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XPE vs unRAID / VM / performance / reliability / general advice needed



Hi everyone


I am a little bit lost reading all forums and tutorials, where people which take some assumptions for granted don't bother to explain the basics.


So first let me explain where I am right now and where I've come from. First I was considering buying the NAS device from the shop.




At first, I was considering buying Synology NAS. What I liked about it was the simplicity of DSM, the flexibility of SHR, the idea of private cloud available from everywhere and mobile apps to support it.


I was considering buying 4+ bay NAS as using anything less seems like a huge sacrifice in terms of the amount of drives used for redundancy comparing to amount of drives available for use. 


What I didn't like was the price tag on those multibay devices, fact that to utilise the power of multiple HDs connected to RAID you would have to use 2-4 wired aggregated network connections which would require further investments in the special network switch and infrastructure, special card to PC and the whole multi-wire absurd all over the place. So this is when I started to consider another brand.




I liked that especially for the idea of adding DAS functionality on top of similar NAS functionality offered by Synology.


Unfortunately, the USB solution provided in some "cheaper" devices is limited only to 100MB/s transfer so there is no improvement over the single 1Gb/s network connection. They offer also 10Gb/s network cards in higher spec models but that would also require a huge investment in the network card, not mentioning lack of connectivity on the laptop - Mac in particular which holds already Thunderbolt 2 port instead, the same as some QNAP models. This solution is really tempting as some people reported performance better than standard SSD reaching 1900MB/s read 900 MB/s write but the price tag on those models is not acceptable 2-3 thousands for an empty case. 




Then I discovered this Linus video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpXhSrhmUXo and I loved that idea from the beginning as it seems to solve the performance bottleneck problem as everything seats under the same hood and allow to put money where they are really needed - to buy better and bigger hard disks, maximise storage and horsepower of the machine, GPU, RAM, etc. 


So this is where I am right now, I've bought better hard disks 6 x 3TB HGST 7200 RPM and fresh new powerful gaming rig for less than cheapest QNAP with Thunderbolt adapter. I've followed the setup ... and this is where my doubts have shown up and I started to look for alternatives to unRAID and I started to consider XPE.


And here is why?

  • Unlike Linus on the youtube video, I've chosen new hardware setup based on AMD solution Ryzen + Vega GPU. The first problem is that Ryzen, unlike the Intel processor, doesn't allow you to have second video card yet even motherboard is equipt with HDMI output. It might be possible in the future when a new version of Ryzens would be released. I might have to put additional cheapest video card to solve that problem but my attempt to work with just one video card has failed so far even such option seems to be available.
  • Posible poor performance symptoms. Right now I am waiting for the second day for the Parity-Sync to finish. It's been 2 days already and covered only 77% of space (2,3 TB out of 3TB in 1 day 18 hours and 18 minutes).  It was promising at the beginning as the single drive was showing above 150MB/s read write speed and combined read speed from all 5 drives 750MB/s and predicted time to finish this process was just 4 hours.




So I can see some people, like me right now, are considering to go the same way as me from unRAID to XPE https://xpenology.com/forum/topic/5270-reliability-and-performance-vs-unraid/ but at the same time some other people considering to go opposite way https://xpenology.com/forum/topic/3591-xpenology-vs-unraid/



So I do have doubts about performance, reliability, functionality to access the NAS from outside - as I understand Synology is trying to block some functionality so special hacks of network cards are required, the old website with some few months link in one of that post has gone already https://myxpenology.com doesn't sound promising, etc, and so on.




On top of this, I do not quite understand virtualisation approach in here.


I can understand that I can install XPE bootloader which would allow me to install DSM as the first OS, right? So like in Synology (and unRAID) I can create VM running lat's say Windows 10, right? but I've not seen anything like Linus video prepared with XPE yet so I'm not sure if this would be possible at all to setup this the same way as in case of unRAID as a gaming rig on top of XPE+DSM? And if yes would the performance be the same/similar like in case of unRAID?


Now there seems to be another installation path possible to install XPE in VM. So this would be running on Windows already, right? So this would be XPE+DSM running on top native Windows OS.  But is it possible to utilise all functionality and performance of NAS native system in this case? Windows would have to be running all the time to keep server availability, I'm not sure about how the performance of each drive would be affected and I would have to leave one just to run Windows instead of having full space of array available for virtualized Windows. 


I wasn't sure but it seems like XPE also doesn't require any RAID hardware - the same like unRAID, right? I had some doubts as AMD motherboards supports only RAID 1, 0, and 10 as I remember where I would like to go with 5 or 6 or SHR equivalent if possible.


Any comments and answers would be appretiated, especially around virtualisation subject. 



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XPE+DSM doesn't require RAID hardware. My motherboard has RAID hardware but DSM creates it's own software RAID array I believe. I set my disks in AHCI mode and DSM does the rest. Far as I know you can use any DSM RAID configuration including SHR, although I recall something about the different models (3615xs, 3617xs, 916) having one small issue regarding a RAID config that one or two support but not all three, but I forget the details on that. 


If you run Windows in a VM or Docker on top of XPE+DSM, you will probably lose FPS in games. I think folks that VM do it the other way, Windows native and XPE+DSM in a VM. Yes, the Windows box and the VM would have to be running for the XPE+DSM to be running.


I personally run XPE+DSM on dedicated hardware. I don't have any experience with the other vendors. I started with a real DS410, then found this project and have used it on two different bare metal installs.


Main thing is to think about your use case and figure out the tradeoffs.

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its about definig your goals and conditions and the make a pro/con list

some points might rule out one solution


like >100MB/s -> 10GBit/s Network

(also you might have overlooked that the MB/s is not all, Lateny also important and when you handle lots of small files even a 10 GBit/s net with a 10 x 4 TB NAS will be slower than a SATA3 SSD)


price, if you limit the hardware to 800€ lots of bigger NAS (with 10GBit support through PCIe slot - the card costs extra) with 10 disks are off limit


somehow i got the impression you wnated to use a gaming pc for playing games and at the same time as nas

i dint think thats not going to work when using emulation/hypervisor as you expect optimal performace in games and the same for the nas function


a nas i supposed to be a dedicated box with a single purpuse (more or less, you can install additinal software and plugins end even can host VM's as long as it not gaming), usualy the thing does not have a monitor (at least not permanently)


as you already have your hardware (ryzen and vega) how about this "solution"


you extend the beefed up gaming pc with M2 NVMe 1TB SSD (speedy) and put in the additional 6x3TB disks (empty) and use Windows 10 to create a software RAID5 (yes windown can do this and its fast)

that way you have fast access to your storage (6x3TB) as it is local and can run in max. speed (no network in between) and if a 2nd/3rd computer need access, windoes can create a share so other computer can access it

its kind of windows is your nas as a additinal function of the already running windows as gaming computer

that way the main/gaming computer can get max. speed as the storage is local and instead of dedicated additional hardware you buy a nvme ssd for extra speed (windows itself and games on ssd, rest in raid5)


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I think those machine with multicore processors are simply too powerful to designate them to just one task. In my case, I've chosen Ryzen 5 1600 with having 6 cores with threading giving 12 virtual cores so splitting this power like 8 for Windows + 4 for everything else is even more than enough. 


I'm not worried about a performance as I expect to see not more than 5% reduction or 2-3% in the real-life scenario. I will try to test it myself but I think Linus video has proved that point already.


I would rather avoid running windows as the main OS unless it would be totally unavoidable but in this case, I would rather go and try to install PXE+DSM as a virtual machine if this is a prooved real production environment rather than depending on Microsoft solutions.

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