Installation and Use
I connected the IOCELL NetDisk SOLO NEWFAST enclosure via USB and eSATA to my ASRock Core 100HT Nettop running Ubuntu 11.10 for some local testing. The drive I used is an older WD 80 GB SATA II drive. Rest assured that any newer drive is likely to be faster.
I used Ubuntu’s Disk Utility’s Benchmarking tool and primed the test by running it several times before taking a result. USB’s average read rate was 36.9 MB/s, while the average write was 30.8 MB/s. eSATA’s average read rate was 70.6 MB/s and its average write rate was 67.5 MB/s. Obviously eSATA should be much, much faster than eSATA.
Network Access Testing
I’d looked forward to testing the unit’s network access speeds by hooking it up to my gigabit switch. However, the drivers I found for both Mac OS X and Linux are very out of date so I had to switch to a direct connection to my Windows gaming rig for testing. The latest Linux driver packages are for Ubuntu 10.04 and there are no drivers available for Mac OS 10.6.7+ (Snow Leopard), including 10.7 (Lion).
It’s important to note that the IOCELL NetDisk series of devices uses NDAS, Network Direct Attached Storage. NDAS was developed by a company named Ximeta; Ximeta sold the technology to IOCELL. NDAS uses a proprietary network layer protocol called LPX. It’s faster than IP and its typical transport layer protocols, TCP and UDP.
Some reports say that LPX isn’t routable and that causes some problems on more elaborate network infrastructures. For example, I was not able to connect to the device in my rather elaborate home setup, wherein my Windows gaming rig is wired into a wireless router acting as a client bridge for my wireless network.
NDAS is neat because it’s block-level storage via a network, similar to ATA over Ethernet, iSCSI, etc. It doesn’t require any serious hardware on the device end of things. That is, no CPU is required. I would like to see some more literature from IOCELL on how this system works, as well as an independent audit of its security. Anyone with a basic understanding of networking can easily reason why the NetDisk is “hacker proof”: it doesn’t communicate on a protocol that bad guys can touch remotely. They would have to have remote access to a device capable of talking to the NDAS devices via the hardwired network.
The benchmarks left me wanting more.
Read tests using HD Tune Pro on Windows 7 64-bit put the average transfer rate at 30 MB/s. That’s slower than USB2, folks. The access latency is higher, too. Write performance was…better?! The average write speed was 34.7 MB/s with a really low average access time. The key thing to notice here is the CPU usage for both read and write operations. It’s obvious that the NDAS driver has to do a lot of work, and that’ll harm performance system-wide. Those CPU usage percentages should be considerably lower.
The most frustrating part of using this device was inconsistency. Sometimes it would tool along and get up to 50 MB/s transfer spikes. Most of the time, though, it was all over the place. The graphs you see above are two of approximately 20 tests; I feel these show the most typical performance, when consistent.
Colin Dean has been a writer for ThinkComputers since 2006.