Synology has a great track record in the network-attached storage (NAS) market for providing rock-solid products with a wide range of features. DiskStation Manager (DSM) is the name for Synology's NAS operating system, and version 6.0 is the latest release.
For purposes of this review we were provided with an RS3614xs+ 12-bay rackmount storage system, which has an Intel Xeon E3-1230 v2 CPU and 8 GB of memory. We populated the unit with six Seagate 3 TB hard disks plus two STEC 200 GB SSD drives.
DSM 6.0 moves to a 64-bit operating system, making it possible to take advantage of more memory. This comes into play in a big way if you plan on running Docker containers on your NAS box.
DSM 6.0 also uses the Btrfs file system, which brings with it a number of capabilities including snapshot and replication. This feature includes the ability to do point-in-time recovery of individual files when needed.
Synology DSM 6.0 Setup
Initial setup for the system couldn't be easier. After powering on the unit with drives attached, we ran the Synology Assistant to configure the system and install the latest firmware. Once this has completed, all system configuration takes place through the DSM web interface.
For the purpose of this review we created a single RAID group using all six 3 TB drives (see Figure 1). We installed two 200 GB SSDs in our demo system to test the SSD caching feature. DSM 6.0 offers a read-write cache that requires a minimum of two SSDs and a read-only cache, which needs just one disk.
The first step in provisioning storage is to create a volume. All storage-related actions take place using the Storage Manager app. When creating a new volume, you have the opportunity to configure the allocation unit size to meet a specific application. This value is set upon creation of the new volume and cannot be changed once set.
Figure 2 shows the options, which include 4 KB (optimized for Windows ODX), 8 KB (optimized for VMware VAAI), 16 KB, 32 KB and 64 KB. Volumes support both file-level shares and iSCSI LUNs.
DSM 6.0 supports a number of options when it comes to iSCSI LUNs. The first choice you must make is between a file-level or block-level LUN.
A file-level LUN uses an existing volume and supports thin provisioning to allocate storage on demand from a bigger pool. A block-level LUN is optimized for access performance.
The two types of LUNs, regular and advanced, offer better I/O performance (for regular) versus hardware acceleration commands for VMware VAAI and Windows ODX (for advanced) plus LUN snapshots and clone.
You'll need to configure an advanced LUN if you want to use the snapshot replication feature.
Synology DSM 6.0 Management
The DSM 6.0 management page provides a wealth of information about the health of the NAS. The resource manager shows a number of different graphical views of overall system health (see Figure 3) plus individual components like the CPU, memory, network, disk, volume and iSCSI LUNs. A main menu button displays all available tools to include any user-installed features like Docker support.
Synology supports remote terminal connections into a DSM 6.0 system over SSH. This feature is disabled by default so you must enable it on the Terminal & SNMP page.
Telnet is also supported but is a less secure protocol. For added security, DSM 6.0 includes an auto-block feature that will block an IP address after a default of ten failed login attempts in five minutes. The attempt and time values are configurable by an administrator.
A Synology NAS may be the perfect choice if you run any of the major virtualization platforms such as VMware, Hyper-V or Xen. Synology DSM 6.0 fully supports iSCSI, NFS and SMB 3.0.
To test the file copy speedup features we created two LUNs of 100 GB each and then connected to the server from a Windows 10 workstation.
We formatted the drives as NTFS volumes and then copied a 6 GB file to use as test data. Next, we made six copies of the 6 GB file for a total of 36 GB on the drive.
Copying in this manner took an average of 48 seconds versus 204 seconds over the network.
Docker support works quite well. We were able to download several Docker images and launch them without a problem.
The container management console shows information about individual containers as shown in Figure 4. It also provides convenient Start, Stop, Restart and Force stop buttons to control execution.
It's also possible to launch a web-based terminal session into the container should that be needed. The Registry tool provides a search capability connected to the Docker image repository.
Provisioning a new container is as simple as searching, downloading and then adding the new image. You can also add an image using a URL or from a file.
Synology offers a containerized version of their DSM software should you have the need for multiple-tenant operations. This makes it relatively easy to give control to a small portion of the total storage complete with a Docker-based DSM to an individual or group of users.
Synology has definitely raised their own bar of excellence with the release of DSM 6.0. New features like Btrfs make this version worth the upgrade. It's also a great platform to consider for small workgroups, especially with the Docker functionality.
Paul Ferrill, based in Chelsea, Alabama, has been writing about computers and software for almost 20 years. He has programmed in more languages than he cares to count, but now leans toward Visual Basic and C#.