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What about that eSATA Port?

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Many of the reviews on this site deal with pretty nice, reasonably powerful NAS devices. It seems from checking the manufacturer's websites, and also noticing the "comments in passing" in the reviews on this site, that many of these devices have an eSATA port sitting quietly on the back, ostensibly "for capacity expansion". Prime Examples of this are the Thecus N5200Pro, the QNAP TS-509 Pro, and the Synology DS508

I wonder if it is time to give these eSATA ports a test? Some examples of questions would be:
  • Port Multiplier Support - would it be possible to connect, for instance, a SansDigital TR4M-B in JBOD mode or a Sonnet Fusion D400Q to any of these NASes and turn a 5 bay NAS into a 9 bay NAS?
  • Single RAID support - would it be preferable to connect the same TR4M-B above in RAID mode or a Sonnet Fusion D800RAID to this eSATA port and run it as a gigantic external disk?
  • Performance - Given either of the above scenarios, would the performance of the eSATA setup be comparable to the internal array on these NASes?

These are some of the possibilities. I think it's time we gave those eSATA ports a try to see what they're capable of. What do you think?
Thanks for the suggestion. eSata port capability is also noted in the NAS Chart Product Features page.

In checking the user manuals for the three products you mentioned, the eSATA port is treated like the USB port. Attached drives cannot be included in RAID arrays and are for backup and standalone volume expansion only.
We'll throw an esata drive on the TS509 and see how it does. The performance of this NAS with a single drive is quite good...so I'd expect the esata drive will be faster than the NAS in RAID5 configuration.
Very nice.

I have a TS-509 on order as well, based on its position on the NAS charts on this site, and the fact that according to Synology's site the DS508 does not support NFS. I'm tempted to pick up a truly monstrous eSATA RAID from Sonnet (8-bay) or Wiebetech (16 bay?) and use the TS-509 as a NAS head for one of these beasts.

I've been running a ReadyNAS 1100 that I call "old faithful" for a couple years without difficulty, but it is simply too slow. My Droboshare/Drobo combo is even slower. Time for something with some zip.
With an Esata 1TB WD "Green" drive attached, and previously formatted NTFS, here are the numbers for our 5.3 GB file set and TS509:

Vista workstation with RAID0 array and PCIe bus gigabit LAN:

Write: 14.9 MB/s
Read: 57.8MB/s

XP Worksation with single drive and PCI gigabit card:
Write: 13.9 MB/s
Read: 36 MB/s

Writes to the Esata drive are not cached by the NAS at all. In other words a file smaller than 1GB will go the NAS internal drives at 100MB/s but the same file to the Esata drives will never go faster than 14 MB/s or so.

Write speeds on our large file sets were much higher (45 MB/s) when a single drive was installed and natively formatted in the TS509 drive bays. Raid 5 performance of this unit with files larger than 1GB continues to disappoint at a rather pokey 10 to 14 MB/s . If you've got larger files, then the Intel SS4200 is nearly 3 times faster on writes.
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Thanks for that test! Would you expect that these read and write speeds for the WD green drive are about the same as what you'd get if you plugged it directly into your PC on an eSATA port?

I wonder if it's possible to upgrade the RAM on the TS-509 to 2G or 4G? If it makes that much of a difference...

I won't get the benefit if I need to bulk-copy 100Gigs of files to it, but no one does that every day, and at least for normal work on most files it would be pretty fast. For instance, Personal backups of DVD movies compressed with DivX or H.264 are usually around 1.1G to 1.5G in size. It would be nice to fit one or two of these in cache...
The exact same 1TB drive and enlosure tests at a max of 45MB/s write, and 69MB/s read when locally attached to a RAID 0 workstation. We've tested it on 5 different configurations and the numbers are similar on all of them. Adding memory to this particular NAS would speed up transfers destined for the internal drives I'd guess (assuming the file sizes were less than the NAS cache), but do nothing for the ESATA...at least based on the current testing and NAS code.

Two more things:

1. Another poster is apparently using updated code on the TS509 with much better results on windows (SMB2) RAID5 read/write performance.

2. In terms of your large files, I just tested FTP and got a surprise. FTP to this device is nearly twice as fast as SMB2 at about 20MB/s write using the same workstation as above. Reads are coming down the pipe at a blistering 92MB/s. I smell a code update from Qnap :)
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