order to tell how a particular SSD has been configured. Although the drive status display clearly labels RAID arrays, log drives, cache drives, and hot spares, it does not provide the key to distinguishing read cache from write cache. According to the manual (page 33), yellow is used for Write Boost and orange is used for Read Boost.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Value (10.0%)
Setup (10.0%)
Features (30.0%)
Management (30.0%)
Performance (20.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Netgear ReadyData 5200 9.0 9.0 10.0 9.0 9.0 9.3
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