Archive for December 2011


ReadyNAS Duo v2 – A beta tester’s review

December 10th, 2011 — 12:11pm

Review needs updating as RAIDiator 5.3.5 has added a lot of features: http://www.readynas.com/RAIDiator_arm_5_3_5_Notes

Earlier this month, NetGear unveiled the new ReadyNAS Duo v2 and NV+ v2. These exciting new products come with a redesigned and simplified web-interface designed for fast and intuitive setup. There are some new How To Videos showing just how easy it is to get started.

Manageability

For much of its history the ReadyNAS line has been primarily targeted for use by Small to Medium sized Businesses. Whilst the ReadyNAS has had a loyal group of tech-savvy advanced home users, as time has gone on the ReadyNAS has developed a vast range of options that can be confusing for the average home user or even small business (e.g. family business) user.

The ReadyNAS NV+ (the entry level 4-bay NetGear offering replaced by the NV+v2) was originally a business product and thus retained many business features. Sure a small to medium sized business or advanced home user looking for a bargain may consider having features like AD integration, VLAN support, snapshot, SNMP great, but for the average home user these options are just confusing ones that they’ll never need.

With the introduction of the Duo v2 and the NV+ v2 NetGear has redesigned the ReadyNAS web-admin interface with the average home user in mind. It’s virtually plug and play apart from working your way through the setup wizard.

New Interface

The new interface provides a much needed facelift. Whilst the old interface (available on all earlier ReadyNAS models but not on the Duo v2 and NV+ v2) is functional, it has a very dated look. These new models come with a modern interface than many users have come to expect these days.

When you login into the new admin interface after completing the setup wizard (after completion of the wizard you won’t see this again unless you do a factory reset) you are immediately presented with a dashboard which provides a summary of the current state of the NAS.

You can then choose to configure the NAS or follow links to a range of useful pages on the ReadyNAS site such as Documentation, How To’s etc.

When you click the Configure button you are presented with tabs that will be familiar to existing ReadyNAS users. So whilst the interface has been simplified an existing ReadyNAS user will find it has a familiar feel to it.

There’s lots to like about the new interface and much of this has already been covered in other reviews.

3TB drive support

These new devices support 3TB drives out of the box! This means that the Duo v2 is the cheapest ReadyNAS ever to support 6TB of storage (before redundancy and overheads) and the NV+ v2 the cheapest to support 12TB of storage (before redundancy and overheads). As even higher drive capacities become available, firmware updates can be expected (if needed) to add support.

NetGear and Partner Add-ons

Like with all other ReadyNAS units, add-ons can be installed.

ReadyNAS Remote provides secure remote access to files from a Mac/PC. While the new models are not yet compatible with ReadyNAS Remote for iOS/Android one would expect NetGear to address this. ReadyNAS Remote is easily my favourite ReadyNAS add-on.

ReadyNAS Photos II allows the sharing of photos with friends and family and amazing free service that shares photos directly from your NAS. You can impress your friends by sending them a link to a slideshow of a special event set to a selection of their favourite music. It’s viewable in a web browser on their computer or even on a smartphone!

There are no partner (supported 3rd party) addons for the Duo v2 and NV+ v2 at this time.

SSH

Advanced users can install SSH access and manage the ReadyNAS via the command line as the superuser. Whilst this is a use at own risk option, it can enable the family IT guy to easily remotely login and investigate a problem particularly if you venture into installing community addons (NetGear does not support these).

Community add-ons

NetGear provides a Software Development Kit that allows 3rd party add-ons to be developed to extend the ReadyNAS functionality. Things like installing PHP for a website to be hosted on the NAS, installing a torrent client etc. are likely to be made available by the ReadyNAS community developers. As the Duo v2 and NV+ v2 use ARM CPUs and just 256MB RAM, there is a limit to how much you can extend the functionality with add-ons but they’re still a much better option than the Duo v1 and NV+ v1 with the much slower Sparc CPU. Add-on enthusiasts seeking to run several addons would be much happier with an x86 unit (e.g. Ultra, Pro). For those looking just to run a few add-ons or so, the ARM devices will handle it well.

What’s the key difference under the hood?

I suppose you may be wondering, what’s the key difference under the hood? Well for starters the Duo v2 and NV+ v2 are the first ReadyNAS units to use ARM processors as opposed the Infrant Sparc processors found in the original Duo and NV+. ARM processors are cheaper than the Intel ones used in NetGear’s more expensive x86 line.

As 3rd party development for the Sparc platform largely ceased years ago, it has become increasingly difficult to provide firmware updates for the platform. So much so that 3TB drive support and some other things will most likely never come to Sparc. Realising this and presumably that there weren’t suitable Intel processors available for an entry-level ReadyNAS, they chose to use ARM ones. ARM processors are simply designed, energy efficient, reliable and affordable and reported as being used in products such as Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

The change to the ARM platform does have one key downside in that you can’t migrate disks across from a Sparc Duo or NV+ to it. So if you want to migrate your data across you’ll need to do so e.g. across your network.

Improvements to factory reset process

With such a major refresh of the ReadyNAS line it would have been easy to ignore the little things.

Like with all other computers, sometimes a fresh install of the latest OS can be a good idea. In the past you’ve needed to backup your data, update the firmware on the NAS (if possible) and do a factory reset, then restore data from backup to get a clean install on the latest firmware.

Whilst you still need to backup your data first, the new Duo v2 and NV+ v2 check when a factory reset is initiated whether the latest firmware is installed. If not, provided you have a stable internet connection they will automatically download the firmware update and install it, before proceeding to carry out the reset. Do note that if there is no internet connection or the connection is unstable (drops out a lot during the firmware download) then the firmware will not be updated. The ReadyNAS performs checks to ensure that the firmware was downloaded correctly before installing it.

There’s also the new addition of a JBOD option (as explained in the documentation). With previous devices would need to configure the ReadyNAS to use Flex-RAID, delete the volume automatically created then manually create single disk RAID-0 volumes. The Flex-RAID JBOD option is much simpler.

There’s also the addition of the secure erase option (already available on x86 ReadyNAS units) for secure erase of working disks before disposal (e.g. sale or in trash) for extra peace of mind.

ReadyNAS enthusiast’s reaction

It’s a bitter sweet moment. The introduction of the Duo v2 and NV+ v2 means that there are no longer any ReadyNAS powered by Infrant Sparc CPUs in production. It had to happen but it’s still sad. After about  7 years, the Sparc ReadyNAS line has been discontinued. This was the hardware that was used in all ReadyNAS at the time when NetGear acquired Infrant (the company that invented the ReadyNAS and first brought it to market). NetGear has kept the innovative Infrant development team and a benefit of this has been that to this day even now firmware updates (4.1.9 for Sparc) are being written for 7 year old units discontinued long before NetGear acquired Infrant.

What makes this even more impressive is that those devices carried a one year warranty so many would’ve been out of warranty before the acquisition as well. Admittedly the introduction of new Sparc products over time (most recently the Duo v1 in 2008) has helped with this, but it’s still very impressive. Firmware updates are important for maintaining the usefulness of ReadyNAS products and I would expect NetGear’s strong track record in this area will continue with the new devices.

As the NV+ v1 was my first ReadyNAS purchase it’s nice to see the name live on and to see the similar form factor. Much of the hard work NetGear put into designing the NV+ (and earlier devices) can still be seen in the new models.

Conclusion

The latest additions to the ReadyNAS family are ReadyNAS units that anyone can manage. Simple, elegant and affordable, perhaps my only complaint is the lack of a display on the front of the 2-bay models (but this is understandable due to space and price constraints). For those on a low budget and looking to purchase their first NAS, I would look no further than the Duo v2 and NV+ v2.

Disclaimer: As a beta tester, I received a free Duo v2 diskless unit.

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