• United States
Neal Weinberg
Contributing writer, Foundry

NAS appliances (open source)

May 20, 20034 mins
Data CenterOpen SourceSAN

* The Reviewmeister looks at open source NAS products

The Reviewmeister is still testing out network-attached storage devices, only this week we’re looking at open source products. First, let’s take a close look at Snap Appliance’s Snap Server 14000.

Snap’s strong showing in our testing reflects its considerable experience as a NAS appliance vendor, but the model we tested, the Linux-based Snap Server 14000, isn’t cheap. A standard Snap Server 14000, with 1G byte of RAM and 12 120G-byte drives, costs $16,000.

Installation was easy thanks to an effective install wizard. Snap’s Quick Install guide was the best we’ve seen – this installation wizard was the only one that prompted for a change of the default password. Our only complaint was the need for frequent reboots throughout the process.

Redundancy features abound, including RAID 5 with hot spare; hot swappable drives; and redundant power, fans, and Ethernet interfaces with load balancing capabilities. It also offers two integrated software features: ETrust Antivirus software from Computer Associates, and its own Integrated Backup Express, software that lets up to five Snap servers back up to a single tape device. When testing features, however, the process of administering snapshots was unnecessarily difficult, and the documentation failed to address our questions.

Snap Server’s management application, Administration Tool, was easy to use but had some shortcomings. Logs give you a lot of information, but they’re difficult to understand and cannot be exported as data files. Also, no real-time statistics were available on Administration Tool, nor did it offer any diagnostic capability.

These last two complaints can be addressed by accessing Snap Server’s command-line console via a Secure Shell-encrypted connection. This gives considerably more visibility into the box, including a large number of real-time statistics. It also is the only means of accessing simple IP diagnostic tools such as ping and trace route.

The strength of this product is its performance. Maximum throughput was 1.83M bit/sec in the file server client emulation testing. During Web server emulation testing, the Snap product distanced itself quite a bit, posted a maximum throughput of just less than 21M bit/sec.


Installing FIA’s POPnetserver 4600 was very nearly a plug-and-play exercise. Just a few clicks through FIA’s setup wizard, and you have instant storage.

But there are a couple of caveats that prospective FIA buyers should beware of. The automated setup process bypassed any initial user setup, and “Guest” accounts were left with read and write access to the default directory – a considerable security oversight.

Secondly, FIA customers who lose or forget the administrative password must ship their POPnetserver back to the dealer for installation, and, astonishingly, all data on the server will be lost.

FIA runs its NAS product on FreeBSD. The POPnetserver 4600 supports RAID 5 plus hot spare, a RAID configuration that reserves an additional hard drive to swap in immediately when a drive fails. Other redundancies include hot-swappable drives and load-sharing Ethernet interface cards. However, volumes cannot be expanded on FIA’s device without resetting it.

FIA boxes can provide full-featured back-up functionality, but at a price. FIA offers POPbackup, Data Replicator, Snapshot Backup and Server-to-Server Replicator as optional, extra-priced software. We found that each of these products worked as advertised and were easy to use. Missing from FIA’s repertoire, however, is antivirus software.

Through the POPmanage browser-based application, management of the POPnetserver 4600’s is fairly straightforward. We cited the logs for offering a lot of data clearly.

The holes in FIA’s overall management capabilities are statistics that offer only a handful of items that can be monitored, and there are no IP troubleshooting or diagnostic capabilities. Logs can be exported, there are no other reports to be had, and FIA’s is the only device under review that does not protect its management access to the NAS via Secure Sockets Layer-encrypted communications. Perhaps most egregiously, FIA has no console port through which you can access the box when all else fails.

For the full report, go to