Data Robotics DroboPro vs. QNAP TS-859 Pro

I previously wrote about my impressions of the DroboPro, and in case I was not clear, I was not impressed.

I recently read the announcement of the new QNAP TS-859 Pro, and from the literature it seemed like a great device, high performance, feature rich, and power saving.
The TS-859 Pro is now available, and I compared it with the DroboPro, and against a regular W2K8R2 file server.

The TS-859 is taller than the DroboPro, the DroboPro is deeper than the TS-859, and the width is about the same.

Before I get to the TS-859, let’s look at the DroboPro information and configuration screens.
The OS is Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise, but the steps should be about the same for Vista and Windows 7.
All but the DroboCopy context menu screens are listed below.
DroboPro information and configuration:

The dashboard believes there are no volumes, but Windows sees an unknown 2TB volume:

Creating a new volume:

As the dashboard software starts creating the volume, Windows will detect a new RAW volume being mounted, and asked if it should be formatted.
Just leave that dialog open and let the dashboard finish.
The dashboard will complete saying all is well, when in reality it is not:

The dashboard failed to correctly mount and format the volume.

Right click on the disk, bring it online, format the partition as a GPT simple volume.

The dashboard will pick up the change and show the correct state.

Email notifications are configured from the context menu.
The email notifications are generated by the user session application, so no user logged in, no email notifications.

DroboPro does not provide any diagnostics, even the diagnostic file is encrypted.

Unlike the DroboPro that comes with rudimentary documentation, the TS-859 has getting started instructions printed right on the top of the box, and includes a detailed configuration instruction pamphlet.
The DroboPro also has configuration instructions in the box, printed on the bottom of a piece of cardboard that looks like packaging material, and I only discovered these instructions as I was throwing out the packaging.
I loaded the TS-859 with 8 x Hitachi A7K2000 UltraStar 2TB drives.
On powering on the TS-859 the LCD showed the device is booting, then asked me if I want to initialize all the drives as RAID6.
You can opt-out of this procedure, or change the RAID configuration, by using the select and enter buttons on the LCD.
I used the default values and the RAID6 initialization started.
The LCD shows the progress, and the process completed in about 15 minutes.
Unlike the DroboPro that requires a USB connection and client side software, the TS-859 is completely web managed.
The LCD will show the LAN IP address, obtained via DHCP, login using the browser at http://%5BIP%5D:8080.
The default username and password is “admin”, “admin”.

Although the initial RAID6 initialization took only about 15 minutes, it took around 24 hours for the RAID6 synchronization to complete.
During this time the volume is accessible for storage, the device is just busy and not as responsive.

Unlike the DroboPro that shows no diagnostics, and generates an encrypted diagnostic file, the TS-859 has detailed diagnostics.

Unlike the DroboPro, email alerts are generated from the device and does not require any client software.

SMB / CIFS shares are enabled by default.

iSCSI target creation is very simple using a wizard.

While configuring the TS-859, I ran into a few small problems.
I quickly found the help and information I needed on the QNAP forum.
Unlike the DroboPro forum, the QNAP forum does not require a device serial number and is open to anybody.
The TS-859 default outbound network communication, SMTP, NTP, etc,. defaults to LAN1.
I had LAN1 directly connected for iSCSI and LAN2 connected to the routable network.
NTP time syncs were failing, after switching LAN1 and LAN2, the device could access the internet and NTP and the front page RSS feed started working.
Make sure to connect LAN1 to a network that can access the internet.
When I first initialized the RAID6 array, drive 8 was accessible and initializing, but didn’t report any SMART information.
I received instructions from the forum on how to use SSH to diagnose the drive, and after replacing the drive, SMART worked fine.
What I really wanted to do was compare performance, and to keep things fair I setup a configuration that had all machines connected at the same time.
This way I could run the tests one by one on the various devices, without needing to change configurations.

The client test machine is a Windows Server 2008 R2, DELL OptiPlex 960, Intel Quad Core Q9650 3GHz, 16GB RAM, Intel 160GB SSD, Hitachi A7K2000 2TB SATA, Intel Pro 1000 ET Dual Port.
The file server is a Windows Server 2008 R2, Intel S5000PSL, Dual Quad Core Xeon E5500, 32GB RAM, Super Talent 250GB SSD, Areca ARC-1680 RAID controller, 10 x Hitachi A7K2000 2TB SATA, RAID6, Intel Pro 1000 ET Dual Port.
The DroboPro has 8 x Hitachi A7K2000 2TB SATA, dual drive redundancy BeyondRAID, firmware 1.1.4.
The TS-859 Pro has 8 x Hitachi A7K2000 2TB SATA, RAID6, firmware 3.2.2b0128.

The client’s built in gigabit network card is connected to the switch.
The server’s built in gigabit network card is connected to the switch.
The TS-859 Pro LAN1 is connected to the switch.
The TS-859 Pro LAN2 is directly connected to the client on one of the Pro 1000 ET ports.
The DroboPro LAN1 is directly connected to the client on one of the Pro 1000 ET ports.

The DroboPro is configured as an iSCSI target hosting a 16TB volume.
The TS-859 Pro is configured as an iSCSI target hosting a 10TB volume.
The difference in size is unintentional, both units support thin provisioning, the DroboPro maximum defaults to the size of all drives combined, and the TS-859 maximum defaults to the effective RAID size.

The client maps the DroboPro iSCSI target as a GPT simple volume.

The client maps the TS-859 Pro iSCSI target as a GPT simple volume.

The first set of tests were done using ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46.
Intel 160GB SSD:

Hitachi A7K2000 2TB SATA:

DroboPro iSCSI:

TS-589 Pro (1500 MTU) iSCSI:

TS-589 Pro Jumbo Frame (9000 MTU) iSCSI:

Read performance:
Device Speed (MB/s)
Intel SSD SATA 274
Hitachi SATA 141
TS-859 Pro Jumbo iSCSI 116
TS-859 Pro iSCSI 113
DroboPro iSCSI 62

Write performance:
Device Speed (MB/s)
Hitachi SATA 141
Intel SSD SATA 91
TS-859 Pro Jumbo iSCSI 90
TS-859 Pro iSCSI 83
DroboPro iSCSI 65


Summary:



The next set of tests used robocopy to copy a fileset from the local Hitachi SATA drive to the target drive backed by iSCSI.

The fileset consists of a single 24GB Ghost file, 3087 JPG files totaling 17GB, and 25928 files from the Windows XP SP3 Windows folder totaling 5GB.

DroboPro iSCSI:
Fileset Run 1 (B/s) Run 2 (B/s) Run 3 (B/s) Average (B/s)
Ghost 67998715 66449606 61345194 65264505
JPG 47376106 34469965 28865504 36903858
XP 33644442 21231487 18780348 24552092
Total 149019263 122151058 108991046 126,720,456


System load during Ghost file copy to DroboPro:


TS-859 Pro iSCSI:
Fileset Run 1 (B/s) Run 2 (B/s) Run 3 (B/s) Average (B/s)
Ghost 94824771 103356597 102596286 100259218
JPG 50591459 51817921 55830439 52746606
XP 39133922 38128876 37972580 38411793
Total 184550152 193303394 196399305 191,417,617


TS-859 Pro Jumbo iSCSI:
Fileset Run 1 (B/s) Run 2 (B/s) Run 3 (B/s) Average (B/s)
Ghost 91427745 113113714 112684967 105742142
JPG 49525622 51203544 51477482 50735549
XP 31910014 37429864 37699130 35679669
Total 172863381 201747122 201861579 192,157,361


System load during Ghost file copy to TS-859 Pro Jumbo:

This test uses the same fileset, but copies the files over SMB / CIFS.
Server SMB:
Fileset Run 1 (B/s) Run 2 (B/s) Run 3 (B/s) Average (B/s)
Ghost 108161169 116949441 115138722 113416444
JPG 53969349 56842239 55586620 55466069
XP 15829769 17550875 19336648 17572430
Total 177960287 191342555 190061990 186,454,944


TS-589 Pro SMB:
Fileset Run 1 (B/s) Run 2 (B/s) Run 3 (B/s) Average (B/s)
Ghost 64295886 65486617 63494735 64425746
JPG 52988736 52633239 53177864 52933279
XP 14345937 15703244 15506456 15185212
Total 131630559 133823100 132179055 132,544,238



Summary:

In terms of absolute performance the TS-859 Pro with Jumbo Frames is the fastest.
For iSCSI TS-859 Pro with Jumbo Frames is the fastest
For SMB the W2K8R2 server is the fastest.
If we look at the system load graphs we can see that the DroboPro network throughput is frequently stalling, while the TS-859 is consistently smooth.
This phenomena has been a topic of discussion on the DroboPro forum for some time, and the speculation is that the hardware cannot keep up with the network load.
Further speculation is that because the BeyondRAID technology is filesystem aware, it requires more processing power compared to a traditional block level RAID that is filesystem agnostic.

So let’s summarize:
The TS-859 Pro and the DroboPro are about the same price, around $1500.
The TS-859 Pro is a little louder than the DroboPro (with the DroboPro cover on).
The TS-859 Pro is not as pretty as the DroboPro, arguable.
The TS-859 Pro has ample diagnostics and remote managament capabilities, the DroboPro has none.
The TS-859 Pro has loads of features, the DroboPro provides only basic storage.
The TS-859 Pro is easy to setup, the DroboPro requires a USB connection and still fails to correctly configure, requiring manual intervention.
The TS-859 Pro outperforms the DroboPro by 52%.
The TS-859 Pro will stay in my lab, the DroboPro will go 🙂
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NEC MultiSync LCD2490WUXi2 and LCD2690WUXi2

I recently replaced my DELL monitors with NEC monitors.
The primary reason why I replaced DELL with NEC is color reproduction, I could never quite get the wide gamut DELL’s to look right.
I chose the NEC MultiSync 90 series monitors because they have excellent color reproduction, and are reasonably affordable.
The alternative would have been EIZO ColorEdge monitors, but they are significantly more expensive.
Since I had a hard time calibrating the wide color gamut DELL monitors in the past, so it was very important that the NEC monitors be correctly calibrated.
As such, I also purchased the monitors with the NEC SpectraView II calibration kits.
At my office I use NEC MultiSync LCD2490WUXi2 monitors, they have very good sRGB color reproduction, ideal for office and web graphics.
At my home office I use NEC MultiSync LCD2690WUXi2 monitors, they have very good AdobeRGB color reproduction, ideal for photo graphics.
 

As I replaced one of the DELL monitors that was connected via a KVM with the NEC, I immediately noticed a problem.
I was using a DELL UltraSharp 2405FPW monitor with a StarTech StarView SV431DVIUAHR 4-Port Dual-Link DVI KVM switch.
Although the 2405PFW does not require dual-link, I occasionally used this switch with a DELL UltraSharp 3007WFP-HC monitor that does require dual-link.
I have also used this model KVM switch with DELL UltraSharp 2408WFP monitors wihtout any issues.
I replaced the DELL monitor with the NEC monitor without shutting down my computer.
I just unplugged the DELL from the KVM, and plugged the NEC in, powered it on, and the screen showed fine.
The PC did not detect the new display model, and I assumed this was because the KVM cached the monitor EDID information, so I rebooted.
On shutdown the screen powered off, then on reboot the screen powered on, showed the BIOS screen, then when Windows started loading, the screen powered off again.
I completely power cycled the KVM switch, and tried again, this time the BIOS screen did not even show.
I tried to cold boot with four different machines, a Lenovo T61 notebook, a DELL M4400 notebook, a DELL E4300 notebook, and a custom built PC, all had the same result, the NEC monitor does not power on.
I had three NEC monitors available, tried them all, same problem.
When directly connecting the monitor to the PC, it worked fine.
Using the notebooks, I could boot using the notebook screen, then plugin the KVM to the notebook, and the NEC would power on.
I changed the NEC EDID option to advanced, and the monitor did power on during cold boot.
But, the advanced EDID option makes the monitor appear to be a 1080p/720p display, and the PC cannot set the native 1920×1200 resolution.

Given that the KVM had worked fine with the DELL monitors, and that by enabling the advanced EDID option the monitor worked, I believed the problem to be with the NEC monitors.

I contacted NEC support, they only offer web chat and email, no phone support.
I tried the web chat, but it was closed, so I sent an email, after two days I had not heard a reply.
I tried the web chat again, this time it was open, and after about 10 minutes of waiting, I was connected to an agent.
I described the problem, and as soon as I mentioned KVM, the agent asked if the monitor works when directly connected, on saying yes, I was told that KVM’s are not supported.
This sounded like typical not my problem canned response, and I asked where it is officially documented that NEC does not support KVM’s, the agent terminated the chat session.
Needless to say, I was less than impressed with the agent’s behavior, although theoretically it could have been a network problem and not an attitude problem.
To this day I have not yet received a reply to my support email.

I called StarTech support, unlike NEC they offer phone, email, and web form support.
The agent was very helpful, trying a variety of connection and power on order changes, but to no avail.

I had used IOGEAR KVM’s before, and I switched StarTech for dual-link support, something IOGEAR did not offer at that time.
The IOGEAR KVM’s are really good value for money, especially when you consider that you get the cables with the IOGEAR units, and with most other KVM manufacturers you have to buy cables separately.
IOGEAR now had the GCS1204 model that did support dual-link.
I ordered a GCS1204, and it worked fine, the monitor powered on without issue.
The only problem with the GCS1204 is that the keyboard keys sometimes get “stuck” and the key will keep on repeatinggggggggg until you press another key.
This seems to be a known problem reported by several users.

Although the IOGEAR KVM works and the StarTech does not, I still feel the key issue is with NEC.
In total I have five NEC monitors, one LCD2490WUXi2 connected to the KVM in my office, two LCD2490WUXi2’s connected as dual monitor to my office workstation, two LCD2690WUXi2’s connected as dual monitor to my home office workstation.
I purchased two of the monitors, model LCD2690W2-BK-SV, with the SpectraView II calibration kits included.
The “-BK” designation means the monitor is black, and the “-SW” designation means the “SVII-PRO-KIT” is included in the box, but the monitor is a LCD2690WUXi2.
I happen to own an X-Rite i1Display2 sensor, so it was obvious that the NEC sensor is a custom i1Display2 sensor.
The SpectraView documentation states that the sensor is custom calibrated for the wide gamut NEC displays.

The SpectraView software installs a gamma loader application in the Windows startup folder, and on every login, the monitor calibration values are validated, and warns you when calibration is overdue.
With the Lenovo T61 notebook, on every login, the software will tell me that a compatible monitor is not found.
Yet, if I manually run the SpectraView software, or the NaViSet software, it detects the monitor just fine.
Also, if I just rerun the gamma loader in the startup group, it works fine.

I left a comment on the SpectraView Feedback page describing the problem, and within a few hours I received an email from a support person asking for more details.
The person suggested the problem is timing related, and that I use a startup manager to delay the loader.
A startup manager seems overkill for something that should probably be addressed in the SpectraView software, and I suggested as such.
We’ll see if they address the problem in future versions, but since I rarely logout, I normally just put machine to sleep, this is not a big issue.
The SpectraView calibration software is easy to use, and worked fine on my dual monitor Windows 7 Ultimate x64 workstations.
The calibration results show the difference between the LCD2490WUXi2 and LCD2690WUXi2 color response.

I really enjoy these monitors, especially the consistent color reproduction of the dual monitor setups.
The only comments I receive every time somebody visits my desk is how thick these monitors are.
But, as as soon as they see the color reproduction and consistency, they forgive the fat 90’s look.

Intel DP45SG and Lian-Li PC-C33B HTPC

I recently built a new home theater PC using an Intel DP45SG motherboard and a Lian-Li PC-C33B case.
I am replacing my existing HTPC that appears to be not quite compatible with Windows 7.
The existing machine uses a Lian-Li PC-C31B case, Intel DG33TL motherboard, and ATI Sapphire HD 2600XT video card.
I started documenting the new machine installation, but the new case was on backorder, and I had all components except the new case, so I tried the HD 5750 card in the old machine.
The results were not so good, skip ahead and read about the display driver that stops responding, or read on.
Some background on the old machine…
The HD 2600XT GPU fan was very load, too loud for a HTPC.
I replaced the stock HD 2600XT fan with a Zalman VF900-Cu fan, and this made it much quieter.

The stock Lian-Li case fans reported erratic rotational speeds with the DG33TL fan sensors.
I replaced the stock case fans with Antec Tri-Cool fans, and the rotational speeds were reported correctly.

Since upgrading from Vista to Windows 7, the machine does not stay asleep, it will go to sleep, then within a few seconds wake up again.
The DG33TL board is also missing some Windows 7 drivers, specifically the SMBus driver from Vista has to be installed in compatibility mode.
I am a great fan of Lian-Li cases, they are light, extremely well made, and very stylish.
I have owned several Lian-Li cases, including a PC-V2100B Plus II, PC-C31B, PC-A06B, PC-60FWB, PC-B71B, and the latest the PC-C33B.
I chose to replace my PC-C31B case with the Lian-Li PC-C33B case because I wanted to use an ATX size motherboard, and the PC-C31B case only accommodates Micro-ATX boards.
The PC-C31 was succeeded by the PC-C32, and the PC-C32 was succeeded by the PC-C33, so the cases are very similar.
On the outside the PC-C31B and the PC-C33B look nearly identical, on the inside the PC-C33B layout is more spacious, and better laid out.
The one thing I wish the PC-C33B had retained was the hidden CD-ROM covers, it makes for a neater appearance.

I am not particular to any one brand of motherboard, but I normally use either Asus, Gigabyte, or Intel.
I chose the Intel DP45SG because it has already undergone several revisions to iron out the kinks, and it provided the basic functionality I needed without any additional bells and whistles I don’t need.
With the release of the i5 and i7 processors, and P55 chipsets, I chose to stay with the P45 chipset because the Core processors and dual-channel DDR3 memory is is reasonably cheap.
I went with an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 3GHz processor, and Kingston KHX1333C7D3K2 memory.
I haven’t used NVidia graphic cards in a long time, compared to the ATI HD series cards, the NVidia equivalents are just too expensive.
I chose the ATI Sapphire HD 5750 because it has an HDMI connecter, thus no need for a DVI to HDMI adapter, and it is quiet.
I could have gone with the 5770, but the 5750 is sufficient for my needs, primarily watching movies, and is quieter and uses less power.
The DP45SG board has three fan connectors, Front, Rear, and AUX.
The Lian-Li PC-C33B case has three fans, two rear 80mm 1200rpm fans, and a 140mm 1200rpm HDD cage fan.
I connected the front and rear fan connectors to the two rear 80mm fans, and the AUX connector to the 140mm HDD cage fan.
The DP45SG BIOS supports temperature feedback fan control.
But with this option enabled, the two stock Lian-Li 80mm rear fans would not run at all.
If I disable fan control, meaning the fans are on all the time, the fans worked fine.
I replaced the two stock fans with Scythe S-Flex 80mm 1500rpm fans, and they worked perfectly, and silently, at low RPM.
When I ordered the 80mm fans, I also ordered a Scythe Kaze Maru 140mm 1200rpm fan to replace the stock Lian-Li 140mm fan.
When I tried to install it, I realized that this was really a 120mm fan, or at least the mounting holes were for a 120mm fan.
There is a little piece of text on Scythe site that I missed:
“*Only Compatible to 120mm fan Slots!!*”
I left the stock Lian-Li 140mm fan and it works fine, maybe a little loud, but I don’t have a suitable replacement.
While searching for information on the fans not running, I came across the following on the Intel Desktop Control Center site:
“The Intel Desktop Board DP45SG was updated to revision AA# E27733-405 to add an alternate hardware monitoring and fan control ASIC.”
I have the 405 revision board, but without access to an older board, I really don’t know what changed.
I used Lavalys EVEREST to monitor the fan speeds from within Windows, at idle the 80mm fans run around 410rpm, and the 140mm fan at around 1100rpm.
EVEREST does however report the wrong fan labels; System should be AUX, Chassis should be Front, and Power Supply should be Rear.
I posted the mismatch on the EVEREST forum, I hope they fix it at some point.
The DP45SG board requires three power connectors, the normal 2×12 pin, a 2×2 pin, and a 4×1 pin.
I’ve seen other Intel boards requiring the additional 2×2, but this is the first board I’ve seen that requires the 2×2 and a 4×1.
I previously had a problem with an Intel S5000PSL board that required the extra 2×2, but the Corsair HX 850W PSU did not include the 2×2 pin connector, I had to buy a 4×1 to 2×2 converter for this board.
Fortunately the Thermaltake Toughpower 650W PSU I used for this build had all the required connectors.
On running the system I noticed one abnormality reported in the eventlog:
“The platform firmware has corrupted memory across the previous system power transition. Please check for updated firmware for your system.”

Searching I found several people reporting this event on a variety of hardware.
I did find this document from Microsoft on the topic, and they have this to say:
“During Windows development, we observed some systems that corrupt the lowest 1 MB of physical memory during a sleep transition. We traced the memory corruption to code defects in platform firmware. Because of the pervasiveness of the problem in the industry and the desire for reliable sleep transitions, Windows no longer stores operating system code and data in the lowest 1 MB of physical memory.”
Everything is now up and running with Windows 7 Ultimate x64.
The new HTPC replaced the old one in our living room, all that is left to do are the final tweaks for power profiles, remote control only login, codec’s, etc.
I normally use Media-Portal for a media frontend, but I’ve been playing with XBMC, and I think I’ll give that a try instead.
The new machine is not as quiet as the old one, I suspect it is because of the 140mm fan, and the additional ventilation holes on the side of the case.
I’ll keep on looking for a quieter 140mm fan, and maybe add some sound insulation, but for now it is good enough.

Problems with the old HTPC and the new HD 5750 card…

The new Lian-Li PC-C33B case was on backorder, so while I had all components except the case, I tried the HD 5750 in my current machine.
The HD 2600XT worked out of the box with the drivers included with Windows 7 Ultimate x64.
I replaced the HD 2600XT with the HD 5750, on reboot the display reverted to standard VGA, and 640×480 resolution.
I had to download and install the ATI Catalyst 9.11 drivers.
One would think that a VGA driver installer would be designed to fit on a screen that does not have VGA drivers installed, i.e. fit on a 640×480 resolution screen?
But no, with the standard VGA resolution the ATI driver installer window does not fit on the screen.
In order to install the drivers I had to move the window using the keyboard, see what the keyboard accelerator shortcut for a UI element is, or see where the tab focus is.
Really ATI, this seems like such a basic thing.

After the driver was installed I noticed the screen underscanned, meaning there is a black border or unused space around the screen.
I know from past experience that there is an overscan option in the Catalyst Control Center, but when I looked where I remember the setting to be, I could not find it.
I also noticed that the control panel menu layout has completely changed, and not for the better.
After some searching I found that you have to go to your displays panel, then click on the little arrow on the small monitor window, not the big monitor window.

Then adjust the overscan.
It was interesting to note that the default value, in Windows 7 at least, is to underscan.
When I first hooked up my HTPC running Vista to my plasma TV, fixing the overscan is the first thing I tried to do so that I could see the entire desktop.
Usability wise it makes sense to have a default that will let you see the entire desktop, vs. a default that cuts of parts of the screen.
My preference is to just let the TV overscan and not let the graphic card scale the output to compensate for overscan.
The 1:1 ratio, i.e. no scaling, results in better graphic quality, especially noticeable with fonts, at the expense of the desktop edge not being visible.
As I was searching for information on the new CCC options, I found many people complaining about CCC, and recommending using ATI Tray Tools instead.
I’ve never used it myself, but it is good to know there are alternatives.

Now that the driver was installed, another problem presented itself.
Every minute or so the screen would freeze, then a few seconds later it would start responding again, and windows would report:
“Display driver stopped responding and has recovered”.
When this happens the screen would freeze, the mouse cursor would still work, sometimes there would be squiggly lines on the screen, and other times it would go gray.
On two occasions the screen did not recover and I had to do a hard reset.

Analyzing the dump file with WinDbg, the problem is related to TDR, VIDEO_TDR_TIMEOUT_DETECTED, GRAPHICS_DRIVER_TDR_TIMEOUT.
MSDN has the following to say:
“This indicates that the display driver failed to respond in a timely fashion.”
Searching I found many people complaining about this problem with Windows 7 x64 and the 57xx cards, see here, here, and here.
A common response was to wait for the new Catalyst 9.12 drivers.
I was still using the 9.11 drivers, so I waited, and when released, I installed 9.12, but the same problem.
The ATI forum reported the same, the 9.12 driver, and the 9.12 driver hotfix does not address this problem.
The 5750 is still not working with the DG33TL board, but, fortunately it does work in the DP45SG board.
I replaced the HD 5750 with the old HD 2600XT, and the old machine is working fine again.