Articles: Storage

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Before I started testing the available options, I had to verify how well this server will cope with its primary function: work with files. I connected the server as a regular network drive and started copying files to and from the box. For this experiment we used ISO image files (to reveal the maximum copy speeds) and mp3 files from a dozen of music folders (to check out the performance with smaller files).

Unfortunately, the results were pretty disappointing: the results I obtained weren’t even close to “very high speed” that was promised in the manual. No matter how the drives were formatted…

At first I thought that maybe it was my fault and maybe I did something wrong when I configured the network. But another server that was on the same network with the Thecus box delivered the stable 30-40MB/s without any trouble.

Then I started suspecting the size of the data blocks that are usually used with RAID arrays. The default data block size is 64KB. So, I rebuilt the arrays with different data block sizes, and the maximum speed boost I could achieve was 100-200KB/s maximum, which is certainly within an acceptable measuring error for this test.

And I could continue stressing out about the unattainable speeds for another while if I hadn’t cast a glance at the CPU utilization numbers of the N2100 Box: it was hitting 100% during read/write operations almost all the time! On the one hand, it was very frustrating: we cannot possibly get the promised high data transfer rates ever. But on the other hand, do you really need that much speed for a home server? The main goal of this device is to store files for family needs (which is usually 1-2 users), and not to set performance records. That said, I decided to move on to testing other file services offered by the Thecus N2100 Box.

WebDisk and FTP

WebDisk is a simple file manager tool that works via the user browser. It features all the major functions that you might need when working with your data. Unfortunately, the server doesn’t support WebDAV protocol that is why it cannot really offer you an actual webdisk. Instead it can offer you an FTP-server that performs all the functions it is supposed to. And the pleasing fact is that the server works much faster with the files in this case, because FTP eats up much less of the processor resources.

Let’s discuss some of the results to show you what “faster” really means here. This is how we conducted our test session: N2100 was connected directly with a cross-over cable, we put 9KB jumbo frames in the connection parameters. The table below contains the average file read/write speeds in MB/s:

As you can see from the table, N2100 processor simply lacks the computational power. This is the only explanation we have for the performance drop when we switch from RAID0 to RAID1. As for the reasons lying behind the slow work with the files in the browser, they remained unknown. I tried to switch from Explorer to Firefox, use some uploading tools, however, the uploading speed inevitably dropped from 6-7MB/s down to 4-5MB/s and stayed on that level until the entire file has been uploaded. The CPU utilization in this case was about 30-40%.

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