QNAP GM-1002 Market Impact
As we were discussing this unit internally, we had a number of thoughts regarding this unit. At first, we thought this was a high-availability controller. It is not. The QNAP team offers a lot of the great ZFS snapshot and replication features but does not have an active-active solution here.
Perhaps the easiest way to describe the system is simply as two NAS units that are joined in a single chassis. When looking at the hardware itself, it is fairly clear that the GM-1002 chassis and design was not just for this initial unit, but that the chassis was designed to do more in future product iterations.
To us, the big opportunities QNAP has with this system are twofold. First, if QNAP adds clustering support in QuTS hero, the GM-1002’s purpose becomes much more clear. There are large high-performance computing solutions and others who have added Lustre or GlusterFS atop of ZFS. This allows for both ZFS’s underlying features such as snapshots to be used while creating a higher-availability clustered solution. For QNAP, adding this type of feature, or going bigger with something like Ceph, would mean QNAP customers can get to that next-level of feature set and use case coverage from the company. For the GM-1002, it has a great setup for data/ cache drives, so this would be an ideal platform to increase node density in a rack for customers looking to build a smaller 3-5 scale-out node solution. QNAP could then extend its container/ virtual machine hosting solutions and effectively bring a hyper-converged solution to the SMB/ SME segments that are underserved by VMware, Nutanix, Microsoft, and others.
Again, this is a software change, and we do not have QNAP’s roadmap so this is a conjecture that QNAP could go this route, but it is not an official roadmap item from the company. Still, we feel like this would make a lot of sense.
The other key item that we would like to see QNAP undertake is offering updated/ differentiated nodes. One of the key benefits of a multi-node chassis solution in this NAS segment, or in the broader server segment is the ability to re-use power supplies or chassis. A great example is that blade chassis can be used for multiple generations and even 2U 4-node chassis like the Dell EMC PowerEdge C6525 we reviewed have a common chassis that can be used for Intel or AMD nodes. Offering a clear roadmap to future node options will help QNAP demonstrate to customers that its solution is designed to span multiple generations, protecting the investment in the chassis and power supplies.
There is a recognized benefit to using a chassis for multiple generations. Sheet metal, SATA backplanes, and modern power supplies will outlast many NAS/ server nodes. Re-using them creates less waste and is better for the environment. The key is demonstrating to customers a commitment to the platform so that customers can feel like the cost and ecological benefits of a shared chassis design will be realized.
Overall, the QNAP GM-1002 is going to be a polarizing product. There will clearly be STH readers who will see a product like this and still look for traditional two NAS solutions even if they require slightly more rack space and PSU connections. We know we have readers that will see the integration that QNAP did and want more. At the current level of integration, this solution is still competing with two 2U nodes. As an aside, this is very similar to what we see in the popular 2U 4-node server space except that it is a 25% reduction in rack space versus a 50% reduction we see in the 2U4N segment.
On the other hand, taking the unit for what it is, dual ZFS NAS units we see a lot of potential around. There are organizations such as managed service providers and internal IT organizations that will want to deploy different physical NAS solutions for different groups or applications. As a result, instead of installing one larger NAS, or perhaps in conjunction with one larger NAS, this provides a streamlined experience for managing multiple departmental level NAS units or NAS units for a particular customer. One must remember as well that with ZFS, and QNAP’s expansion cards, one can connect disk shelves/ JBODs to these units and manage larger arrays from each NAS. Some will like the simplicity of managing a base NAS unit and then being able to customize it with external storage. That customization also leads one to see use cases where we could have one NAS that is configured as a backup server, and another NAS that is configured with 16Gbps FC adapters for a different application.
Overall, we like the push QNAP is making to help customers scale to higher NAS node densities and using ZFS. The lifecycle serviceability of a multi-node chassis solution is generally excellent and saving 25% rack footprint will matter for a number of users. As a result, this is a product from QNAP that we find in a sense daring. Most of QNAP’s units are built for as general market appeal as possible. The GM-1002 is focused more on markets that have density and serviceability requirements. Peeling away the sheet metal, we can see that QNAP built the GM-1002 in a form factor ready for future updates. Likewise taking QNAP’s easy-to-manage platform and bringing ZFS into the mix shows that the company is setting up for a push up-market.