Verdict

The Thecus N12000PRO is clinical, feature full, expansion in abundance, and excellent in the area of performance. N12000PRO seems to have the knack of supporting compatibility on expansive platforms, ensuring painless and reliable storage without the aggravation of trying to make it all come together. No fuss storage at an excellent price with enterprise level features that will serve in any environment for many years to come. Truly has to be one of the best 12-bay NAS servers on the market. Awarding it our Editors Choice was easy regardless of how difficult it is to get an award at Storagetimes the N12000PRO deserved it on merit.

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Our Thanks – Review System Courtesy of eAegis the Leading Thecus System Integrator based out of Florida, USA

Thecus N12000PRO NAS Server Review

Design and Innovation seems to be their forte Thecus always pulls one out of the bag when it’s needed keeping ahead of the hardware curve is never easy, but somehow they seem to always the first company to launch the next generation NAS appliance. Their historical past clearly depicts many firsts. iSCSI, SAS/SATA combination, Hot-swapping, Modular NAS, manufacturing the first ever NAS motherboard and the list just goes on and on. Thecus are undeniably the SMB NAS sector pioneers, revolutionizing the entry level NAS for small businesses, top notch specification with none of the cost penalties, the first with a 5-bay NAS that revolutioned the market segmentation and sold in thousands. We know from firsthand experience not heresy, we were there. Thecus has history and has managed to carve out an enviable reputation of being NAS maestros.

 

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Computex 2013 Thecus wins an award for one of its products.

The N12000PRO is exactly the same as the N16000PRO suffice it has twelve bays as opposed to sixteen. Thecus was amongst the first to launch 12 and 16 bay NAS servers, the N12000 started life off in mainly Small Businesses gracing its role as either a primary or secondary storage appliance, priced to please and fast enough to thrill, the N12000 became an instant hit. Now with the prospect of higher performance and with the 10GbE option the realistic aspect using the unit in a High Availability (HA) arena becomes all too real. The Thecus N12000PRO is a power house stacked to the brim and ready to be populated with 48TB of storage for well under the current price of $7400.00 for Enterprise class drives it’s no wonder the product has seen a huge boost in demand.

The N12000PRO is a 2U rack appliance housing twelve trays for hot-swappable SATA/SAS hard disk drives. We were provided a diskless price but eAegis offers plenty of other options. A system with twelve 4TB SATA III Enterprise drives costs $7400.00. whilst a full house of 600GB 15.5K SAS disks would set you back a mere $8498.00, a comparable SAN system would set you back upwards of $32K, and not necessarily with anymore more features than the N12000PRO.

Connectivity is plentiful, six USB2 ports, two rear USB3 ports, and with its own design of motherboard its able to offer PCI-e slots for expandability allowing for 2 x 10GbE PCI cards allowing 4-ports in total. 2 x embedded Gigabit Ethernet data ports are available and there’s a third which is used only as a heartbeat link to another N12000PRO for high availability (HA). Thecus advised us support for appliances with multiple arrays under HA is now standard, a huge feature boost for the N12000 PRO. Mind you whilst we did not fully implement HA remotely be warned it does take planning and a little patience for a successful deployment. Before fully embracing the 10GbE do ensure you have the required 10GbE environment, as without which it’s really not worth even attempting to commence the initiative.

The overall dimensions measures in at (H x W x D): 89 x 440 x 662 mm

Thecus N12000PRO Fuctionality Labels

Thecus N12000PRO Indicator Labels

The N12000PRO is equipped with the Xeon® E3-1275 processor that runs at 3.4 GHz. The quad-core processors are paired with 8GB of DDR memory which is expandable to 32GB. The performance can be further boosted by the addition of 10GbE PCI-e card/s, as well as link aggregation for the onboard Gigabit ports make sure the unit is kept at optimum performance levels. For the purpose of this review we popped two Intel X520-DA2 – E10G42BTDA 10GbE adapters 2 ports in each slot, providing us with a total of 4-ports, this was no problem, and for our testing purposes we only used the 2-port 10GbE.

Out of the Box

Impressive boxing with what can be described as treble layer of packaging, carefully crafted and designed to ensure the 3U does not get damaged, but what we know of shippers who just do not take any notice of the “FRAGILE” labels, Thecus is wise to invest a little more in its packaging. Open and out within minutes, the accompanied quick guide and a CD which has all the utilities and Acronis software is all that is needed. Thecus is the only manufacturer to include mounting rails, showing they do not mess about with petty options to make its extra buck!

NOTE: Buying a system pre-populated with drives? Do not fret eAegis provides all its customers with a comprehensive QA checklist detailing all the product serial numbers for asset and warranty management. In addition to the system being prepared with the customer preferred RAID all tested and ready to use out of the Box..

Usability and Esthetics

Thecus N12000PRO outer case is solid and well designed, the hot-swap hard disk trays are a simple affair no complication just a tug and pull allows easy removal. The outer design is as any rack mount can be clean well rounded edges and easy to slot with the optional rails provided. The noise level is what can be expected from a rack based storage appliance, albeit with drives loaded the noise level rises but not for too long as it becomes manageable once the correct temperature is achieved.

The form factor of 2U does afford the system a better airflow to ensure the system stays aerated well and allow drawing out the heat generated by the drives. The resulting design does keep the drives when fully populated well below its allowable temperature. Normally if a drive or two are subject to overheating that is often a sign of bad drive/s, so take note and monitor when that happens.

Installation of the unit is a breeze once the unit arrives pre-installed an without the need to set the RAID, all that is required is to  connect up to a router/switch and use the Thecus provided NAS finder or the static IP address provided and the NAS immediately presents itself.

The Thecus OS ver. 5 has a host of features that enable users to setup, manage, and expand and daisy chain number of Thecus appliances to create a huge NAS farm, so it’s presumptious to assume expandability is not an issue.The Thecus storage manager seems a little gimmicky but beyond that it does have a host of functionalities allowing the NAS to be managed without undue hassle. Support for expansion of capacity (adding drives) and also expansion of RAID can be done on the fly, without loss of data.

Prominent Thecus N12000PRO Features

The Thecus N12000 PRO has evolved to take its place in the demanding scalability and high availability market segmentation, many punters for this segment are downsizing to a price point that allows them to not compromise on too many features, but saves them the overhead of manageability as well as hardware maintenance normally associated with large san based system. The unification of the N12000PRO is very appealing as it enables businesses to manage multi-protocol data and reduce total cost of ownership.

Data Guard and Backup

Thecus has provided a few options allowing the users the ability and options to select the correct back up feature to suit. Data Guard allows both remote and local backup under a single instance. A collection of data from all sources (USB, eSATA etc) locally backed up and then shipped over remotely to any designated specified NAS, completely synchronized so as to allow control and ease of use, simple for any small and medium size business users.

The Enterprise user has the choice to deploy Acronis backup and recovery 10 server for Windows that is included at no extra cost with a 5 user license, very useful and great if you do not have a readily available backup media for your NAS.

Thecus High Availability (HA)

As already discussed N12000PRO has evolved with HA in mind and the support of this is also further accentuated by installing 10GbE card/s and creating a pipe for copying data to an active NAS at the end of that pipe tunnel. Local HA is achieved within no time after the two units are synchronized and setup for HA, in cases of failure the target remains in the loop so allowing continuity. Remote HA may prove a little challenging as it should be done via a 10GbE structure. All in all the performance for local HA via 10GbE was very good, remote feature testing was not carried out.

Volume Expansion

Volume Expansion can be achieved within a single volume by using the stackable methodology under iSCSI. Simply designate one of the units as stack master and to ensure performance does not take a hit, install a 10GbE switch with enough ports to ensure if you ever wanted to go to the limit of eight appliances than you can do so, without reinvesting in a new switch. The ability to connect up to eight appliances provides a huge capacity potential.

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Daisy Chaining

Adding more physical storage is not a big issue, once the N12000PRO has reached capacity and more storage is required, Thecus has designed a direct attached product called the D16000, providing another 16-bay to be attached via the SAS channel for a maximum of four D16000 units providing expansion by another 64 bays, above the stack master. The retention of performance is very impressive most evidently as a result of the SAS connectivity.

 

5-Year Warranty

With the 5 year warranty the Thecus N12000PRO rounds off a complete package. Unlike its competitors who are still struggling to understand the market segmentation from a service element Thecus clearly has confidence in its product to be able to offer a 5 year program.

Test Environment

Thecus N12000PRO (12x4TB Ultrastar Hitachi – Enterprise Class- SATA and not SAS)

Firmware Version: ThecusOS 5.0 – X64 FW 2.04.01

RAID set to Level 5 (RAID 5)

Dell 2950 Poweredge Server 2×2.66 DC 4M 3x146GB 96GB of DDR3 memory plus an Intel X520-DA2 – E10G42BTDA 10GbE adapter

Operating System: Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise

 

Performance

The Thecus N12000PRO performance was anticipated to be very close to that of the N16000PRO as they share the exact same processer suffice a few differences in the component integration it’s really the same. The 10GbE connectivity was used as the testing platform, as Gigabit now yields more than good results. The Intel X520-DA2 – E10G42BTDA 10GbE adapter may not be the fastest 10GbE but compatibility, reliability and consistency is very much at the heart of the adaptor.

The Real World Test performances results are an average of twelve full test cycles. The N12000PRO was connected directly via a Copper connection and the performance was impressive with a combined average read and write speed of 693MB/sec for a mapped share. We also tested a 4GB video file using IOMETER which returned a combined average read and write speed of 289MB/sec.

 

Verdict

The Thecus N12000PRO is clinical, feature full, expansion in abundance, and excellent in the area of performance. N12000PRO seems to have the knack of supporting compatibility on expansive platforms, ensuring painless and reliable storage without the aggravation of trying to make it all come together. No fuss storage at an excellent price with enterprise level features that will serve in any environment for many years to come. Truly has to be one of the best 12-bay NAS servers on the market. Awarding it our Editors Choice was easy regardless of how difficult it is to get an award at Storagetimes the N12000PRO deserved it on merit.

 

 

 

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