Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S review: SAS storage, super price

A hugely expandable rack NAS that’s just as big on value and performance

A photograph of the front and rear of the Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S

IT Pro Verdict


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    Good 10GbE performance

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    Great value

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    SAS3/SATA support

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    Enterprise-class data protection features

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    Massive storage expansion


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    Only ten business apps provided

Qsan has traditionally offered a more affordable range of storage arrays than the blue chips and the XCubeNAS XN8012S aims to make them even more appealing. This 2U 12-bay rack appliance brings SAS3 and SATA into play and with support for HDDs and SSDs, it offers SMBs a versatile storage solution.

There’s a lot more going on underneath too, as Qsan’s ZFS-based QSM (Qsan Storage Manager) software presents a solid range of enterprise-class data protection and storage saving features as standard. Along with near unlimited NAS and iSCSI LUN snapshots, QSM provides compression and data deduplication, three WORM (write once read many) policies to protect NAS share data from tampering, and intelligent real-time data tiering.

A diskless base unit is tagged with a list price of only £3,259, so Qsan certainly hits the mark for value. To highlight this, Synology’s SA3400 12-bay rack array also supports SAS3/SATA storage but steps in with a starting price that’s around a grand more.

Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S review: Design and features

The appliance’s enhanced storage support is achieved by using one of Qsan’s removable controller sleds, which you’ll find in all of its higher-end arrays. The XN8012S may look very similar to Qsan’s XN8012R 18-bay model but this entry-level hybrid appliance employs a standard motherboard and supports SATA storage along with two NVMe SSDs in its rear 6-bay SFF cage.

The XN8012S controller is powered by a 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Xeon D-1527 CPU, and base units come with 8GB of DDR4 UDIMM memory which can be upgraded to 128GB. The controller has a single Gigabit management port and comes ready for action with dual embedded 10Gbase-T data ports.

A photograph of the interior of the Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S

Two module bays offer plenty of port expansion potential with Qsan offering dual or quad 10GbE, dual 25GbE and 16Gbps fibre channel options. The XN8012S can be expanded hugely outside the box: you can connect up to eight Qsan 24-bay XD5324D disk shelves to the controller’s dual SAS3 ports or add up to four Western Digital UltraStar Data60 or Data102 SAS JBODs for a massive 7.4PB total capacity.

Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S review: Deployment and performance

To test 10GbE performance, we fitted six of Toshiba’s new 18TB MG09 SATA HDDs and used Qsan’s Finder app to discover the appliance on the lab network, upgrade its firmware and create a single 77TB RAID5 storage pool. A point worth mentioning is that whereas Synology has locked down support for its own HDDs and SSDs on its enterprise arrays, Qsan confirmed to us that it will continue to qualify all drives from the major vendors.

For our host system, we called up the lab’s Dell EMC PowerEdge T640 tower server equipped with dual 2.1GHz 22-core Xeon Scalable Gold 6152 CPUs plus 384GB of DDR4 memory and running Windows Server 2019. With a NAS share mapped to the server over 10GbE, Iometer recorded healthy sequential read and write rates of 9.2Gbits/sec and 9.1Gbits/sec.

Real world speeds are just as impressive with drag and drop copies of a 25GB test file between the appliance and test server delivering average read and write speeds of 5.3Gbits/sec and 5.2Gbits/sec. The XN8012S will make a good backup vault, as securing a 22.4GB test folder with 10,500 small files averaged a speedy 2.6Gbits/sec.

It was the same story for IP SANs with a 1TB iSCSI LUN presented to the server returning Iometer sequential read and write speeds of 9.3Gbits/sec and 9.1Gbits/sec. We ramped up the pressure with a dual 10GbE MPIO connection to the target and saw Iometer read and write speeds increase nicely to 18.5Gbits/sec and 13.7Gbits/sec.

Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S review: Management options

A screenshot of the Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S's control panel software

For local management, we found the QSM web console is well designed, with the control panel app providing access to all storage configuration functions. We easily created NAS shares, applied access security, defined read and write permissions and assigned storage quotas.

One of three WORM policies can be applied to NAS shares where data retention periods are set in days and can protect existing data or files subsequently added to them. Take care with the ‘WORM forever’ policy, however, as this stops share contents from ever being modified or deleted and won’t allow the volume containing the share to be removed either.

The free XInsight app will prove useful for businesses with multiple Qsan appliances, as you can monitor them all from one console. Running as a web service on a Windows host, it provides a handy dashboard showing total used and available storage plus quick links to views of controller status and internal temperatures.

Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S review: Business apps

App choices, on the other hand, are quite limited. Qsan only offers ten, although these do cover all the main business requirements. You have ones for backup, file management, hardware monitoring, media management, cloud syncing, antivirus, VPNs, SQL databases, web services and virtualisation.

All the snapshot action takes place in the Backup app where you can create them on demand and use a schedule to run regular snapshots as often as every five minutes. To restore data, entire snapshots can be rolled back, or you can browse NAS share snapshots and restore individual files and folders.

A screenshot of the Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S's Xinsight software

The same app is used to back up data to Rsync-compliant remote appliances, send it to Alibaba Cloud OSS, Amazon S3 or HiCloud S3 public cloud accounts and replicate folders between XCubeNAS appliances using the Xmirror service. The Cloud Sync app manages one-way and two-way sync jobs with Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive while scheduled Windows workstation backup is handled by the Acronis-powered XReplicator software - and the price even includes a 5-user license.

Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S review: Verdict

The XCubeNAS XN8012S is a great choice for SMBs that want a versatile NAS appliance with SAS3 and SATA device support and top-notch data protection features. It may be short on app choices but it delivers great 10GbE performance, is extremely good value and offers a fearsome expansion potential.

Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S specifications

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Chassis2U rack chassis
CPU2.2GHz quad-core Intel Xeon D-1527
Memory8GB ECC DDR4 UDIMM (max 128GB)
Storage12 x SAS3/SATA LFF/SFF
RAIDRAID0, 1, 5, 6, Z3, 10, 50, 60, JBOD
Expansion2 x port module slots, 2 x SAS3 external expansion ports
Network2 x 10GbE RJ-45 data ports
Other portsGigabit management
Power2 x hot-plug 850W PSUs
ManagementWeb browser, Qsan XInsight
Warranty3 year limited
Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.