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Qsan XCubeNAS XN8112R review: Monumental capacity potential

May 16, 2023

High performance

Fast setup

Lacking apps

It's been a few years since Qsan updated its NAS appliances, but the Qsan XCubeNAS XN8112R signifies the wait is over. Coming in at the pinnacle of a range of six new models, the XN8112R is designed to offer SMBs an expandable hybrid storage solution with a sharp focus on performance.

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Along with 12 front SATA LFF/SFF bays, the appliance has four SFF bays at the rear that support U.2 NVMe SSDs. These can be used as a high-performance storage pool or teamed up with Qsan's new hybrid SSD cache service, and there are two internal M.2 NVMe slots that also support both options.

The CPU gets a welcome update, with the elderly Xeon E3-1225 v6 in the XN8012R replaced with a modern 2GHz quad-core Xeon D-1712TR. The base 8GB of DDR4 ECC memory can be boosted to a huge 256GB using the four DIMM slots.

Network ports abound, with embedded quad 2.5GbE plus 10GbE SFP+ while the two PCI-E Gen4 slots accept Qsan's dual-port RJ-45 and SFP+ 10GbE cards. Use them with Qsan's optional SAS3 adapters and you can add multiple disk shelves up to a total of 426 drives for a mind-boggling 9.2PB using 22TB hard disks.

Deployment is swift. We installed 12 22TB Western Digital DC HC570 data centre drives plus four of Qsan's 3.8TB PCI-E 4 NVMe SSDs and left the XFinder app to discover the appliance and load the QSM software. From the custom setup option, we created a RAID5 array using the hard disks and assigned the NVMe SSDs to the storage pool as a hybrid cache – you can use them for a tiered storage pool if you wish.

The QSM web console is simple to use but there's a dearth of apps, with Qsan offering only six for file management, backup, hardware monitoring, media management, cloud syncing and antivirus. For the XN8112R, Qsan doesn't include its VPN, SQL database, web service and hypervisor manager apps.

The provided apps cover all the basic business requirements, though, and QSM has some tricks of its own, as this ZFS-based OS offers enterprise-class data-protection features. These include copy-on-write snapshots for NAS shares and iSCSI LUNs, the aforementioned data deduplication and intelligent real-time data tiering, block-level replication and a choice of three WORM (write once, read (many) policies to protect NAS share data from tampering.

Performance is a winner, too. A NAS share mapped over 10GbE to a Dell T640 Windows Server 2019 host delivered sequential read and write speeds both of 9.2Gbits/sec, while random rates settled at 9.2Gbits/sec and 8.9Gbits/sec. IP SAN speeds are great, with a 1TB iSCSI target returning 9.2Gbits/sec and 9.1Gbits/sec for sequential read and write operations and 9.2Gbits/sec and 8.4Gbits/sec for random ones.

We upped the pressure with a quad 10GbE MPIO link to the target and saw sequential read and write rates leap to 36.9Gbits/sec and 23.3Gbits/sec. Swapping to random operations returned equally good speeds of 36.7Gbits/sec and 15.6Gbits/sec, although for the last test we noted CPU utilisation peaking at 80%.

The apps Qsan does provide are easy to use and the Backup app can secure data to Rsync-compliant remote appliances, use Amazon S3 cloud accounts and replicate folders between XCubeNAS appliances using the Xmirror service. The Cloud Sync app manages one-way and two-way sync jobs with Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive, and we had no problems linking it up with our Dropbox account.

SMBs looking for a hybrid storage solution with monumental capacity potential will love Qsan's XCubeNAS XN8112R. It delivers great 10GbE performance and, although apps are in short supply, Qsan's QSM software offers a good range of data management features.

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK's premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry. He started his career working on mainframe computers including ICL and Unisys within the pharmaceutical, services and corporate financial sectors and managed one of the largest Unisys mainframe installations in the world. Since moving into journalism in 1994, Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for IT Pro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.

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