Over the past few years, the development of the commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) network-attached storage (NAS) market has been largely on the software side, bringing more business-oriented added value and better support for containers and virtual storage. machine. There were hardware updates regarding processor selection and the inclusion of M.2 SSD slots (mainly for his SSD caching), but they weren’t revolutionary changes.
At CES 2023, QNAP revealed plans for two different NAS units. The all-flash he is the TBS-574X (based on the Intel Alder Lake-P platform) and his ML-focused TS-AI642 (based on the Rockchip RK3588 app processor). QNAP only provided a teaser of the features, but it’s worth mentioning a few points to understand where the COTS NAS market is headed in the near future.
Network attached storage units are typically based on either server platforms in the SMB/SME space or single board computer (SBC) platforms in the home consumer/SOHO space. Historically, both platforms have avoided big.LITTLE / hybrid processors for various reasons. In the x86 space, hybrid processors recently entered the mainstream market with Intel’s Alder Lake family. In the ARM world, big.LITTLE has been around for a relatively long time. However, server workloads are generally not suitable for that type of architecture. Without a reliable use case for such a processor, it’s unlikely that servers would go down that path either. However, SBC is a different case and we have seen many application processors adopting the big.LITTLE strategy used in that market segment.
Both the all-flash TBS-574X and AI NAS TS-AI642 are based on hybrid processors. The TBS-574X is Intel Core i3-1220P (Alder Lake-P) 2P + 8E configuration. TS-AI642 is based on Rockchip RK3588 [ PDF ]with 4x Cortex-A76 and 4x Cortex-A55 manufactured on Samsung’s 8LPP process.
QNAP is no stranger to selling Atom-based NAS units that support 2.5 GbE. Jasper Lake Based Tower NAS Lineup It has proven to be very popular for SOHO/SMB use cases. The Core i3-1220P’s Gracemont Core is expected to boost performance, and the addition of two performance cores will easily enhance the user experience associated with more usable features on Core-based units. .
NAS units have become powerful enough to go beyond basic file serving/backup target functionality. QNAP’s curated QTS applications help provide well-integrated added value. Some of the most common ones enable container support and the ability to run virtual machines. As the range of workloads running on NAS starts to change simultaneously, hybrid processors can be deployed to improve performance while maintaining power efficiency.
At the forefront of AI NAS, the Rockchip RK3588 features processor cores powerful enough for multi-bay NAS. However, QNAP is more focused on the Neural Network Accelerator block (SoC has 6 TOPS of his NN inference performance) and could market his NAS to heavy users such as surveillance and “AI” apps. increase. QVR face (for facial recognition in surveillance videos), QVR smart search (for surveillance video event searches), and cue maggie (For easily indexed photo albums with “AI” features).
E1.S Hot-swappable SSD
QNAP’s first NASbook, an all-flash NAS with M.2 SSD, was introduced to the market last year.of TBS-464 While it remains a unique product on the market, it goes against the NAS concept of hot-swappable drives.
At the time of its introduction, there was no industry standard for hot-swappable NVMe flash drives suitable for the NASbook form factor. U.2 and U.3 drive slots with hot-swap capability were present in rack-mount units for enterprises and data centers. Therefore, QNAP’s NASbook was launched without hot-swap support. Meanwhile, the industry was consolidating towards E1.S and E1.L. Standard form factor For hot-swappable NVMe storage.
QNAP’s 2023 NASbook – TBS-574X – will be the first QNAP NAS to support E1.S hot-swappable SSDs (up to 15mm thick). For better drive compatibility, QNAP also bundles an M.2 adapter installed in each drive bay. This will allow the end user to use his M.2 SSD in his NASbook, expanding the market availability of E1.S SSDs.
The TBS-574X uses an Intel Core i3-1220P (2P + 8E – 10C/12T) with 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Support for memory expansion is not yet clear (these could be DDR4 SO-DIMMs). It has 5 drive bays and the NAS seems to run QTS based on QNAP’s model name). The NASbook also features 2.5 GbE and 10 GbE ports, two USB4 ports (presumably Thunderbolt 4 sans certified as QNAP claims 40 Gbps support and ADL-P supports it natively), and a 4K HDMI output. increase. The NASbook also supports video transcoding with the GPU integrated in the Core i3-1220P. QNAP mainly targets collaborative video editing use cases with TBS-574X.
The TS-AI642 uses the RockChip RK3588 (4x CA-76 + 4x CA-55) app processor. No RAM specs provided – SoC specs show LPDDR4, but I’ve contacted QNAP for the exact amount. It has 6 drive bays. This is also interesting because the SoC natively only offers up to 3 SATA ports. So QNAP uses a port multiplier or another SATA controller connected to a PCIe lane for this purpose. The SoC’s native network support is limited to dual GbE ports, but QNAP includes PCIe Gen 3 slots for 2.5 GbE and 10 GbE expansion. They also take up a limited number of PCIe lanes in the processor (configurable as 4x PCIe 3.0, 1 x4, or 2 x2, or 4 x1). All in all, the hardware is very interesting in terms of how QNAP can use the SoC’s capabilities to manage the expected performance. With a focus on surveillance deployments and cloud storage integration, performance may be good enough even with port multipliers.
All in all, QNAP’s teasers of two upcoming desktop NAS products have provided us with some insight into where the SOHO/SMB NAS market is headed in the near future. Unlike Synology, QSAN, Terramaster, etc., QNAP never hesitates to explore new hardware options. While we’re very bullish about E1.S support and hybrid processors in desktop NAS units, the appeal of RockChip-based AI NAS could largely depend on its price and features/performance aspects.