Qsan Technology TrioNAS U221 review

Qsan’s storage appliance combines fast 10GbE performance with ZFS data protection and it's good value.

IT Pro Verdict

Better value than Netgear’s ReadyDATA 5200, the TrioNAS U221 delivers an impressive range of data protection features. It can’t match the ReadyDATA for external expansion but it is noticeably faster over 10-Gigabit.


  • +

    Good value; Easy deployment; Fast 10GbE performance; Extensive data protection features


  • -

    ZFS delivers low reduplication rates; No external expansion

Qsan's TrioNAS appliances have every storage angle covered as these ZFS-based systems combine NAS, IP SAN and cloud backup services.

The TrioNAS U221 on review is the flagship product and targets SMBs looking for an affordable network backup appliance which supports Gigabit and 10-Gigabit (10GbE) connections.

The U221 looks good value with CMS Distribution offering a diskless version for 3,400 ex VAT. To keep costs down the U221 uses a basic 12-bay 2U chassis equipped with a Gigabyte server class motherboard.

On the plus side you get a fast 3.2GHz Xeon E3-1225 V2 CPU, 32GB of DDR3 ECC memory, dual hot-swap PSUs and a pair of 10GbE fibre SFP ports. However, you'll find the U221 lacking the RAID controller redundancy and external expansion capabilities found in its more expensive AegisSAN LX P600Q-D316.

Nevertheless, with ZFS at the helm you get a fine choice of storage features with scheduled snapshots, data deduplication, compression and thin provisioning on the menu. ZFS allows you to speed up array performance by using SSDs as read or write caches plus local and remote replication come as standard.

You can choose from the basic web browser interface or Qsan's QCentral for appliance management


Deployment is swift as you can use the appliance's web console for direct management or Qsan's QCentral Java utility which manages multiple systems from the same interface. For performance testing we popped in a triplet of WD's latest 2TB Enterprise Se SATA III drives and created a single RAID-5 storage pool.

Multiple pools can be created each with their own RAID array type and within these you create ZFS file systems for NAS operations or directories for iSCSI targets. You can apply data deduplication, compression and thin provisioning to both NAS shares and iSCSI targets.

From selected ZFS file systems you create network shares and enable CIFS, NFS, AFP and FTP as appropriate. It's also possible to apply read and write access restrictions and use Qsan's UnifiedAUTH and its Active Directory support to simplify client access authentication to each storage service. For IP SANs, you select a ZFS directory, assign a LUN to it and decide which hosts can access it.

NAS shares use ZFS file systems, IP SANs use directories and both support data deduplication

Deduplication and cloud support

In previous tests of other ZFS based appliances we've found this file system delivers modest deduplication ratios and the U221 is no exception. To test data reduction ratios we used the Binary Testing deduplication test suite and CA's ARCserve r16 (web ID:639961) with it set to use a mapped share as a disk based backup device.

Using a 4GB data set of 1,000 files, we ran a standard backup strategy consisting of daily incrementals and weekly full backups. After the first full backup had run, 2 per cent of data was modified in 40 per cent of files prior to each subsequent backup. After a one month simulation we saw a reduction ratio of 3.02:1 low but almost identical to what Netgear's ReadyDATA 5200 acheived.

The cloud portion of the TrioNAS products isn't extensive as support is limited to Amazon's S3 service. We found it easy enough to use with our Amazon Web Services account although, unlike Synology's NAS appliances, you need to know your bucket names when setting up a backup schedule as Qsan won't display them for you when you enter your access keys.

Anti-virus features have been improved greatly as the price includes a 3-year subscription to McAfee for on-appliance scanning. Previously, you had to use a separate ICAP server but local scheduled scans can be set up from the web interface and QCentral.

The appliance only supports cloud backup to Amazon's S3 service

Performance and snapshots

Using a Dell PowerEdge R515 loaded with Windows Server 2008 R2, we found NAS speeds over Gigabit to be good with Iometer reporting raw read and write rates of 107MB/sec for a mapped share. Real world speeds are high with a 2.52GB video clip copy averaging 106MB/sec.

General backup ops are fast with our 22.4GB mix of 10,500 small files copied at an average of 70MB/sec. Moving to 10GbE testing, we installed an Emulex OCE11102-NM adapter in the Dell server and connected it directly to the appliance's dual-port 10GbE card over fibre.

With jumbo frames enabled, Iometer reported fast iSCSI raw read and write rates of around 1010MB/sec which equates to a speedy 7.9Gbits/sec. This translates to fast backup speeds over 10GbE with our video clip copy averaging 450MB/sec and our small file folder achieving 150MB/sec.

ZFS offers plenty of data protection features with scheduled snapshots included as standard. Snapshots can be viewed natively as shares for drag and drop file and folder restores, used for full volume rollback and cloned to create a new volume. Using replication, you can create copies of selected ZFS file systems locally or to another Qsan appliance for essential off-site disaster recovery.

The price includes a 3-year subscription to McAfee's on-appliance anti-virus scanner


The TrioNAS U221 competes directly with Netgear's ZFSbased ReadyDATA 5200 and puts up a compelling argument in its favour as it's better value. The U221 does lose points for its lack of external expansion but it's faster over 10GbE and matches Netgear for backup and data protection features.


Better value than Netgear’s ReadyDATA 5200, the TrioNAS U221 delivers an impressive range of data protection features. It can’t match the ReadyDATA for external expansion but it is noticeably faster over 10-Gigabit.

Chassis: 2U rack

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-6UASV3

CPU: 3.2GHz E3-1225 V2 Xeon

Storage: 12 x SATA III hot-swap drive bays

Array support: RAID0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50, 60, JBOD

Power: 2 x 550W hot-plug PSUs

Network: 2 x Gigabit; 2 x 10GbE

Management: Web browser, QCentral

Warranty: 3yr RTB

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.