ReadyNAS Duo v2 – A beta tester’s review

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.

Category: Reviews 11 comments »

11 Responses to “ReadyNAS Duo v2 – A beta tester’s review”

  1. Mike Stanley

    Very useful article, thank you.
    One of the drawbacks of the Duo v1/SPARC was that it was virtually impossible to read disks removed from the (possibly faulty) NAS by connecting them in or to a Windows or Ubuntu PC.
    Has this issue changed in the v2 as I would consider this to be a good reason to upgrade?

  2. mdgm

    For mounting Sparc ReadyNAS drives take a look at Mounting Sparc-based ReadyNAS in x86 Linux

    Here are a few key differences:
    X-RAID (Sparc) volumes use the 16k block size (if last factory default was on RAIDiator 4.x or later. This is the case for the Duo v1 unless disks were migrated from an older Sparc ReadyNAS last factory reset on older firmware).
    X-RAID uses a parity disk. That disk doesn’t have a partition table on it. If you want to attempt data recovery using Linux you’ll need to use the other disk(s).

    X-RAID2 (ARM and x86) volumes use the standard 4k block size. This makes it a little easier to recover you data in Windows or Linux.

    X-RAID2 volumes have distributed parity. To recover your data you need X-1 working disks where X is the number of disks in the array. Or in a 6-bay or greater ReadyNAS if using dual-redundancy you need X-2 disks.

    Here’s how to mount an X-RAID2 array (ARM or x86 ReadyNAS) in x86 Linux:

    # sudo su
    # apt-get install lvm2
    # mdadm –assemble –scan
    # vgscan
    # vgchange -ay c
    # mount /dev/c/c/ /mnt

    In the above example we mount the volume to “/mnt”. We could o course mount it to any empty directory we like.

  3. Freddie

    You have obviously completely overlooked the fact that sharing data on a V2 Duo is impossible or implemented in a very unorthodox way! I have just had a long support call with Netgear and they apologise and promise a fix this month. How is it possible to create a NAS where if user 1 create a folder, user 2 cannot save anything to that folder. Or if user 2 create a file in a folder they have created, then user 2 cannot delete or modify it?
    Seem to have missed to point about sharing data completely. I just ripped out a v2 from a client site replacing it with a v1 Duo. Everybody happy now…
    What is the point of a NAS for one user?

  4. mdgm

    Sorry for the late approval of this comment. I’ve been getting a lot of spam recently. Your comment was the one genuine comment out of about 20.

    I do hope NetGear fixes this in 5.3.4. The Duo v2 is a good box with a lot of potential. It is perhaps a bit rough around the edges.

    The Duo (v1) is a mature product with great reliable hardware. It is a good choice. However I would have recommended the Ultra 2/Ultra 2 Plus/Pro 2. Though they each cost more than the Duo v1 and Duo v2, they have a larger feature set than even the Duo v1 and much better performance.

  5. Garry Bolland

    Freddie,

    OK just talked to my source who has direct access to Netgear Rep. They are aware of the problem and a beta release was due last week. So hopefully a further upgrade 5.3.5 should be available this week.

    Regards

    Garry

  6. wipeout

    i had this problem on my readynas duo v2 – permission problems as stated.

    it seems to be OK with the 5.3.5 beta; so far so good.

    i have quite a big list of problems with the unit that are not so good, its hard to say which are caused by the beta firmware and which were there before (losing track to be honest at this point)

    – print server not working (its listed as a feature in netgears support!)
    – not being able to login as admin via CIFS (database error)
    – anonymous login to folders marked as “everyone R/W” means that anon user cannot edit / delete anything
    – not being able to make changes to, well, anything on USB drives – so my attached USB drive is fully visible to everyone on the network
    – almost all of netgears online support mentioning “frontview” which is not present on the duo v2
    – the hard disk compatibility guide is badly out of date – at least half of the drives in the list are no longer manufactured
    – timeout errors in windows7 (i think fixed in the beta, thankfully)

    bear in mind these are all problems i found within 6 hours of getting the unit and plugging it in, and verifying they are faults on the readynas forum. some reported last year.

    i love the hardware and its working, after a fashion, but it shouldnt be on sale in this state. at the very least, they should update the features on netgears own site and take down “print sharing” and all the mentions of frontview.. for half an hour, i thought i was missing a piece of software…

  7. mdgm

    Thanks for the comment wipeout. You may also wish to provide this feedback on the ReadyNAS forums.

  8. wipeout

    thanks mdgm and sorry for venting – i’ve posted a few bug reports, all others are listed on the readynas forums.

    thank you for posting my comment; i noticed a poster on this blog mentioned they knew someone at netgear and i hoped it might help problems be resolved.

    some support on forum has been great!

    i have found some other bugs which i have reported – these are due to beta so fair enough:
    – scheduled backups using Rsync do not run automatically
    – rsync backups (to same nas) do have any way of selecting “remove deleted files” – it acts exactly as per normal incremental backup(?)
    – “fix permissions” feature breaks the share totally via CIFS

    when these issues are gone it will be a great unit.

  9. mdgm

    wipeout, I would definitely suggest working on these issues in the public beta forum as it appears you have done.

    When a new beta comes out if it doesn’t resolve the issue bump the thread and edit the thread title (i.e. subject of first post in the thread) to include the new beta release number. This will help indicate to the developers that the issue is still not resolved and remind them to take a look at it. If the issue is solved then editing the thread title to indicate that would also be advisable.

  10. wipeout

    hi mdgm –

    wanted to update on new 5.3.5 firmware – all my issues now fixed, i’d have no problem recommending it now.

    i only have a feature request remaining, which i am hoping they will consider.

    – rsync backups (to same nas, or a usb device connected to it) have no option to select “remove deleted files”

    if this is resolved, i’d give it 10/10 (simply because backing up to USB seems to me an ideal way of getting a backup that is convenient for home users).

    otherwise no problems here at all, and am happy to recommend it :)

    best,
    R

  11. mdgm

    wipeout I’d suggest making that suggestion in the ReadyNAS forums.


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