Today during a global internet conference, Microsoft announced the availability of their server OS, Windows Server 2012. Everyone interested can view it at the link at teh end of this article. The presentation, from Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s president of the Servers and Tools Business, in which he emphasized that Windows Server 2012 is the key element Cloud OS, that will provide users a modern platform for global computer applications. "We're opening the door to every app being available on every cloud. We've thought through the delivery of the Cloud OS across public, private and hosts. Users will be cloud-ready from the get-go at multiple layers."
With the big push for everything in the cloud we have been focusing on ways to consumers and businesses to bring their data back into their own control. One of the least expensive methods for this is through the use of a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. These are devices that have a minimum of two drive bays and allow for you to set up RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) Volume for performance and/or redundancy. Today in the Lab we have a five-bay NAS device from Thecus. This is an Atom based system with support for up to 15TB of RAW space and 3GB of memory. So let’s take a look at the Thecus N5550 and see what this $600 (empty) NAS has to offer as we dig deep into its design, build and features.
We have our third victim… um test subject in our continuing Network Attached Storage (NAS) device reviews. This time it is from a company with a fair recognizable name in the industry, NETGEAR. For many the name NETGEAR means low cost consumer networking products and maybe a lower reliability rating. We have to agree that some of that reputation was rightfully earned in the past, but they have since changed things around and are now making some fairly solid products for the consumer, SMBs and the enterprise. We have already covered their ProSafe WNDAP360 wireless access point and found it to be a well put together product. Now we are going to dive into their pro line of NAS products with the ReadNAS Pro 6. This is a 6 bay device that can support up to 12TB of RAW storage and has more than its share of features to boot. So let’s take a look at what you get with the ReadyNAS Pro 6 from NETGEAR.
We have another network storage device in our labs; the Thecus N2800. This is a 2-bay NAS with dual network controllers, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and eSATA connectivity. We have tinkered around with some of Thecus’ products before and found that they usually are looking at getting you solid performance, but you are not going to get a ton of frills with them. This is not to say they do not have their own feature set that is worth talking about, but that in the past we have found them to be very straight forward products. Good performance, good price and they will do what you need them to. We have been told that this has changed at Theucus and they are moving in the direction of adding in a wider feature set with their NAS Products. So let’s take a look and see if there has been any improvement.
In my time in IT I have worked with a number of wireless devices for the consumer and for businesses. These have ranged everywhere from simple $40 products that are only meant to get you online (not fast, but online) to multi-component wireless systems costing thousands of dollars. All of these still use the same basic technology to get you connected and to pass traffic between your device and the internet. At their heart is going to be a wireless radio, but this does not mean that all wireless products are the same; quite the opposite in fact. There is a clear line between wireless for the average home and wireless for the average business. The factors are mostly in the software used and the features that you have at your disposal, but you also will often have more advanced hardware under the hood as well. Today we will be taking a look at standalone wireless access point that is aimed at the business market (although there are many things that consumers will like about as well). This is the NETGEAR WNDAP360 ProSafe Dual Band Wireless Access Point; let’s see if worth the $290 it will cost to put one of these in your office.
DecryptedTech is now moving into Enterprise class testing. To accomplish this we have built a small Enterprise class network in our lab complete with two iSCSI SANs , TWO NAS Devices, multiple Gigabit Switches, and two ESX Hosts with Multiple VMs to keep things interesting. We will begin testing Enterprise class hardware and Software. We will be looking at these products with an eye on how the technology differs from the average consumer class products as well as how this technology will benefit the consumer as it trickles down to their market space. We do have our first product in the lab right now, but before we kick that off let’s talk about the new DecryptedTech Enterprise class Lab in detail.
The Switches -
The backbone of our lab consists of five Gigabit Switches. Two of these are from TRENDNet TEG-160WS and the TEG-240WS. Both of these are Web Smart Managed switches and have 2GB trunks setup between the two for faster switching between them. Next we have a TRENDNet TPE-80WS POE (Power over Ethernet) 8 Port Gigabit switch which offers quite a bit more controls than the TEG line and is our master switch for the RSTP (Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol ) topology ion place. Our second vendor in the lab is NETGEAR, they have provided us with their ProSafe GS110TP POE 10 port Gigabit Switch (two of these ports are fiber uplink) and a GS108T 8 Port Gigabit Switch. As we mentioned the switches are part of an RSTP topology and each one has different components attached to ensure that the loads is distributed across the network backbone.
The Storage -
Our Lab has three NAS devices one of which is fully iSCSI capable (and works with VMWare) the two non-iSCSI NAS devices are the Seagate Black Armour 440 and a Thecus 5200 Pro. The Thecus 5200 Pro has 3TB of space and serves as an indirect file server while the BA-440 has 4TB and acts as a media storage server and backup target. The last NAS on the list is a Synology DS 201, this has a full 1TB of space and holds image files used for deployment of VMs and the installation of software into the virtual environment.
The last storage box we are rather proud to have. It is a custom built NAS/SAN with an AMD Phenom II x4 910e 4GB of memory on the Minix 890GX MiniITX motherboard and a 250GB OS Drive. For the OS we dropped in Windows 2008 R2 Storage Server. Of course that is not the thing that we are most proud of. For the actual storage we went with 4 Seagate 2TB Constellation ES Nearline SAS 2.0 drives (ST32000444SS) running in RAID 5 on an LSI MegaRAID SAS 8708EM2 SAS 6GB/s PCIe controller. It is this device with its two teamed NICs that provides the central iSCSI based storage for our VMWare cluster.
The VMWare Cluster -
To make sure that we covered all of our bases we built two VMware ESX Hosts for a single cluster; one of them with Intel Xeons and the other featuring AMD Magny Cours CPUs. Both of these systems have Kingston Server Premier Memory installed (128GB between the two systems). The motherboards in each are from Asus and represent the mid-range of their server line up.
The Intel System specs are as follows;
2x Intel Xeon L5530 2.4GHz CPUs
48GB of Kingston Server Premier RAM (6 x8GB)
2x Kingston SSD Now 128GB drives in RAID 1 (for the ESX Host Software)
Asus Z8NA-D6 motherboard
Cooler Master UCP 1100 Power Supply
The AMD half of the Cluster looks like this
2x AMD Opteron 6176 SE CPUs (12 Cores each for 24 physical cores)
92GB of memory (80GB Kingston Server Premier 10 x 8GB and 12GB Kingston Value Select Server memory 6 x 2GB)
2 x Seagate 500 GB Savio II SAS 2.0 Drives in RAID 1
Asus KGPE-D16 Motherboard
Cooler Master UCP 1100 Power Supply
The cluster is running VMMware ESX 4.1 (moving to 5.0 soon) and currently hosts 30 Virtual Machines all stored on our Custom Built NAS/SAN. Not all of these systems are powered on 24/7 (my power bill would be outrageous) but they are all on and operational when we have hardware in the lab that needs testing. Under normal conditions about 7 servers are live. These include an exchange cluster (Database Availability Group), a SQL server and a virtualized domain controller. Some of the other servers that run when under testing conditions are, two additional SQL servers (SharePoint and CRM) a two node SharePoint farm, a Xen Desktop test setup with three desktops, a webserver with a full copy of DecryptedTech on it) and virtualized Windows 2008 R2 domain controller. We feel this should be able to simulate the load of a fairly average business network.
In addition to the virtual systems there is a standalone Domain Controller (Windows 2008 R2) and a complete Microsoft Forefront Treat Management Gateway to control external access to the test environment.
In all the testing lab has taken a giant leap forward and we hope to be able to bring you some in-depth reviews of hardware and software that while outside the average consumer range will give you a glimpse of what will be coming down the road for the consumer market in the not so distant future.
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Wireless networking is one of those things that we all have come to rely on. We tend to expect to be able to connect just about anywhere now. I mean, even McDonalds has wireless now so why shouldn’t we? But what do you do when you come across one of those places that either does not have it, has poor quality (like many hotels) or you are just concerned about your security when on those open networks? Well there are a few companies that have a solution to this and we are going to take a look at one from EDIMAX today. It is one of the world’s smallest 802.11n wireless routers the EDIMAX BR-6258n.
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