It is getting easier to see NAS available in the market. Home user and small office will want it for backup, streaming, sharing, running personal blog, and etc. Why it is getting popular? Well, let’s begin with the original.
Computer Appliance, NAS, Server Appliance, and Server
Start from the terms we are going to repeat over and over again. Wiki define them very clearly. I would like to quote them here to clarify the definition and relationship among them.
A computer appliance is generally a separate and discrete hardware device with integrated software (firmware), specifically designed to provide a specific computing resource. These devices became known as “appliances” because of their similarity to home appliances, which are generally “closed and sealed” – not serviceable by the owner. The hardware and software are pre-integrated and pre-configured before delivery to customer, to provide a “turn-key” solution to a particular problem. Unlike general purpose computers, appliances are generally not designed to allow the customers to change the software (including the underlying operating system), or to flexibly reconfigure the hardware.
Network-attached storage (NAS) is file-level computer data storage connected to a computer network providing data access to a heterogeneous group of clients. NAS not only operates as a file server, but is specialized for this task either by its hardware, software, or configuration of those elements. NAS is often manufactured as a computer appliance – a specialized computer built from the ground up for storing and serving files – rather than simply a general purpose computer being used for the role.
A server appliance is a computer appliance that works as a server. It is designed so that the end-user does not need to understand the details of the operating system or the commands associated with it. Server appliances have their hardware and software preconfigured by the manufacturer. The appliance is plugged into an existing network and is turned on by the end-user. The user selects the components to be active, through a simple user interface, and the appliance then boots to an active state, which is usable within minutes. Server appliances are designed to run and be controlled remotely after the initial set-up. The units are designed to be very easy to operate and provide narrow selection of network services.
A server is a system (software and suitable computer hardware) that responds to requests across a computer network to provide, or help to provide, a network service. Servers can be run on a dedicated computer, which is also often referred to as “the server”, but many networked computers are capable of hosting servers. In many cases, a computer can provide several services and have several servers running.
When NAS was created, it was designed as a single task computer like a fax machine or print server. Focus on hardware failure protection, 24/7 continuous operations with low power consumption, and sharing. Therefore, we see RAID, RISC processor, and simplified user control on different earlier products.
As storage device is getting cheaper, backup becomes more complex and complete. The original is to use RAID for hardware failure protection and magnetic tapes for archiving different version. Now you may see applications provides the same capability on NAS. You may also schedule for archiving to external device or another NAS as a more complete data protection.
Due to the improvement of hardware (faster hard drive, bus, and network) and increase demand on special task (RAID, streaming, and encryption), NAS needs a more power processor or a feature-rich SoC. It also helps NAS to run applications more efficiently.
When people have more and more device, they need different solution to access files on NAS. Vendors try to provide more applications and access solution to work with media player, smart TV, mobile device, web browser, virtual machine, and etc.
From NAS to Server Appliance
Now you may run business applications, CMS, database, Virtualization software, and etc. on NAS as fast as an entry level server now. The improved user interface also helps non-IT users to install and manager software without understanding the detail.
The traditional server offers high flexibility and lower price while NAS provides a plug-and-play solution. IT professional may save money by using Linux and open source software on servers. Non-IT user may help themselves without in-depth knowledge with NAS.
Public cloud is hot but there are always needs for privacy. Even the internet becomes faster, there are still people preferred to have their own safe box. NAS provides protection, computing, security, and keeps everything simple. I can see the new NAS, or server appliance, becomes more and more popular as a home or work-group server in the near future.
Computing changed from personal to centralize and begin to decentralize again.
- HP ProLiant MicroServer is actually cheaper and faster than Atom D2701 based NAS models. But it doesn’t comes with any software nor firmware, you have to install yourself. HP Proliant MicroServer G8 – A Decent Home Lab Server? from TechHead is worth reading.
- Asustor: App Central, Synology Add-on Packages, and QNAP App Center are three popular app channel for their NAS devices.
- QNAP Virtualization Station may run virtualization software while QNAP Virtualization Solutions is for storage only.
- Wiki: Computer appliance
- Wiki: Network-attached storage
- Wiki: Server appliance
- Wiki: Server (computing)
- Wiki: Print server
- Wiki: RAID
- Wiki: Reduced instruction set computing
- Wiki: Magnetic tape
- Wiki: Streaming media
- Wiki: System on a chip
- Wiki: Content management system
- Wiki: Virtualization
- Wiki: Public cloud
- HP: HP ProLiant MicroServer
- Intel: Intel Atom Processor D2700
- TechHead: HP Proliant MicroServer G8 – A Decent Home Lab Server?
- Asustor: App Central
- Synology: Add-on Packages
- QNAP: App Center
- QNAP: QNAP Virtualization Station
- QNAP: Virtualization Solutions