Synology to enforce use of validated disks in its NAS. And guess what? Only its own disks exceed 4TB

Taiwanese network attached storage vendor Synology has introduced its first-ever list of validated disks and won’t allow other devices into its enterprise-class NAS devices. And on a colossal co-incidence, half of the disks allowed into its devices – and the only ones larger than 4TB – are Synology’s very own HAT 5300 disks that it launched last week.

Seeing as privately held Synology is thought to have annual revenue of around US$350m, rather less than the kind of cash required to get into the hard disk business, The Register inquired if it had really started making drives or found some other way into the industry.

The company told us that the drives are Synology-branded Toshiba kit, but that it has written its own firmware and that the code delivers sequential read performance 23 percent beyond comparable drives. Synology told us that it’s branded disks will also be more reliable because they have undergone extensive testing in the company’s own NAS arrays.

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The company referred The Register to a document offering more detail on how its firmware improves the drives. That document contains a page titled “Compatibility/Validation Policy Change” that outlines a new policy whereby only certain drives will be allowed into future Synology enterprise kit. And that list includes all the new HAT 5300 range, but just one disk apiece from market leaders Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba. Those third-party disks also top out at 4TB.

Synology’s HAT drives, by contrast, offer 8TB, 12TB and 16TB capacity.

So to cut a long story short, if you want to get the most out of Synology NAS devices, you’ll need to buy Synology’s own SATA hard disk drives.

The new policy applies as of the release of three new Synology NAS appliances intended for enterprise use.

The new RS3621RPxs model sports an unspecified six-core Xeon and can handle a dozen drives, then move data over four gigabit ethernet ports. The middle-of-the-road RS3621xs+ offers an eight-core Xeon and adds two 10GE ports. At the top of the range, the RS4021xs+ stretches to 3U and adds 16GB of RAM, eight more than found in the other two models.

Hardware compatibility lists are routine in the data centre, and a storage-centric friend of The Register tells us that as some solid-state disks do things slightly differently those lists can sometimes be very specific about preferred disks. But it is most unusual for a vendor to specify hard disk drives bearing its own firmware as the only way to operate at a certain capacity.

As a junior vendor, Synology is therefore asking rather a lot of potential buyers.

If the company really can deliver the performance improvements it claims its firmware enables, being locked in to Synology drives may be a sound decision. But the storage industry does love to pick fights – see our sibling site Blocks and Files’ recent coverage of Pure Storage and NetApp feuding for an example of the fun to be had in the storage blogosphere – so Synology could be setting itself up for a stoush with this decision to drive buyers to its own drives. ®

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