Remote Storage with the Newisys NA-1400 NAS Appliance

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A company called Newisys was happy to provide one of their brand new NA-1400 NAS appliances for the experiment. Our test sample came with four 250 GB drives, for a total of 1.0 TB of storage. Larger capacity versions using 400 GB and 500 GB drives are also available, and a new version using Seagate's new 750 GB drives is also in the works, allowing for a maximum of 3.0 terabytes. The drives came pre-configured in a RAID 5 configuration, reducing the effective capacity to 750 GB, but adding a layer of data protection that is necessary in a professional context. Home users who do not need the extra protection may want to reconfigure the box to create a larger RAID 0 partition.

Newisys is targeting the NA-1400 at the small business and home theater markets. These markets have different requirements, but both can benefit from an integrated NAS box. The biggest advantage is that an integrated system does not require steady maintenance— something that a small business cannot afford and a home user doesn't want to be bothered with. In addition, a small business gets a source of centralized storage, and a home user gets far more capacity than could fit into a small HTPC case.

The NA-1400 is built around a 600 MHz Intel XScale 80219 processor and a customized version of Linux called ApplianceWare. In addition, it features dual gigabit ethernet ports and dual USB 2.0 ports. Why would you want these extra ports? The extra ethernet port could be used to provide a direct data connection to one system that bypasses network traffic without sacrificing network connectivity for other systems. The USB ports can be used for just about anything. For example, ApplianceWare allows the NA-1400 to double as a print server. Other capabilities can be added by installing additional software.

A little black box with a 120W power brick.

Feature Highlights of Newisys NA-1400 (from Newisys' web site)
1.0TB, 1.6TB and 2.0TB models
More storage than you'd ever want to keep quiet in your main system.
4 hot-swap SATA, high-capacity disk drive The hot-swap feature is genuinely useful, allowing failed drives to be replaced without interrupting network access. It will even re-build RAID partitions automatically.
18 – 22 MB/s performance
Hardly on par with a local drive, but as expected for network storage.
Intel® XScale® processor with Linux-based operating system for reliability and compatibility
Not Windows based — it should be stable without requiring constant updating.
Two USB ports on the front panel for easy connection with digital media devices; both can be configured for separate networks or direct-connect
Multi-purpose, but documentation on exactly how to use them is scarce.
Two GigE RJ45 Ethernet ports on the rear panel for direct-attach or Ethernet-based host connection A direct connection will not be subject to performance losses from network traffic.
Locking front and rear panels for added security against unauthorized removal of hot-swap drives
Important for use in public places. A slot for a Kensington lock makes it easy to secure.

A lockable door prevents the drives from being removed by quick or inquisitive fingers.

The device itself is straightforward: It's a black box with a few ports, some flashing lights (power, network access, and individual read & write access lights for each drive), and a power button. All of the lights are bright (very bright) blue LEDs. The drives are mounted in individual cartridges that can be easily removed if necessary.

Drives are easily accessible from the front panel.

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