NSLU2, tinytuxbox and Joggler. The NSLU2 and tinytuxbox are both history but we've still got the Joggler at home. After finding it was grinding to a halt with the stuff I was running on it while trying to use it interactively it became clear we needed something else at home too. Since I was also running out of storage space on my home PC a NAS solution seemed like the obvious choice so I went for a Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra Plus 2 (RNDP200U).
I opted for the ReadyNAS Ultra series because I run a SqueezeBox Duet for my music and Netgear are the only partner directly supported by Logitech for their music devices. After spending huge amounts of time hacking the NSLU2, tinytuxbox and Joggler I felt it was about time I had a device that "just worked" so the option of simply downloading and installing stuff and having it work is really quite attractive. Of course, other NAS devices can run SqueezeCenter but whether the community supported versions work well and are kept up to date is another matter which I didn't investigate thoroughly. Another good reason for choosing the Ultra series is they're based on x86 hardware so some of the code and plugins I know I want to run which had previously not worked (or been possible) on the slug for example would be fine, a lot of NAS boxes are still running ARM processors.
The Ultra 2 comes in 2 flavours and I went for the more powerful of the two (the Ultra 2 Plus). They are exactly the same except the Ultra 2 Plus has a dual core processor vs a single core on the Ultra 2. Given I'm fully intending to run what is probably more than average on the NAS the chance of getting a more powerful processor was well worth the extra few quid it costs.
On the subject of price, the NAS solution is probably one of the more expensive ways to get yourself a home server. Again though, the "it just works" factor comes heavily in to play here as I'm not responsible for installing the O.S. and setting up a raft of different services on the box, they're all just there, working! Probably the most competition for a NAS would be the Asus Revo running Linux, possibly with FreeNAS on it too. The Revo with the same processor as the Ultra 2 Plus I bought is around 60% of the price. The Revo isn't able to support the amount of storage you can get with a NAS device though, doesn't (easily) support RAID and if I did want to do those things it would have to be with ugly USB attached disks which are hard to spin down when not in use.
It took just a matter of hours to unpack, boot and setup the device in the way I wanted. The array has been formatted and exports a share to Linux and Windows boxes, all my data has been copied on there with plenty of room for expansion and user management is sorted. After that, updating SqueezeCenter to the latest version was simple and installing other additional software (whether official or community supported) is also really easy. So far I've set up transmission (for bit torrents) and enabled ssh access. Hardware management is all done through a web interface so the option of automatically powering on/off the device on a schedule or setting up disk spin down is merely just a box tick away.
I've got it connected to a 10/100 switch which is fine for streaming music to the SqueezeBox or sharing pictures with the Joggler but for access from my PC and to large amounts of data I figured that throughput wouldn't be enough. Fortunately, the NAS has 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports so I've used the second one to direct attach it to my PC and enabled Jumbo frames. The performance over that link has been absolutely fine whether measured simply by the subjective feel of how long it takes to do certain tasks or via a more rigorous iozone test.
With the tasks of device and software management all taken care of the the thing up and running in no time at all, I'm looking forward to having more time on my hands to do some even more interesting hacking with the box instead.