Updating my home lab part 3 – NAS

A while back I wrote about upgrading my home lab. In this post I went over some of the new hardware I acquired and how I set up my home lab. I mentioned in that post that I was not using any form of shared storage for my vSphere cluster. The reason being my old QNAP TS-212 NAS which runs on an ARM processor with 256MB RAM. This little NAS didn’t have the power to run virtual machines from it. For a while I was quite happy about the way things were performing but at some point one of the ESXi hosts internal hard disks started to show weird behaviour. This didn’t come as a complete surprise as this hard disk was quite old and was already in its second life (it used to sit in a MacBook). So with that I lost a lot of capacity in my Intel NUC ESXi host. After leaving it like this for a while I noticed the other disk in this host started to fill up. That was my queue to start looking for a replacement disk in the form of some shared storage.

The requirements

I started thinking about the things I need. First and foremost the new NAS should be able to run multiple VM’s without grinding to a halt. As I read in an article a while back ARM is not the best option when you need to run VM’s so, I needed a NAS with an Intel chip. Since I also upgraded my network gear a while back (sorry, didn’t have time to blog about that) I wanted to make use of the options I have there. I needed a NAS with 2 NIC’s that can be aggregated.

The options

With the requirements in mind I started looking into the possibilities. Because I already had a QNAP that never failed on me, I naturally had a new QNAP as an option. On the other hand I wanted to give that other big player a change, Synology. Looking at the different systems I noticed that both QNAP and Synology had similar systems that would get the job done. In fact there are quite a lot of systems that would get the job done. I then started to think about additional requirements. I actually didn’t want to buy new hard disks because my disks are not that old. Ease of migration also became a factor, because if you don’t buy new disks, how do you move the data? Then I found out about the migration option QNAP offers. Just move the disks to the new system and you are done. That settled it, I needed a new QNAP that would support my disks and the option to migrate from the TS-212.

The choice

After digging around the QNAP website and other resources I settled for a QNAP TS-253A. I believe this is a slightly older model because the QNAP website doesn’t list this model anymore in the compare NAS section. It was also a little hard to find for a good price, but in the end I found one, I just had to wait a bit longer before it arrived. Just for comparing this model to my old model, it comes with 4GB RAM and an Intel processor (full specs here).

The migration

Now this was pretty straight forward.

  • Shut down the old NAS
  • Set DHCP reservation of the old IP to the new NAS
  • Move disks from old to new NAS
  • Power up new NAS

That’s it. The new NAS came back up with all the data and configuration intact. I just needed to set up the network ports on the NAS and switch to setup link aggregation (IEEE 802.3ad).

The TS-253A happily buzzing away in my ‘server room :)’.

Running VM’s on the new NAS

When I had everything up and running it was time to move some VM’s to the new NAS and see how it performs. My experience with the previous NAS is that when a VM lands on it the performance goes all the way down to barely functioning. With the new NAS this improved quite a bit from that experience.

Just to have an idea these are two screenshots with datastore latency for a light and a heavy VM and this looks quite reasonable.

Light VM
Heavy VM


I configured vSphere HA for the VM’s running on the shared storage and now I will monitor the performance and gradually add more VM’s to see how this performs. Next to this I will be installing Plex Media Server and Container Station. Container Station is a Docker runtime that runs on this QNAP NAS, this helps me containerise some applications that I use. In the end this will free up resources in my vSphere environment so I can use this solely for running VMware products to test and experiment with.

So far the QNAP TS-253A has been a joy to work with. The software they provide is really intuitive and stable (I knew this of course from my old QNAP). I also wanted to add a disclaimer, this post was not sponsored or anything. I wrote this because I wanted too 🙂

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