The home of Sweaty Spice, the 'other' Spice Girl

The DAS to NAS Saga continues.

The story to date is that I got the dreaded notification that my Drobo direct attached storage solution would not be supported by the new Mac OS. Since it is attached there, and has been my 20TB or so "bit bucket", that is a concern. Almost all of my long term, and cold storage is there.

When it failed about 2 years ago (to be replaced under warranty) I knew that the day that I said goodbye to Drobo was sooner rather than later.

But I procrastinated. Sure, I did a ton of research, looking at good NAS devices, and settled on Synology being the best solution for my needs.

But I hesitated to pull the trigger.

Several reasons. The boxes are pricey. The one I was eyeing was the DS1621, and at the time it was about a grand without any drives. Yikes. But also, I had a working Drobo, and all my data was intact. Why make a big change?

Then came Big Sur's release, and the 2 months it sat as a lump on my desk, because the kernel extensions were incompatible. Sure, Drobo did release a package that worked. Then I upgraded to an M1 Macbook Air, and <grumble grumble> the drivers didn't support the M1. But then they released one that did.

Now, with the announcement that the next release of Ventura, it was the end of the road.

Rather than wait until the end, I closed my eyes, and bought the Synology DS1621+, 2 500G NVMe drives (for the read/write cache), and 6 Seagate Ironwolf 10TB drives. It was a lot of money (albeit less than I recall spending for my first SCSI III RAID array back in the mid nineties - by a lot).

By Friday night of Labor Day weekend, all the goodies arrived, and I planned to get it up and running on Saturday.

Ready to ROCK

I have a small bookshelf in my office/den that had become a landing zone, and full of clutter. I wanted to set up the NAS on top of it, so I spent about an hour cleaning up the small shelf, and then got busy putting the NAS together.

The NVMe m.2 drives snapped in easily - you access them by removing the drive trays. Then I needed to load up the drives. The drive trays require no tools, and it was trivial to get them in and ready to rock.

Powering it up, and using the browser to find the system was a piece of cake.

About 10 minutes while it updated the software and got itself ready then I was able to create an administrator account, and get serious with the setup.

Here is the first difference between the Synology and the Drobo. The Drobo uses an application to setup and maintain the unit. On the Synology, it is all web based, and it is really intuitive. It was obvious that I needed to create a volume with the drives, and to select what sort of array it would be, I chose their SHR2 as it was the best "protection" and that yielded just about 40TB of usable space (this allows two drives to fail, and not lose data).

Then I created some shares. One for my "bit bucket" data, the long term storage I used my Drobo for. One for Music (I copied over my well organized collection of music that I have cached on my Microsoft OneDrive account), one for net backups.

I will be a bit remiss if I didn't state that one of the reasons I wanted the Synology device was so that I could install and run the Plex server on it. Currently, I have an Intel NUC with an 8TB disk hanging off of it that I use for my Plex collection. If I could move that 3TB of data to the Synology, and run the system from there, that is one less box to build and maintain in the long term.

Score!

That gets to the real beauty of the Synology platform. As it is a real server with a ton of storage, you can run a variety of services, things like security, or media servers, or productivity, or directory services, or email servers. A lot of them in fact.

Packages to provide custom functionality

If I needed to run a DNS, or a DHCP server, I could (not planning on either of these).

You can also set up a DDNS service and provide access to your data from anywhere on the internet. I am gonna keep that shut off me thinks.

Right now, I am on the last bits of getting my plex content over, I will finish the migration of the data from my bit bucket (and then retire the Drobo entirely), I have already set up my Macbook Air to back up to the Synology with Arq Backup, and will get my wife's iMac to use it for her Time Machine backups.

The one thing that I can say with confidence is that the setup, and migration was, in a word, painless.

Performance

There is nothing like moving hundreds of gigabyte sized batches of data, even over gigabit ethernet. The NVMe caches help a lot to buffer the writes, but eventually you flood the cache, and then you are on the speed of the drives.

When this happens, I am getting a pretty solid 40MB/s data transfer. Not bad.

The box has 4 ethernet ports that support (I think) 2.5Gb ethernet, although my unmanaged switch is just GigE, if I added a second cable, that would double the bandwidth. But as I am limited by the drive speed, that is not really a useful hack at the moment.

There is a PCIe slot, and you can buy a card that will give you 2 SFP slots that can drive 10Gig Ethernet. A lot overkill for my lil' house.

Last thoughts

I will pay the $125 for the extended warranty. One of the times where I think the price is justified, as it will get me a better tier of support - should I need it - and advanced replacement in case of a failure.

I will also buy a couple spare 10TB drives, just to have on hand as cold spares. That way the replacements will match.

My time with Drobo lasted a decade, and I am sure I will end up replacing this at some time in the future. But for now the peace of mind of having a reasonably safe storage solution will improve my sleep at night!

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