Networked Attached Storage devices are becoming key to making smart homes work like clockwork, but what makes them tick?
Cloud storage is, somewhat appropriately, rather a nebulous concept. The popular consumer image is of capacity supplied by a third party. It could involve a Dropbox account. It could be the access provided now over networks to your iTunes or Amazon media. However, many companies and, increasingly, individuals are setting up their own cloud access through network-attached servers (NASs).
In some cases, enterprises feel more comfortable locating company content on hardware that they themselves own, control and manage. Where a great deal of material needs to be centrally accessed, a NAS box can also prove cheaper over time than paying a subscription to a cloud provider. However, the NAS is evolving to encompass more traditional, consumer functionality such as streaming media.
The Buffalo CloudStor CS-WX2.0/1D is an example of this trend. It is a desktop, two-bay NAS with 2TB out-of-the-box capacity, which can then be augmented. As well as offering the same back-up option as a standalone external hard-disk drive (HDD), it provides file sharing, remote access, and the ability, via the Web, to access content from anywhere. This device then offers video transcoding, making video content "playable across the Web and mobile applications".
Other main features of the device include Gigabit Ethernet, the spare HDD bay, spanning (aka JBOD) and RAID 1 with the installation of a second drive,'a USB expansion port, social network integration and compatibility with both Windows and Apple operating systems.
As such, the CloudStor can just as easily be used as a central repository for media in the home, thus becoming a hub in a home entertainment network, as it can for remote data access on the road.
From a hardware perspective, this is no longer a simple enclosure with a single very small interface PCB (to bridge SATA to USB), as used to be the case with external hard-drive enclosures (in which the hard-drive cost contribution far outweighed that of the enclosure and simple supporting circuitry costs). With NASs the HDDs still represent a major portion of total cost for a functioning device - but now the enclosure elements and electronics take on larger roles in terms of the cost of ownership.
"The Buffalo CloudStor is, on the inside, a fairly well integrated design, relying heavily on the Marvell 88F6281 core," says Andrew Rassweiler of IHS. "Its main embedded processor is the Marvell Sheeva system-on-chip with an ARMv5TE-compliant core,'running at up to 1.2GHz. The device also features a total of 1Gbit of DDR2 SDRAM, and a Marvell Ethernet Transceiver."
Beyond that listed core IC content, the design then becomes a series of smaller power management functions.
From an enclosure point of view, the CloudStor features individual hard-drive enclosures that allow the user to swap out drives as needed. All of the mechanical components needed to do this while maintaining aesthetics add to'the'mechanical complexity for'NAS devices when compared'with simpler 'external'drive' enclosures for single drives.
This particular model has a suggested retail price of $179.99 (£111.94) with various online retailers offering it at within $10 of that. The total component count of the Buffalo CS-WX2.0/1D is 545 excluding box contents. *