Axus FiT 300Nov 17th, 2009 | By Simon
Axus FiT 300
: 11/17/09 – 03:50:30 AM
Page 1 : Introduction
: AXUS Microsystems Inc
AXUS Microsystems Inc. is a storage product manufacturer headquartered in Taiwan. They've been in the industry for well over 10 years, providing top quality, reliable enterprise storage solutions. They are a subsidiary of ASUStek and focus on RAID Storage products. With that fact in mind, you can expect a product that is destined to be built of the highest quality.
Browsing through the product list on AXUS's website, it is quite clear that they primarily focus on enterprise solutions – most of us are not going to need a 24 bay SAS RAID device with a 4Gb Fibre connection. We can all dream that would be something to own, but the reality is you're probably looking for something smaller and more affordable. Enter the FiT Raid Series.
The FiT series is an economic RAID storage device that uses hardware RAID technology to provide high performance, superior reliability and large capacity to the end user. The FiT series comes in three difference flavours. The FiT 300 which we are reviewing today holds three drives while the FiT 400 holds four and the FiT 500 has space for five. Without getting into any more detail, let's take a look at the product and get this review going.
Page 2 : Axus FiT 300 Features & Specifications
The first question to answer is what exactly does the FiT 300 have to offer? You have to admit, the name doesn't spell a whole lot out. Browsing to the Axus website, the FiT 300 should be easy to user with ample RAID configurations at your disposal and provide performance in excess of 200MB/s in both RAID 0 and RAID 5. I'm excited, let's see what else the FiT 300 has to offer:
Here are the specifications:
Page 3 : Axus FiT 300 Package & Contents
The Axus FiT 300 came in a reasonable sized box with a huge picture of the storage device itself. A detailed list of specifications is printed on the sides. The box has a very handy carrying case at the top to make transportation easier.
Opening the box up we can see that Axus has a done a good job in protecting the storage device. All sides of the inside are lined with foam and everything is bagged in plastic to prevent scratches during shipment or handling. Each drive bay is removed from the chassis of the device and individually packaged. This, in theory, saves you time as you can install the hard drives directly to the drive bay without having to first remove it from the device. The drive bays are pretty basic in design; the front has a latch for installation and two LEDs for drive activity. The body of the cage is made from sheet metal. The corners are perforated to provide a bit of ventilation.
Included in the package is a box of accessories. Inside this we'll find the power pack, eSATA cables, USB cable, auxiliary fan, screws for drive installation and a drive disc. I'm disappointed that there is no integrated power supply in the device to eliminate the power brick. Likewise, I'm baffled by why the fan is not integrated into the device.
The exterior of the chassis is made out of plastic. On the inside we can see a steel frame for the three drive bays and installation of a circuit board.
On the top edge you'll see a few symbols that will illuminate depending on the status of the storage device. With the exception of the back, the rest of the sides are fairly plain. The bottom feet provide remarkable good grip to prevent the FiT 300 from sliding around and will dampening any vibration the device makes.
The back side of where the business happens. We have all the connection ports here: USB, eSATA, power, K-lock and fan. It's nice to see the toggle switch to completely kill the power to the device. At the same time, this could allow someone to tamper with the device and flip the power off when you least expect it. The rotating dial controls how the drives are configured. I think this is brilliant as not everyone will want to install software to manage the device. If you do want to use the software, leave the setting on GUI. However, for anyone interested in setting the drive upon purchase and forgetting about it, the steps are simple. Once all the drives are installed, turn the dial to what RAID configuration you want then press and hold the Set/Mute/Backup button while flipping the powering up the device. After a couple seconds let go of the Set/Mute/Backup button and the drive will configure itself.
Page 4 : Installation & Web Setup
Setting up the FiT 300 is fairly simple. The first step would be to mount the hard drives to the cages and slide them into the bays. For our tests we will be using 500GB Seagate ST3500320AS drives.
Once that is complete, the next step is to plug everything in at the back. It's completely optional if you want to use the auxiliary fan, but I would recommend it. Three hard drives can product a fair amount of heat and the fan will provide some well deserved cooling. The fan is clipped in and only takes 5 seconds to install. Depending on your computer, you may wish to use the FiT 300 with your USB port or eSATA. Axus realizes that not every motherboard will have eSATA ports on the rear I/O panel so they've included an adapter to use a free internal SATA port.
Now that the FiT 300 has power and can communicate with your PC, it's time to determine how you want to drives to be configured. If you decide to use the rotary dial, select the setting you want, press and hold the Select/Mute/Backup button and turn on the device. After a few seconds you can let go of the Select/Mute/Backup button and the device will begin to configure itself. For those who wish to use the GUI, grab hold of the CD and we'll walk through the installation and configuration process.
The CD provides the Axus FiT Manager software.
The FiT Manager provides basic information of the device: Drive information, warning options, firmware data. It unfortunately does not have the ability to grab SMART data off the drive.
The steps required to configure drives are simple. Navigate to the Basic RAID configuration page, select which RAID configuration you want and create. After a few minutes the configuration will be set.
Regardless of which configuration method you use, GUI or Rotary dial, you're not done yet. Like every new hard drive installed, you need to initialize and format the disk before you can use it. Formatting 1.5TB actually takes some time so grab a drink and chill out while your O/S does its job.
Now that the FiT 300 has been complete configured and it ready to use, let's get to the benchmarking!
Page 5 : IOZone Testing
For testing, we will be using IOzone which runs a set of read and write benchmarks within a set parameter, then outputs a file with the results. The Axus Fit300 will be outfitted with three 500GB Seagate ST3500320AS drives and attached to my P5E3 machine using an eSATA port.
Here's a blurb about IOzone:
IOzone is a file system benchmark tool. The benchmark generates and measures a variety of file operations. IOzone has been ported to many machines and runs under many operating systems. IOzone is useful for performing a broad file system analysis of a vendor's computer platform. While computers are typically purchased with an application in mind it is also likely that over time the application mix will change. Many vendors have enhanced their operating systems to perform well for some frequently used applications. Although this accelerates the I/O for those few applications it is also likely that the system may not perform well for other applications that were not targeted by the operating system. An example of this type of enhancement is: Database. Many operating systems vendors have tested and tuned the file system so it works well with databases. While the database users are happy, the other users may not be as happy as the entire system may be giving all of the system resources to the database users at the expense of all other users. As time rolls on the system administrator may decide that a few more office automation tasks could be shifted to this machine. The load may now shift from a random reader application (database) to a sequential reader. The users may discover that the machine is very slow when running this new application and become dissatisfied with the decision to purchase this platform. By using IOzone to get a broad file system performance coverage the buyer is much more likely to see any hot or cold spots and pick a platform and operating system that is more well balanced.
IOzone is a command line operated testing utility; we will be using the following command.
'-i 0 -i 1'
Write/ Re-Write, Read/ Re-Read tests
Read: Performance measured by reading an existing file
Re-Read: Reading a file which has already been read, tests the utilization of cache
Write: Performance of writing a file to the disk
Re-Write: Re-Writes a file that already exists on the disk
Maximum record size of 64Kb, 4Kb, 8Kb, 16Kb, 32Kb, 64Kb
'-n 32M -g 5G'
Minimum file size of 32MB and maximum file size of 1GB
Location where to write test results
Target of tests
Page 6 : IOZone JBOD Testing
JBOD, at the logical level combines physical disk drives into one larger drive. This comes in handy when dealing with an assortment of drives. Where RAID configuration combines drives at the limit of the smallest disk, JBOD does not.
Starting with the Writer results, JBOD performance peaks at 192MB/s with an overall average of 88.7MB/s. The Re-Writer results take advantage of the system's cache and we clearly see a boost of speed with a peak transfer rate of 235MB/s and an overall average of 123MB/s.
Typically I would go into the Reader and Re-Reader results but because of caching effects the results were inconclusive. We'll resort to results from our other benchmarks to gauge how well the FiT 300 performs.
Page 7 : IOZone RAID 5 Testing
Anyone itching for a sense of speed has probably created a RAID 0 system. RAID 0 splits data across multiple disks (2 is the minimum). With each disk attached in RAID 0 the likelihood of data failure increases but so does speed.
The peak speed was 205MB/s with an overall average of 81MB/s. These speeds are extremely close to those posted by JBOD. The Re-Writer results were significantly faster, the peak was 270MB/s and the average was 150MB/s.
Page 8 : IOZone 64Kb Record Size Comparison
Those that are concerned with data integrity have likely heard of RAID 1, mirroring. It's generally slower as the data needs to be written onto both disks. With RAID 5 you get the advantage of speed and redundancy. Total storage is the combined total number of all disks minus one as redundancy where parity is distributed over all disks in the array. RAID 5 is perhaps the cheapest way to boost hard disk performance while keeping data safe.
The peak speed was 120MB/s with an overall average of 48MB/s. This is considerably slower than JBOD and RAID 0. However, for those looking for make the most of the FiT 300's three drive system with some form of reliability that RAID 0 doesn't have, the drop in performance may be worth it. The peak Re-Writer result was 182MB/s with an average of 134MB/s.
Page 9 : IOZone 64Kb Record Size Comparison
Typically, with modern day software, a record size of 64kb is used with larger files. With the sheer amount of data conveyed throughout the last few tests, it was hard to accurately gauge the Axus FiT 300 performance, and even harder to do so across different RAID configurations. In the next section, we will be comparing the data compiled through the tests we ran earlier to gauge performance over the various RAID configurations.
It's really no surprise that RAID 0 claims first place followed by RAID 5 and then JBOD. What is surprising is how small of a difference the performance is between RAID 0 and JBOD. At times the difference is almost negligible, making it a meaningless effort to sacrifice data reliability without getting a big boost of speed.
You can see in the above graph how ridiculous the Reader and Re-Reader results were.
Page 10 : Intel NAS Performance Test
Intel's Intel's Network Attached Storage Performance Toolkit, or NASPT if you would prefer will conclude our look at performance.
The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (NASPT) is a file system exerciser and analysis tool designed to enable direct comparison of network attached storage (NAS) performance. NASPT seeks to discern differences in user level performance when a given client PC uses different remote storage solutions. To that end, NASPT uses a set of real world workload traces gathered from typical digital home applications: HD video playback and record, office productivity applications, video rendering/content creation and more. NASPT reproduces the file system traffic observed in these traces onto whatever storage solution the user provides, records the system response, and reports a rich variety of performance information. While NASPT runs on a Windows XP* client, the target NAS device may run any operating system.
Intel's NASPT offers a number of strengths. First and foremost: consistency. With INASPT's built in traces, performance numbers resulting in various tests are easily emulated across various systems and gives insight into how a NAS system would perform under real world conditions. Unlike with localized storage, we are not interested in separating software environmental factors as by definition and function, NAS storage units are heavily dependent on system software, operating systems, network settings and so on. Of course, if we were to simply test the bare hard drive performance at the system level our resulting numbers would be significantly higher.
With the trace files, we can simulate specified hard drive activity down to the distribution of random and sequential reads/ writes, the spread of data over individual platters, or locality, and a number of access characteristics.
For our tests, we will be looking at four tests: HD Video Playback, Content Creation, Office Productivity, Copy To NAS and Copy From NAS.
Let's examine the results, starting with the HD Video trace. This test consists of reading a single file approximately 4800 MB in size and for the most part consists of sequential reading, meaning that all the pieces of the file are located physically near one another on the platters of the hard drive resulting in little arm movement to retrieve data. Content creation is exactly what the name suggestions. This test simulates the creation of a video. A total of 99 files are used and the test is primarily write driven (95% write operations) with up to 64kb block sizes and 39.1% sequential operations. With office productivity, we have a wide array of file sizes and generally random access.
The order of performance seems to jump all over the place. At times, RAID 5 trumps JBOD and RAID 0. Other times it becomes dead last while RAID 0 and JBOD duke it out. The random operations required for Content Creation severely hamper the performance of RAID 5. Even though the results are slow, we can see that RAID 0 with striped writing has an advantage over JBOD.
Page 11 : IOMeter Testing
IOMeter is an I/O subsystem measurement and characteristic tool for single and clustered systems initially designed by Intel.
IOMeter is both a workload generator (that is, it performs I/O operations in order to stress the system) and a measurement tool (that is, it examines and records the performance of its I/O operations and their impact on the system). It can be configured to emulate the disk or network I/O load of any program or benchmark, or can be used to generate entirely synthetic I/O loads. It can generate and measure loads on single or multiple (networked) systems.
I configured IOMeter to create a 1GB file on the target device, Axus FiT 300, and it will pull the performance over 5 minutes and report back the average transfer rate for various block size recordings. The results are 100% sequential.
The results show remarkably similar performance between RAID 0 and RAID 5 with the JBOD being a few MB/s behind.
Page 12 : Crystal Disk Mark, ATTO Disk Benchmark & HD Tach
Crystal Disk Mark and ATTO Disk Benchmark are more conventional benchmarking applications. They do the exact same as IOZone and IOMeter but in a far more simplified manner. The only take a minute or two to complete versus the several hours it takes to finish one run with IOZone.
Since Crystal Disk Mark and ATTO Disk Benchmark are so similar, it is no surprise that the results are similar. RAID 0 and RAID 5 go toe to toe with JBOD slightly behind.
Here's a comparison of drive performance using HD Tach. From left to right: JBOD, RAID 0 and RAID 5.
Page 13 : Power Consumption
There's not a whole lot to this page but I'm always interested in knowing what the power draw is on my new toys. I plugged the power brick into my power meter and took several readings. The RAID Compilation draw is measured when the FiT Manager was configuring the three drives into RAID 0. The format load was taken when I was formatting the drives. The active case was when I was running the ATTO benchmark. The Idle load was when my system was on with no disk activity. The sleep condition was taken when my computer was shut down but power to the FiT 300 was left on.
Overall, the draw is not huge. However, even with the computer shut down there is still a phantom load of 25 watts going to the FiT300. The only way to stop this is to flip the toggle switch to off once the computer has been shutdown.
Page 14 : Conclusion
As a subsidiary of ASUStek, I had high expectations for their products. For the most part, Axus delivered a superior product. The Axus FiT 300 offers users the option of hardware RAID with high speed eSATA performance. The ability to configure the RAID setting without having to install a device manager is quite nice as the software lacks many useful features like SMART monitor or drive diagnostics.
With the exception of not having an integrated power supply and fan, the Axus FiT 300 has many positive aspects. From the beginning, the FiT 300 has a very clean and elegant look. It could easily sit beside an HTPC and blend in with the home theatre surroundings. The RAID performance is remarkable and whether or not you want maximum capacity with RAID 0 or enjoy a bit of comfort in redundancy, you won't need to sacrifice too much sequential performance. Last but not least, there is very little overhead power required. For someone who doesn't need network storage and just wants fast speed, the Axus FiT series is definitely worth considering.
- Flexible RAID configuration
- Good performance
- No integrated PSU or fan
Thank you Axus for making this review possible.