QNAP and Promise Rack Systems
First, just want to say thanks to all who share great advice and ideas on this forum. Recently, I've been reading and learning a lot on shared storage for video production...
After seeing mention of many of the big players in NAS/SAN solutions, we've looked around and are currently investigating the SNS EVO solutions. We're hoping that we will be able to raise the funds to go with a platform such as this for upgrading our small media production team's RAID storage. Even as we pursue this, I'm wondering about a couple things.
QNAP Rackmount Systems -- So, I've seen all of the positive comments on the QNAP desktop systems, but not much mention of the rack mount solutions, such as the TS-ECx80U R2 Series. To be completely honest, I was a little surprised to see that folks gave QNAP desktop units such consideration for video production as I had (probably wrongly) written them off as an extreme budget solution. So, does anyone have any experience with using their more enterprise focussed rack mount systems (10GbE NAS) for small production teams of 5-10 people? Because of the price, I'm very curious about reliability and quality of the hardware. If these systems are decent, and can even approach the speeds of what hardware from companies like ProMAX, Facilis, Editshare, etc., can put out, this is really something to look at... assuming you don't have strong needs for an integrated media/workflow management software and a support contract. Thoughts?
Promise Vess R2600 Pro -- We've had 2 Promise 16-Bay fiber channel arrays in use for over 8 years now, and they've been rock solid. I'll admit, the WebPAM management software feels a bit clunky, and from comments I've heard It's still not wonderful these days, but the hardware has been very reliable and performs well. I'm wondering why it's so hard to find any comments or reviews about the Vess products as they are supposedly designed for video production workflows. At least on paper, they look pretty good, and come with multiple GbE and 10GbE ports out of the box. Has Promise really fallen out of favor over the recent years? Does anyone have any experience with the Vess products they've released over the last couple years?
Hi Ian -
the QNAP is wonderful. I have installed QNAP TVS-EC2480U-SAS-RP-R2 and TVS-EC1680U-SAS-RP-R2 in countless installations including Disney Broadcast Operations in Orlando Florida.
The TVS-ECxx80U series is expandable to EIGHT additional expansion chassis, using the free built in 12G SAS expander in the main chassis. To connect an expander to the QNAP (like the REXP-1620U) you simply plug in the one short cable from the SAS expansion port in the main unit, to the expander chassis. You can either keep the expander as a separate static volume (as I usually recommend), or you can create a storage pool, and have the additional chassis become part of a large storage pool.
The TVS-xx80U series comes for free with a dual port 10GbE adaptor that connects to a 10G switch (like a Netgear XS series) with an SFP+ Twinax cable or SFP+ transceivers and a LC-LC fiber cable. I always order an additional 10Gbase-T card (the QNAP LAN-10G2T-X550) which is $399 retail, so I can use a cheap Cat 6 cable to connect to the Netgear switch. And yes, this is a dual port card, so I could link aggregate the 2 ports for even greater total bandwidth.
The TVS-xx80U series states on the QNAP website that it can do a maximum bandwidth of 3800 MB/sec, but this is with SSD drives only, and I have ZERO clients that are willing to spend the money for that. I use HGST NAS drives or WD RED NAS drives in these systems, with wonderful performance. Using 10TB 7200 RPM SATA drives at RAID 6, a
QNAP TVS-EC1680U will have 160 TB and after RAID 6, it will be 140 TB. NOW, in the future, you could add EIGHT MORE expander chassis on this this system. That would give you 1.26 Pedabytes of storage !!!!
Using a thunderbolt to 10G adaptor, you will see 600 - 800 MB/sec bandwidth on a typical Apple product when communicating with the QNAP. (Using specifically a Promise SankLink2 or Sonnet Twin 10G). With Thunderbolt 3 for the new iMac's or Mac Book Pros, the speeds when you use the new Promise SanLink3 are interesting. You see 350 - 400 MB/sec WRITE, and 1100 MB/sec read. I have no idea of why the write is slower than the read performance. These tests are done with both AJA System Test and Blackmagic Disk Speed Test.
The Studio Network Solutions EVO is wonderful, and they give you share browser, which is an integrated asset management system for free when you buy the EVO. QNAP does not do this, however, you can simply purchase Axle Video for asset management, which is a very widely used asset management program for video system (like Adobe Premiere, etc.).
What QNAP does give you for free is remote access capability. Using QNAP MyQnapCloud or CloudLink, you can remote access the QNAP from anywhere in the world, for freelancers to upload and download files. And with the recent advent of Proxy Workflow for FCP X and Adobe Premiere, this is all very exciting, that you could use Adobe Media Encoder or Edit Ready to create your proxies, put them in a shared freelance folder, your editor in London accesses your QNAP over the internet, and downloads the Proxy media, and edits the entire show. Then he would send you the project list, back into the QNAP shared folder on the web, and you could conform the show.
QNAP also gives you free backup tools, for Real Time Remote Replication to another QNAP at your facility,
or in a remote location, or to sync with a cloud site like Amazon S3 (that's all built into the QNAP for free).
The QNAP is SUPER easy to use. The user interface is similar to the simplicity of a Mac. Want to create a new shared folder ? Click on SHARED FOLDER icon, and click on CREATE. Want to create a new user ? Click on the Users icon, and click create. Want to assign permissions for who has access to these folders ? Click on the Edit Folder Permissions icon, and assign Read Only, Read Write, or Deny Access. You do not have to know anything about Linux to use a QNAP.
Want to plug in a USB drive from the field ? As long as its EX FAT format (not HFS+ or NTFS) the QNAP will read it from the USB port on the front (the Ex Fat license is 4 bucks).
So yes, its dirt cheap, super easy to use, fully expandable, fast enough for 8K editing (and of course 6K and 4K) and
you will have money left in your budget to buy other toys.
OH - they have a nice integration with APC and Cyberpower UPS, so if you have a power failure, the QNAP will be notified by the UPS (via a USB cable) and will automatically safely shut down.
Many people wind up with the desktop models (like the TVS-871T, TVS-1282T or TS-1685) because they are REALLY cheap, expandable, all come with free 10G ports, and are fast enough to edit 4K. But yes, if you have the budget for the rack mount models, they are quite spectacular.
Rescue 1, Inc.
Thank you very much, Bob, for this very detailed response and all of the info!
It seems that you are pretty happy with QNAP equipment, and since you are installing it as part of your services, I'm assuming you haven't run into any significant quality or stability concerns (otherwise you'd likely be pulling your hair out). I need to adjust my assumptions, and get past the low price. As you mentioned, it's a little like Black Magic Design. Their site is very informative, but it also comes across as they are trying to be everything to everyone. Again, something to get past if the truth is that it can be set up to be very effective in the media production realm.
Your findings with the SanLink 3 are interesting. The read speed seems awesome, but could the slower write speed possibly be an issue with the current firmware version? You're getting these speeds just using a single port, correct?
We actually have 1 SanLink2 which we previously used to test iSCSI connections to an existing SAN network. It seemed to work fine, but did get a little hot. Do you find yourself liking the Promise adapters better or the Sonnet?
people always ask me "why are you promoting QNAP these days". Because they are cheap, and the products work (and they are reliable). They are "everything to everyone" - because ALL of these products, like LumaForge, Facilis, EditShare, AVID, Studio Network Solutions, ProMax, etc. are JUST SERVERS. They are all fast computers with a big disk drive array connected to them via a disk drive host adaptor card, and a 10G/40G/or Fiber channel network card that attaches to a network switch. Do you really think that a Facilis Terrablock or Studio Network Solutions would not work wonderfully in a hospital to retrieve patient records. All these products are generic servers, and certain companies promote themselves in certain businesses.
Could the Promise SanLkink3 issue be a firmware issue ? Maybe, but I do not know who to call at Apple (or Promise) to say "hey, what's up with the Write times ?". The SanLink2 has better write performance (with Tbolt 2 computers) than the SanLink3. I use Sonnet adaptors for thunderbolt 2 because they cost less money, and I can get them on the phone in the United States. They are both similar, and wonderful products. I intend to re test Akitio adaptors as well soon - the original thunderbolt 2 to 10G adaptors developed thermal issues, which is why I stopped using them. Perhaps they have learned their lesson (as QNAP and Synology has) and maybe their products cost less money, and work just as well. I have not looked at their adaptors in a while.
You asked about Promise rack systems. Promise relies on fiber channel connection and SAN systems. I don't do these - they cost too much money to setup and require too much administration. My client base wants CHEAP and reliable (and fast). Other Promise products like the SanLink series and the Promise Pegasus Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3 RAID arrays are all wonderful products.
Rescue 1, Inc.