Thecus N8800SAS – An affordable storage solution

In my previous post I was talking about different products for building a virtual lab environment for development and testing. In such an environment with multiple hosts running hypervisors, a good performance shared storage is very important. While looking for different solutions, you quickly realize that storage is indeed expensive, and the prices for SAS drives are much more than the cheap 1TB drives you can buy for home use. Not to mention the prices for the storage servers. I don’t know if the price increase is justified, maybe it is just less competition in the market and the companies know that people will pay up?

After looking at a few different solutions, a product by Thecus, a company I’ve never heard of previously, called N8800SAS caught my eye. It was much cheaper (more than 1/3 of the price!) than comparable products from say, HP or Dell and seemed to offer quite similar features.

I am by no means an expert on file storage hardware, but I would say the hardware definitely looked and felt solid. It has a web interface where you set up RAID, configure iSCSI, SMB, NFS etc as expected. Everything in the web interface feels a bit home made however but gets the job done. It was no problem at all to set a RAID 10 configuration using 6 15k 600GB SAS drives.

Connecting it to an VMware ESX server using iSCSI worked with no issues, however I can’t say the same about NFS. After some hours of frustration, it turned out that the problem was somehow caused by the lack of proper DNS entries on the Thecus server. You need to add a hostname for the VMKernel IP (which is the IP used by VMware ESX for NFS and iSCSI, and is a different IP than the management IP) for the ESX host in the file /etc/hosts on the Thecus server. I assume that this problem would not have occured if the DNS server had entries for the VMkernel IP.

To be able to edit the file you need to enable SSH access into the server first. Thecus does not offer any SSH connectivity by default, even after upgrading the firmware to the latest version. However, you can install modules on the server, and there are Sysuser and SSHD modules which are actually made for the N5200 product, but worked just as fine with the N8800. After installing and activating the modules through the web interface, you can simply SSH into the server and use the “sys/sys” credentials to login with root privileges.

I have not been able to yet look at what kind of backup functionality it offers, but from the surface it seems to offer both Nsync and Backup to USB / eSATA (the hardware has an eSATA port).

Thecus are offering a very decent product for a very reasonable price. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles of servers from Dell or HP which are about 3 times as expensive and just want pure high performance storage, then I would definitely recommend the N8800SAS.