Hardware and Setup Impressions

The 4-bay variant of the Seagate Business Storage Rackmount series can be purchased diskless, but the 8-bay variant comes with 4TB enterprise-class SATA disks (Constellation ES.3) pre-installed. Available drive configurations include 8TB (4x2TB), 12TB (4x3TB), 16TB (4x4TB) and 24TB (8x3TB). In order to accommodate 8 hot-swappable drives, the unit adopts a sliding tray design with the front part of the top cover capable of being propped open. The eight bays are laid out flat in two rows. The hard drives are mounted on a special caddy designed for this particular configuration. Due to the nature of the chassis, and the bundled hard drives in certain configurations, the storage density offered by the Seagate Business Storage 8-Bay unit is simply unparalleled.

In terms of hardware design, the unit is top-notch. The sliding rail design and the tool-less cooling system access, as well as the front USB port and sound suppression buttons make it easy to access service the unit when necessary. If we had to find scope for improvement, it would be in the caddy design. While the layout of the bays precludes intuitiveness, it could do with some vibration dampening mechanism. While hot-swapping disks, we could feel the vibration of the chassis frame's base from the other spinning disks and that did leave us a bit worried. However, considering that the Constellation ES.3 disks have RV (Rotational Vibration) tolerance built-in, it should not be much of a worry.

In terms of platform design, we can see that six of the bays are serviced by on-board SATA ports and two cables come from a riser card attached to the PCIe slot. The motherboard is a custom one from Asus, and without SSH access, we were unable to determine the chipset being used for the Ivy Bridge ECC-enabled board.

The OS on the unit (Seagate NAS OS) is an evolved version of the LaCie NAS OS that we evaluated in the 5big NAS Pro review. The UI is more streamlined, but some features (such as encryption support and volume expansion above 12 TB) have been cut. Starting the unit in diskless mode involves booting the unit with the rescue USB key inserted. This results in the unit getting a DHCP address, after which the setup process can be completed via the web interface.

Most of the OS features are similar to the LaCie NAS OS. The unit comes with support for the secure Wuala Cloud Storage. We have already covered the capabilities of Wuala's Hybrid Cloud in our LaCie 5big NAS Pro review, so we will not address that aspect further in this review.

A quick overview of the available options in the web interface is provided in the gallery below.

Users can be added (along with an optional e-mail address for Wuala / hybrid cloud access). Shares can be set up with restricted access protocols. For example, a share can be configured to be accessible only over NFS and not SMB. The OS also features an in-built download client which supports BitTorrent, as well as direct HTTP / FTP downloads. Backup jobs can be configured through a front-end for rsync. It is also possible to set up the NAS to act as a rsync destination for other compatible clients (the backups go to a default Net Backup directory). One of the nice features in NAS OS is the ability to restrict access protocols to particular network links. Seagate also provides a dynamic DNS service for accessing the unit over the Internet. It requires forwarding of ports 80 and 443 for HTTP and HTTPS respectively. This service is available only on the primary LAN port. Power management (including scheduled power on and off times as well as hard disk sleep configuration) and monitoring features (CPU, chassis fans, S.M.A.R.T etc.) are present in the OS.

Our usual review methodology for rackmount units uses SSDs, but, considering that Seagate promotes storage density with this solution, our benchmarks were processed with the bundled Seagate Constellation ES.3 4TB drives. The testing usually starts in the diskless mode, with disks being added one-by-one to test out the RAID migration and expansion capabilities. This process went fine for the first four drives. We were able to successfully migrate from a JBOD 4TB volume to a 12 TB RAID-5 volume with four disks. Unfortunately, when adding the fifth disk and trying to expand the existing volume, some OS limitations were exposed.

With the version that we evaluated (NAS OS 3.2), a volume cannot be expanded by more than 8TB per expansion step. In addition, a volume cannot be expanded to exceed 16TB (despite support for creation of a volume bigger than 16TB). The limitations are due to the e2fs component in-charge of the volume format. Seagate assured us that an upcoming firmware update would resolve this issue. In any case, we moved directly to create a 8-disk RAID-5 volume for benchmarking. There were no issues in the RAID-5 rebuild process when we replaced one of the 8 disks.

Introduction Single Client Performance - CIFS and iSCSI on Windows
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  • buffhr - Friday, March 14, 2014 - link

    I can see the merit in a single point of contact, however at 5.1kusd it is overpriced IMO. Sure the disk = roughly50% of the cost but still 2.5k disk-less for a system that does not support SSH and practically has no ecosystem or encryption...
  • Samus - Friday, March 14, 2014 - link

    I can't believe what a hit encryption has on read performance. 25MB/s opposed to 102MB/sec? Holy...
  • extide - Friday, March 14, 2014 - link

    It would be a lot better if they used a CPU with AES-NI
  • max1001 - Friday, March 14, 2014 - link

    Look at the CPU. There's your answer.
  • Ammohunt - Thursday, March 20, 2014 - link

    I agree $5k buys alot of jbod that you can hang off an exiting server and configure however you want ZFS, tgtd, SMB, CIFS, NFS etc..
  • Haravikk - Friday, March 21, 2014 - link

    For such a large investment I'm pretty surprised by the lack of attention to detail here. There is no hardware support for encryption, which is crazy; my ~$250 Synology DS212j has an ARM processor with hardware encryption, so why doesn't a $5000+ machine? Also, 2x gigabit ethernet seems pretty meagre these days when any serious data users will be (or should be) investing in 10 gigabit ethernet at the very least, and while the controllers are pricey it would fit well within the huge premium here.

    I mean, I'm nearly finished building a DIY storage box; it's not racked (since I'm building it around a tower case), but it has 15 hot-swappable 3.5" hard drive bays. I'm using it for direct attached storage and it's coming in around $800 or so, but I don't think a small form factor motherboard sufficient to run ReadyNAS would push me much higher after swapping out the DAS parts. I dunno, for $5000+ I would think an enterprise oriented product should be able to do a lot better than what I can build myself! Even if I switched everything for enterprise parts I'd still come in under.
  • tech6 - Friday, March 14, 2014 - link

    It seems to have become the norm that companies release products with half finished software and expect their customers to be their beta testers. Why would any business in their right mind pay $5K for an unfinished product when there are much better alternatives available?
  • Sadrak85 - Friday, March 14, 2014 - link

    Did a back-of-the-envelope calculation a while back; the 2.5" ones just make more sense if you need maximum storage at the moment. That said, when we have the next gen of HDDs filled with helium and holding 10+ TB apiece, 3.5" all the way.
  • Sadrak85 - Friday, March 14, 2014 - link

    I eat my words, the 2.5" ones are 9U for 50 drives...which is fewer TB/U, if you can accept the units. This one can make sense after all.
  • Samus - Friday, March 14, 2014 - link

    I've replaced all our Seagate Constelation.2 drives over the past 3 years with Hitachi's, as they have failed like clockwork in our HP ML380 that came equipped with them.

    When I get the replacement back from HP, I put a Hitachi in the cage, install it in the server, and put the Constelation on eBay where I usually get $50. That's all they're worth, apparently.

    I love Seagate, but between their load/unload cycle-happy desktop drives that have a pre-determined death, and their ridiculously poor quality SAS drives, I just hope their SSD's are their saving grace, because my how the mighty have fallen from the 7200.7 days.

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