Having owned a couple of the Iomega IX4-200D’s for nearly a year I have been impressed with the build quality of the units, what I haven’t been overly impressed with was the performance of it, don’t get me wrong the IX4 is a home based storage platform and for that it works wonders but as a SAN\NAS storage device to be used as a datastore for my VMware vSphere environment it can cause me issues if I try powering on multiple VM’s at once (obviously I use Virtual Machine Startup/Shutdown rules for the most part) I can have serious performance issues.
When Iomega announced the release of the PX4 and PX6 I was initially pleased with the idea of a 6 drive NAS that was capable of using a mix of SSD and Platter based disks but the more I looked at the PX6 the more I balked at the price when compared to the performance figures I had seen for it. Paying out the £650 (the cheapest I had found the Diskless PX6 out there, including the 20% discounted price that’s available on Simon Seagraves site couldn’t beat that price) started to sound like a bad idea to me.
I then decided to see if I could actually build a unit for myself (as some of you are aware I have tested a number of NAS\SAN software based solutions out there already) so I did some investigating and surprised myself with how little there is in the way of cheap performance hardware available BUT, saying that I have found out it is possible to build yourself a PX6 replacement NAS device a lot cheaper than it would cost to purchase the Iomega unit. ** I will caveat this here, I understand that the newer IX4 and PX4/6 units out there do offer more than just network storage but for my needs I need a device that can handle both iSCSI and NFS as well as SSD and Platter based disks. It also needed to be able to perform better than the IX4 and HP MicroServer I currently own.
Hardware Design Criteria
Next I needed to decide what my criteria was for my new storage device. I knew it was going to have to be based on the Mini-ITX platform as I wanted this to be a NAS replacement rather than simply another PC with lots of disks. I also knew from a performance standpoint that the motherboard had to be powerful enough to be able to run the NAS software of choice (unknown at this moment whether it’s going to be Openfiler or FreeNAS) and also be able to support a minimum of 4 Sata3 drives, a bonus would be one that supported up to 6 Sata3 drives, this all had to fit into a case that could also support up to 4 3.5inch drives as I knew I could place the SSD’s elsewhere if I had to. In addition to all of that I also wanted to be able to boot from a USB drive placed inside the case.
This was the only motherboard out there that offered 6 Sata3 ports, I could find a few that offered 5 but this was the only one that offered me 6. In addition to the 6 Sata3 ports this motherboard also comes with the AMD Turion II Neo K625 CPU, performance wise this is an improvement on the Intel Atom D525 that comes with the PX4 and PX6 as well as the AMD Athlon Neo N36L that ships with the HP MicroServer.
What this hopefully means is that this will also help with the performance of the chosen NAS software.
Overall a decent little motherboard that has plenty to offer as far as performance and storage capabilities.
In Part 2 of this blog series I will be discussing Case Options, come back soon for more details.