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Low-cost Windows Storage Servers (WSS) give small businesses access to enterprise-class features at a desktop price. And Thecus was the first company with appliances based on a new class of Windows Storage Server software, which was designed for small businesses looking for affordable, cloud-connected network-attached storage. Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials fits between the limited WSS Workgroup and more fully featured WSS Standard software from Microsoft. The Thecus W5000 is a five-bay unit designed to bring Windows Storage Server features down to an affordable price.
The W5000 is nearly identical to Thecus' N5550 NAS in both hardware specifications and design.
At Computex 2015, Thecus released a new W5000-series model that coexists with the W5000 we're testing today. Almost all of the software features come from Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials, but Thecus does add a few value-added bits as well.
First, let's look at differences between the three Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 versions to find where Essentials fits in. If you haven't used a Microsoft Windows Server OS, many of its capabilities may be new to you. Thecus' W5000 ships with Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials for $526 (via Newegg, at the time of this writing). The W5000 ships with a deployment guide, power cable, screws for mounting drives and a single Ethernet cable. The system should arrive with an outer box that contains the Thecus W5000 package (shown above) inside.
The packaging gives you useful information to help guide your purchasing decision in a retail environment.
Thecus includes an installation guide, Ethernet cable, power cable, screws for mounting drives and four drive sled keys. Thecus has used this same chassis for several years on a number of models, including the current N5550 with its Linux OS.
The HDMI and VGA outputs give you the option to plug in a monitor for configuration purposes. The system has a Dashboard feature that guides users through configuration, settings, most used options, users and user groups.
Windows Server offers an easy backup feature that works seamlessly with other Windows-based PCs on your network.
Server 2012 R2 gives you access to the NAS from remote locations and uses DLNA to share media.
As your WSS knowledge advances, you'll be able to make configuration changes using PowerShell, the modern equivalent of a command-line interface.
For the rest of us, there are always apps, scripts and add-ons that resolve Windows' shortcomings. Windows Storage Spaces won't give you the same level of performance as hardware RAID, FreeBSD or Linux-based operating systems.
Surprisingly, WSS delivers good random read performance, allowing the W5000 to outperform some systems with more powerful processors and more system memory. Random writes lag behind, though as you can see, most of the systems deliver erratic performance from their caching algorithms. The sequential write tests at the same two large block sizes show that, even when we increase the number of outstanding commands, performance continues to trail the Linux systems.
Applications like video editing, which pull files from the NAS, involve reading and writing data at the same time. That works out great when you have sufficient read and write performance to sustain solid mixed workload numbers. This test starts with 100 percent random reads and progresses to 100 percent writes in 10 percent increments.
With the synthetic tests completed, we turn to real-world performance in the applications you might use on a daily basis. The multi-client test is my favorite for showing small business users what to expect from shared storage in a networked environment.
Thecus and Microsoft position systems like the W5000 as small office dream machines with that familiar Windows smell that anyone can configure. In this set of workloads, we use the appliances in an iSCSI configuration, where the NAS appears as a local drive on the host. In 2011, Microsoft updated its software package, though it fizzled out along with dedicated home theater PCs. Microsoft is trying to compete with a free operating system and still trying to make a profit.
It creates the flexibility to set up different workloads independently in one 2U shared infrastructure, providing optimal data center performance per dollar. Our solution is available as a single unified storage solution (Q-3560) and as a high availability solution (QHA-3560). You’ve been told that Windows 8 is a lousy upgrade on existing desktop and laptop PCs, and that you should stick with Windows 7 and pray that the next Windows version steps back from some imaginary cliff.


You mentioned that it is keyboard friendly, but only if you learn lots of new keyboard actions.
Desktops and Laptops are used in a different way to Tablets and smart phones so they need a different UI. So I pulled the trigger on an unlocked Windows Phone flagship that will hopefully take me through at least the first half of this year. And, the playhouse in this room is a cool one, it has vintage-styled design, two floors and wonderful, chic colors of grey and white combination.
I hope Windows server 2012 r2 hyperv – generation 2 virtual, When creating a new virtual machine on ws2012 r2 hyperv, you will have the option to create a generation 1 virtual machine (what has always existed in hyperv as will fit with what you want.
Essentials uses Windows Storage Spaces like the other WSS versions (that's a fancy name for software-defined storage for SMB users).
Despite how easy NAS companies try to make Linux configuration, Windows remains more accessible.
Of course, the W5000 moves away from the Thecus OS based on Linux and moves to Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials on a dedicated hard disk.
Backing the SoC is 2GB of DDR3-1600 memory, just like you'd find on the N5550 Linux-based system. The W5000+ does, in fact, ship with 4GB of system memory, and shares all of the same features. Easy NIC Teaming is a primary feature in Windows Server 2012 R2, and the technology trickles down to the lower-cost WSS operating systems as well. The drive is partitioned into two sections: one 32GB chunk for the OS and the other in which to build a non-redundant storage volume. For the most part, the features list is standard in Windows environments, but desktop users rarely need or come across these specific options. The N5550 model with equivalent hardware, but with Thecus' award-winning Linux-based OS, costs just $389. We would love to see NAS makers increase warranty coverage, but two years is normal for this product group.
And again, the system includes a Seagate SSHD drive loaded with Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials.
While we'd love to see even more detail conveyed on the box, Thecus' products are mainly available online. This is the company's go-to five-bay enclosure for lower-cost NAS products, but it does leave a little to be desired in the security department.
The four USB ports support keyboards and mice, so it's possible to use the system as a desktop. If you're not already familiar with SSHDs, they're essentially a marriage of traditional hard disks and tiny SSDs used for caching.
RAID 0, 5, 6, 10 and JBOD are all options, though given the number of drive bays on the W5000, we recommend RAID 5 as a single volume. Sadly, we haven't found an application that fixes the low write speeds you are about to read about, though.
However, the system trails its competition, including Seagate's NAS Pro and Western Digital's My Cloud DL4100, both of which also employ low-power Atom processors. As an example, I recently built a large dual-Xeon server with 32 mixed SSDs and hard drives. Our benchmark takes place after the system has exhausted its cache, so we see real disk performance in RAID 5 built using Storage Spaces. We are in the process of transitioning testing to full steady state, which will smooth out the graphs. SATA devices are inherently handicapped in these workloads because they communicate over a half-duplex interface. Unfortunately, the W5000 doesn't fare particularly well writing data, and in this sequential chart, you can see the metric is mired as a result. Most of the contenders begin with nearly identical random read performance at a queue depth of one.
Sadly, the performance we measure doesn't fit the needs of modern offices, where system backups, spreadsheets and other data are managed directly on the NAS for redundant storage. Some of the tests are more home-oriented than office, but the mix of traces makes this benchmark universal for small servers that generally see a wide range of uses.
Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 was the next step in the evolution of a product that never really caught on. Thecus and its competition have spent time and money developing their own custom Linux-based operating environments, and now they have refined implementations. NexentaStor provides an ideal solution for NFS and SMB fileshares in applications, desktops and archives.
Moreover, the detail is wonderful, it features table and chairs inside, flower decoration with flower bed for every window and cute yet interesting red front door.
But in this post i will explain Microsoft has traditionally put out point releases to its server operating systems about every two years; windows server 2012 r2 will ostensibly show up just over a more clearly than another blog.
But in reality, Storage Spaces simply fills in a few more check boxes than the Windows software RAID we've had for years. RAID 0, RAID 5 and RAID 6 were enhanced with DRAM buffers, but when you peel away the fancy name and write data out of cache, the performance is still reminiscent of Windows software RAID.
No matter when you were born, there's a good chance that Microsoft's baby was the operating system you learned first.
Microsoft's WSS license allows for up to 4GB, and it'd be easy enough for you to add another 2GB DDR3-1600 module to augment Thecus' factory configuration.
We think the additional 2GB is necessary, given that the W5000 runs with up to 80 percent of its capacity utilized before adding additional software features.
Expansion comes from four USB 2.0 ports on the back of the NAS, along with a single eSATA port. The three storage-specific versions bring many of their features down to embedded appliances at much lower prices.
Windows Server looks and feels like regular desktop Windows, but there are some areas you'll need to explore and read about in order to configure them. A single USB 3.0 port on the front of the system lets you charge a phone or back-up data from an external storage device. As a result, the configuration is extremely quiet, unlike some NAS systems that almost need to live in a closet. But you'll have to fiddle with Windows Server 2012 R2 to get the audio functions working, since DirectX isn't enabled.
If you've never built an Active Directory before, then you'll probably want to read up on it first. If you read our SSD reviews, you already understand how caching exerts its influence on the performance of storage hardware. The heavy waves demonstrate the appliances strong performance when data is in the cache, and lower performance after a cache flush when information is not ready to be read back. SAS is full-duplex, but most of us can't afford to run arrays of expensive, hot-running SAS-based disks.


The workload doesn't push full gigabit bandwidth at any single port, similar to a real office environment. I have loaded "Windows Classic" so that my PC boots into the desktop and has a start button which is much better to use with a mouse. USB 3.0 is only on the front of the NAS, letting you charge mobile devices and back-up external storage products easily. When you open a folder, the data is still there for you to click on, open, run or whatever you want to do with it. Anyone walking by can just press the middle-right edge, open the door and turn the system off. Recently, however, I needed to add more storage to a NAS system that didn't have eSATA, and went mad after finding the system lacked eSATA support. A cache miss, demonstrated by the N5810Pro at a queue depth of 128 in the 8KB chart, can cause very slow performance. Mounting an iSCSI share in a desktop allows the host PC to see the resource as a local drive. The throughput component is naturally important, but the average response time chart holds more weight since it is directly tied to to user experience. Enterprise features were wrapped in the familiar Windows shell, and customers received easy access to file sharing, automated backups, remote access and print server sharing. The ones with peacock pictures at its side are wonderful, these cubbies look cute and interesting. RAID 0, RAID 5, RAID 6 and RAID 10 are all supported, though we'd expect most folks to tap RAID 5 with three to five drives installed.
In our own experience, NAS failures come from easy-to-replace fans and power supplies, rather than the main components that make up the heart of the system.
Though the drive sleds are lockable, we'd like to see a lock on that front door as well to keep unauthorized fingers out. But the benefit of an SSHD is that it utilizes specialized algorithms to keep commonly-used information in the NAND cache, improving performance beyond what a mechanical disk could achieve on its own. Sometimes, features are not always used right away, but over time, they become indispensable. It's a nice start, but the selection is limited compared to the number of add-ons Thcus makes available for its Thecus OS, based on Linux. Fortunately, Microsoft offers a number of extensive walk-through articles to get you started. That if you look just at the improvements Microsoft has made to the Windows desktop, Windows 8 is a bigger and more signification upgrade over Windows 7 than was Windows 7 over the unfairly maligned Windows Vista. And if you don't want to mess with tracking down an official how-to, there is always a video on YouTube showing the easiest way to perform an action.
Dedupe incurs a lot of CPU overhead, so we recommend trying different settings to find the right balance for your workload. I know, the Kool-Aid tastes great, but take a break from Reality Distortion Field and journey back in time with me a scant three years so we can rediscover what made Windows 7 such an impressive upgrade for the day over Vista. Let’s step through that list and see how the Windows 8 upgrade compares, again, just from the perspective of the desktop for users on existing PCs. Windows 8 actually runs better on the same hardware than its predecessor and has lower real-world hardware requirements than its predecessor. This is perhaps the one major area where Windows 8 is a step back, of sorts, to the confusing array of user experiences that somewhat dogged Windows Vista.
There’s just no way around the fact that Windows 8 includes two user experiences, the desktop and Metro, and that many users will be initially confused by this. It works just as well in Windows 8 (and of course the Metro stuff was designed in a touch-first manner and is thus even more integrated and natural).
This trend continues in Windows 8, in that pinned taskbar items are no more powerful than they were in Windows 7.
But Windows 8 does include Metro apps for email, contacts, calendaring, messaging, audio and video playback, and much, much more.
With Windows 8, if you have any supported Windows version (XP and up), you qualify for the upgrade. See, Windows 8 further improves on the Windows 7 desktop in several important and immediately noticeable ways. So in Windows 8, Aero is replaced by a new flat, opaque theme (though the taskbar, curiously, has some translucency).
I happen to like it better than Aero, to be honest, and the automatic window color feature—where the border color of onscreen windows adapts automatically according to the desktop wallpaper, is excellent. Windows has always been knocked for its lack of focus, a byproduct of its success, since Windows targets over 1.3 billion individuals, each with the own ways of doing things and different levels of expertise. And on the surface, the new ribbon-based File Explorer (a renamed update to Windows Explorer) seems to suffer from this lack of focus: I mean, what could be busier than the ribbon in File Explorer?
Like File Explorer, the new Task Manager offers two UIs, a super-simple one for the stopping the occasional crashed app or application, and a power user version that provides performance monitoring, app resource usage history, a startup applications list (where, unlike in Windows 7, you can actually prevent applications from starting automatically), and more. I’ll look at the apps in Windows 8 a bit later in this review, but one of those apps, Internet Explorer 10, also comes in a desktop version that is vastly improved over both its Metro equivalent and previous IE versions. IE 10 brings hardware accelerated, well, everything, not to mention dramatically improved web standards support to Windows. It provides built-in Flash compatibility and, in this desktop version continued browser-add-on support. It even includes some new features, like Flip Ahead, and can and will keep itself up to date over time, just like Google Chrome. Microsoft has completely overhauled and improved the Windows 8 data protection technologies, and the results are File History, a replacement for Previous Versions, and Storage Spaces, a Drive Extender-like data redundancy solution that makes RAID look like the 1970’s-era joke that it is. With Windows 8, you can sign-in with your Microsoft account, creating a seamless way to sync your desktop (and Metro) settings from PC to PC.
This includes browser settings (Favorites, typed URLs, home page, and much more), accessibility settings, web credentials, File Explorer settings, HomeGroup settings, mouse settings, Open With settings, taskbar settings, and desktop theme settings. And if you grab the optional SkyDrive application, you can integrate File Explorer with your online storage. But both of these things are far more consistent in Windows 8, with Metro experiences, of course, but also just generally.
And now, when you search, you can filter the view between apps, settings, and files, and the results include both desktop and Metro items were applicable.
I’ve written elsewhere about the many new keyboard shortcuts in Windows 8, especially those based around the Windows key, but suffice to say that Windows 8 is more keyboard friendly than any previous version of Windows, ever. While you’ll need to move to Windows RT for the most savings, even the traditional x86 versions of Windows 8 do away with some pointless legacy deadwood from Windows 7, including the ill-supported Desktop Gadgets.



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