QNAP QTIER INTRODUCTION
QNAP has recently unveiled its new Qtier functionality. This has brought a new feature on a new range of NAS that QNAP released in the month of October (2015*). The TVS-x80U-SAS-RP R2 range allow for hybrid storage to be a reality in a NAS. This functionality is very important for large applications, be it databases, large media files or anything of that nature. These files are types of files that are always in constant use, a user would always be calling them to read from them. The issue is with a traditional spindle disk these reads are very slow and have to wait for the magnetic head to spin and read that data again. Even on faster RPM drives, performance would never be the same as flash. Flash solutions can be expensive and arduous to maintain. Qtier allows for Auto Tiering to become a reality, this mix of SSD and HDD allows for speed and storage to be combined into one solution. You do not have to buy a small NAS full of SSDs (because filling a 24 bay NAS with SSDs is a silly expense), and another NAS with SATA drives to provide storage capacity. Specially the TVS-EC1580MU-SAS-RP-R2 is designed to demonstrate the new features better, but in reality any of the TVS-ECx80U-SAS-RP-R2 units can fulfill everything we talk about in this article.
Hot-Data vs. Cold-Data
How does the NAS determine 'hot' and 'cold' data automatically? For us to constantly have to say this data is important and this is archive would add management to the NAS. When someone adds a file that will be constantly called you or your IT professional would have to flag that file for the Flash memory to know this data needs to be stored here and the rest can go onto the inexpensive storage. Auto Tiering negates the need for this to be a necessity. The NAS will see how many times you call for a certain file; let's use a DB file for our examples, DB file A and DB file B are both important databases. DB file B is now retired after we used it for two weeks on our new NAS. During this period about 100 odd users called for that file every 2-3 minutes throughout the day, they may have simply read a line item or even committed a change to the file which means writes were now included in this process also. The NAS will notice this file is being accessed very often and rather than keep it on your inexpensive SATA drives it will move it over to the SSDs for quicker access. This is how the Auto Tiering functionality works, pretty seamlessly and no effort for the end-user at all. Once we start using DB File A and DB File B does not get accessed much or at all the NAS will automatically move that back to the inexpensive SATA drives (cold-storage) for safe keeping and keep the new DB File A on the SSDs (hot-storage).
Benefits of using Qtier Technology
Why use Qtier Technology in your environment? Qtier Technology can save you money. You do need to spend thousands of dollars on an expensive Flash solution and then have a nearline solution also. Qtier Technology enables you to cut costs and have one solution for everything. The ability to expand via a JBOD box allows you to expand your storage as you grow. Performance boosts are also important to us to have productivity at the highest level and not have technology impede what we do, but rather assist and helps us be more productive. Qtier Technology allows data to be accessed much quicker than NL/SATA drives. Even faster than SAS if you use SSDs instead. QTS Storage Manager allows you to set up your Tiered NAS easily and efficiently. You can create RAID groups for each tier and set scheduling and be done with the setup aspect. Access statistics of Auto-Tiering to ensure the accuracy of your Auto-Tiering policies and ensure the policies in place are effectively helping your storage requirements.
Just because we now have Qtier Technology does not mean we should not use our other methods of improving storage speed. With SSD caching you can further enhance the speed of your NAS with Qtier and SSD cache combined. The TVS-ECx80-SAS-RP R2 Range includes two pre-installed 128GB mSATA modules, and there are no limits on using SSDs for caching in conjunction. By installing high-perfomance SSDs, the IOPS performance of storage volumes can be boosted, improving overall workflow of random IOPS for demanding applications suchs as databases and virtualization taks.
With the release of Qtier Technology, QNAP has also released the QNAP TVS-EC1580MU-SAS-RP-R2 which is built to demonstrate and utilize the new Qtier Technology. Qtier can handle and assign three types of performance aspect drives and utilize them all to give you the best performance and storage ratio on a NAS. The three categories break down to SSD (Flash), SAS, and SATA/NL disks. SSDs will be your fastest performing drives and can be installed in the six 2.5’ drive bays in the TVS-EC1580MU-SAS-RP-R2. The SAS drives can fill up the remaining nine 3.5’ drive bays. This gives your head unit the two fastest drives and allows for auto-tiering to have to ‘fast’ performing levels. The SSDs (Flash) will hold all of your hot data, whilst the SAS drives will hold all your ‘warm’ data. The third level of storage can be added by minimizing the amount of SAS drives in the TVS-EC1580MU-SAS-RP-R2, but what makes more sense is to attach a 12G REXP-1220U-RP JBOD unit and fill that up with the NL/SATA drives. The 12G bandwidth means you are not worried about performance issues when accessing your cold storage and also enables you to keep your cold, archived storage away from the hot and warm data (purely for organizational sake, this bares no performance boosts).
Which NAS to choose?
The QNAP Qtier functionality is currently available on 4 QNAP Enterprise NAS units. The QNAP TVS-EC1280U-SAS-RP-R2, the QNAP TVS-EC1580MU-SAS-RP-R2, the QNAP TVS-EC1680U-SAS-RP-R2, and the QNAP TVS-EC2480U-SAS-RP. These units are all available now and can be configured with SSDs, SAS, and SATA drives (2.5’ and 3.5’). The TVS-EC1580MU-SAS-RP-R2 is really only useful if you plan on integrating with 2.5’ SSDs or SAS drives, aside from that you will be losing bays and ultimately end up with 9 x 3.5’ bays.
*product has since been update to the R2 version
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