Review: QNAP TVS-882T NAS piles on the features

With a built-in hypervisor, countless add-ons, and even a remote control, this ‘storage’ server might solve some problems you didn’t know you had

Review: QNAP TVS-882T NAS piles on the features
QNAP
At a Glance

We’ve seen a steady flow of multifunction NAS boxes over the years. What began as relatively straightforward uses of Linux software RAID and mildly customized hardware has blossomed into a crop of multifaceted appliances that sport a full-on rampage of capabilities. In some cases, the NAS functionality may be one of the more minor considerations. QNAP’s TVS-882T is a prime example of this new class of NAS.

The TVS-882T supports a plethora of software features, starting with the usual stable of open source packages like MariaDB, Apache, Node.js, and PHP and extending to virtualization and containers and beyond. The TVS-882T works with many types of surveillance cameras and can serve as a print server, media server, VPN server, and RADIUS authentication server, as well as an FTP and web server. It can even serve as a host for virtual machines and containers.

Naturally, the TVS-882T supports SMB/CIFS, AFP, and NFS file sharing, AES256 encryption at the volume and folder level, and the requisite backup and file synchronization services. There’s Apple Time Machine support, standard rsync, and integrations with cloud storage services such as Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, Dropbox, and Google Cloud Storage. Using QNAP’s Qsync utility, you can automatically sync files across your computers, laptops, and mobile devices.

All of this is packaged in an eight-bay storage appliance with an Intel Core i5 processor and 16GB of RAM, delivered via QNAP’s Linux-based QTS 4.3 OS, and managed through a generally user-friendly web UI. Basic setup is extremely simple, though you can definitely get into the weeds when working in more advanced territory such as native virtualization or Docker containers. The network configuration can be daunting if you’re not well versed in virtualization networking. An understanding of Xen networking in particular will serve you nicely.

Storage and I/O aplenty

The hardware details alone show that the TVS-882T isn’t simply a pile of disk and a network interface. For one, it comes with a remote control, three HDMI ports, and not one but two ¼-inch microphone/audio inputs and a 3.5mm stereo audio output jack -- yes, stereo on a NAS box and two speakers. The TS-882T even talks to you during normal operations such as bootup.

The TVS-882T has four gigabit Ethernet ports and two expansion slots with 10G Ethernet interfaces and Thunderbolt ports. Four USB 3 ports round out the back panel, and one USB 3 port up front takes care of the rest of the I/O options. The single power supply is understandable, given the desktop form factor, but presents a minor liability.

For storage, the TVS-882T can handle up to six 3.5-inch SATA disks in addition to two 2.5-inch SSD disks. The disk trays are worth noting for their surprisingly simple and elegant tool-free design. There’s also support for M.2 and PCIe NVM PCIe SSDs. Natively, the TVS-882T can handle 48TB of SATA storage using 8TB disks. However, if you scale the TVS-882T all the way up using six external Thunderbolt storage expansion enclosures, you can reach an astronomical 432TB. Unfortunately, logistics prevented me from testing with an array this massive. All storage uses the ext4 filesystem.

qnap tvs 882t applications InfoWorld

A pile of add-ons allows the QNAP to serve as everything from a Syslog server to a virtual desktop host to an entertainment system. 

The disk can be configured in myriad ways, including your normal RAID sets, but also with tiering and SSD caching options. The tiering can be automatically optimized with QNAP’s homegrown Qtier functions. Alternatively, each different storage technology could be configured separately, providing a range of performance for different uses, such as heavy real-time writes to the SSDs and archival storage to the SATA disks.

Combined with the Thunderbolt interfaces, tiering and SSD caching make the TVS-882T a powerhouse for high-throughput A/V work. As a note to that specific application, QNAP has endeavored to keep the TVS-882T very quiet with two large variable-speed rear cooling fans. The company claims a normal operating noise level of only 21.8 dB with six SATA disks.

Another useful approach would be manual partitioning for different applications, such as virtualization disk run from the SSDs, home directories on SATA, and system cache on M.2 storage served via Thunderbolt. The options for applications are as plentiful as the storage options.

One interesting wrinkle is the ability to configure iSCSI targets on the TVS-882T and access them via Thunderbolt IP. Given fast enough SSD storage, this can provide the best possible iSCSI performance from the system.

Virtualization in the box

The TVS-882T can serve as a storage back end to VMware vSphere, Citrix XenServer, and Microsoft Hyper-V. It supports VMware VAAI (vStorage API for Array Integration) and Microsoft ODX (Offloaded Data Transfer) for I/O offloading, and it can be managed as an SMI-S provider (that is, as a Microsoft iSCSI Target Server) by Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager.

But the TVS-882T doesn’t simply provide iSCSI or NFS storage for virtualized infrastructures. The NAS itself includes a Xen-based hypervisor that allows you to run VMs directly on the NAS. The Virtualization Station software offers up a clean and concise interface to configure and maintain virtual servers of nearly any flavor, supporting Linux, Windows, and FreeBSD.

Of course the number of VMs and their performance will be limited by the resources provided by the TVS-882T -- namely a single Intel Core i5-6500 3.2GHz CPU and 16GB of DDR4 RAM, expandable to 64GB. But there’s room enough for several utility VMs in a normal deployment, such as a domain controller and application server.

qnap tvs 882t virtualization InfoWorld

The QNAP TVS-882T comes with the Xen hypervisor built in, along with tools for creating and managing virtual machines and monitoring their performance.

It’s worth noting that oversubscription of the TVS-882T's resources can reduce overall performance of NAS/SAN operations, so it pays to be aware of how much load is placed on all functions of the device. In my testing I put a Windows VM, FreeBSD VM, and a Linux VM under a low/normal load and noticed no appreciable throughput issues with normal NAS function. When the load increased, performance began to dip all the way around, but nothing outside of the normal boundaries of a loaded single-processor system with 16GB of RAM. Further, in my testing over the course of a few months, all VMs remained stable and functional with normal use.

Note that you can also run LXC and Docker containers natively on the TVS-882T through the Container Station feature.

You may be wondering what those three HDMI ports are for and why QNAP includes the remote control. On top of everything else, the TVS-882T can be used as a multimedia station running Plex or other multimedia playback packages. This means you can hook it up to your TV and play back audio and video files, controlling everything with the remote. You can also output the console of a VM to one of the HDMI ports, run a native Linux desktop, or all three, one on each HDMI port.

The TVS-882T keeps piling on the features and backing it up with solid performance for its pay grade. This is a small office in a box or a high-end A/V editing foundation or almost whatever you need it to be. There are 1,001 use cases for this device, and calling it a NAS is a misnomer if there ever was one.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Availability (20%)
Performance (20%)
Management (20%)
Scalability (20%)
Serviceability (10%)
Value (10%)
Overall Score (100%)
QNAP TVS-882T 8 9 9 9 9 9 8.8
At a Glance
  • The QNAP TVS-882T eight-bay storage server piles on the features and backs it up with solid performance for its pay grade.

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