The Synology DS923+ NAS Supports M.2 NVMe SSDs as Storage Pools – New Update
Good news for anyone who has been following the recent reveal of Synology enabling M.2 NVMe SSDs as Storage Pools (covered previously here on NASCompares in this article) as it appears that the new feature is active on the Synology DS923+ NAS (released Nov 16th 2022). A recent update in DSM that, at this time, appears to ONLY be available for the DS923+ has allowed the two M.2 2280 NVMe SSD bays that were traditionally ONLY for caching to now be usable for storage pools. Full testing of this (as well as further updates to this article) will arrive very soon here and on youtube, but for now let’s discuss the M.2 NVMe Bays that you can use (bandwidth/speed), as well as the process of using the m.2 NVMe SSDs as Pools in the Synology DSM Storage Manager.
Note – Article Updated with information on M.2 NVMe SSD Compatibility, whether you can boot DSM from the M.2 NVMe SSDs and an update on the architecture of the PCIe Gen and Speed of the bays on the DS923+ NAS.
What PCIe Generation and Speed are the M.2 NVMe SSD Bays of the Synology DS923+ NAS?
Important! Big credit to u/lacarosa on Reddit for noticing an error in my original coverage! The PCIe on the M.2 NVMe Bays look like they might be limited to Gen 3×1. Doubling checking and making changes to the article as appropriate ASAP
First and foremost, one of the main reason why it seems that the Synology DS923+ NAS is one of the first NAS systems to have this feature enabled is that it is a PCIe 3 Generation system. Now, ALOT of Synology NAS systems are Gen 3 before this (Most of the business NAS systems have regular PCIe Gen 3 upgrade slots), however, it is unknown how the slots on other systems were divided internally with the available CPU Lanes and Chipset. Synology have regularly stated that they would only enable Storage Pools on NVMe SSDs if the full bandwidth was available and the System hardware had the architecture to support it. Well, in the case of the Synology DS923+ NAS, I was able to log into the system over SSH + Putty and it appears that although the SSD Bays are PCIe Gen 3 x4, they are capped at Gen 3×1. I am in the process of reaching out to Synology on this to find out if this is fixed and/or a setting that is pertinent to the M.2 NVMe SSD Storage Pools featuring rolling out further/more down the line. Additionally, we are still awaiting further confirmation on other PCIe Gen 3 systems, as well as the E10G20-T1 and M2D20 M.2 NVMe SSD Cards. We will update this article as soon as we know more.
How to Create Storage Pools with M.2 NVMes on the Synology DS923+ NAS
Much like creating a storage pool on the Synology DS923+ NAS with Hard Drives, the process for creating M.2 NVMe SSD Storage Pools is exactly the same (with 1 extra screen in the middle). First, you need to head to the Synology Storage Manager, then head to the Available Drives tab at the bottom (left-hand side). This will list the HDDs and SSDs that are installed in the NAS. Then you need to head to the top row of options and select ‘Manage Available Drives’. This opens a new tab that offers a range of choices of what to do with the available/unallocated drives in your NAS system. As you can see, the 2 M.2 NVMes are listed as available. Just head to the bottom option ‘Create Storage pool’ and click it.
Next yo will need to select the AID configuration (again, much as you would with HDD Storage pools). The range of available RAID configurations will depend on the number of drives, and as the DS923+ NAS only has 2x M.2 NVMe SSD Bays, options such as RAID 5 and RAID 6 will be absent. You can even choose the flexible SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID) config if you choose. Select the level of redundancy you want for you drive pool and then click ‘next’.
This leads to the one difference between HDD/SSD Storage Pools in the main SATA bays and those made via the M.2 NVMe SSD Bays – this si that the M.2 SSD drives, as they are PCIe architecture, cannot be hot-swapped whilst the system is in operation. This is quite normal, but also sensible that they system tells a user this now, as pulling them out when the system is in operation has a HIGH possibility of making the system completely crash and require a reboot/fail!
From this point you need to select the M.2 NVMe SSDs that you want to use for your storage Pools. Just put a tick next to the drive and then go from there. Remember, the level of RAID you choose will reflect the number of SSDs you need to select.
And that is about it! You will be given the choice to conduct data integrity checks (which you can skip and do later if you choose), but from this point you just need to check that all the settings you have select are correct and then go ahead and click ‘apply’.
And that is it, your Synology DS923+ NAS will begin creating your new M.2 NVMe SSD Storage Pool. As you can see in the image below (you can ignore the RAID Scrubbing, which is unrelated to this and something from another video I am working on) I now have two storage pools. The bigger/slower HDD one in Storage Pool #1 and the new smaller, faster NVMe SSD Storage Pool #2.
Can You Use One M.2 NVMe SSD as a Storage Pool and One M.2 NVMe for Read-Only Caching on the Synology NAS?
Yes you absolutely can! During the volume creation screen, you can go ahead and select a RAID configuration that only needs 1x M.2 NVMe SSD drive. These include ‘SINGLE’, ‘SHR’ and ‘BASIC’. Selecting these means you will only need to add 1x M.2 NVMe SSD to the pool creation screen. Then you can follow the same steps as previously mentioned to create your single M.2 NVMe SSD Storage Pool.
This leaves the other M.2 NVMe SSD Bay unallocated, which you can then go ahead and return to the ‘Manage Available Drives’ option in the storage manager and assign the other M.2 NVMe SSD Bay to caching. As you can see in the image below, I went ahead and assigned M.2 NVMe SSD Storage Bay #2 as a READ-ONLY cache drive to Storage Pool #1.
It is worth remembering that the Synology DS923+ (at the time of writing) when it comes to caching options will only allow Read Only or Read+Write Caching with these drives – you cannot enable WRITE-ONLY caching. So, choose wisely!
Can You Run S.M.A.R.T Tests on M.2 NVMes that are used for Storage Pools on the Synology?
Yes, you absolutely can. As you can see from the image below, you can run SMART tests on the Storage Pools on your Synology NAS, even on the M.2 NVMe SSD media. The same goes for Benchmarks too.
Can You Boot Synology DSM from the M.2 NVMe SSDs?
Unfortunately, at the time of writing and testing, you cannot use the M.2 NVMe SSD Bays on the DS923+ NAS as a boot drive for DSM. To clarify, I booted the device with NO SATA HDD/SSDs and JUST the 2x M.2 NVMe SSDs inside (so the system was in initialization mode). The DS923+ did not recognize the M.2 NVMe SSD drives as usable system media for the DSM OS. You are greeted with the image below:
Perhaps this will be changed later on as the M.2 NVMe SSD Storage Pool utilization improves, but as it stands right now, you cannot use the NVMe drives for the system OS (but you CAN create Storage Pools and Volumes that you can then use within existing applications as sources, such as the Virtual Machine Manager and Active Backup.
Can you use Non-Synology M.2 NVMe SSDs as Storage Pools in the DS923+ NAS?
After testing multiple different M.2 NVMe SSDs in the 2280 bays of the DS923+ NAS, I am afraid (at least at the time of writing) that non-Synology m.2 NVMe SSDs cannot be used as storage pools. Disclaimer, I ONLY had PCIe Gen 4 SSDs for my tests, so these are quite high end drives for purpose. However, as PCIe4 is backwards compatible, this should not be a problem in a PCIe3 slot. Most of the drives I tested were shown in the M.2 SSD area of the storage manager. HOWEVER, I could not use them as Storage Pools, as they were listed as ‘not tested or validated’ by Synology.
Now, these drives COULD be used as SSD caching drives, but NOT as M.2 NVMe SSD Storage Pools. This will definitely disappoint users who were considering non Synology drives for this new feature on the DS923+ NAS. To confirm, the SNV3400-400G drives that I tested DID work and WERE usable as M.2 NVMe SSD Storage Pools.
Will M.2 NVMe SSD Storage Pools Be Possible on ALL Synology NAS Drives?
Much like my previous point about M.2 NVMe SSDs as DSM Boot drives, I am unable to test this for approx 2 days or so, as the system is busy making videos and articles for NASCompares. However, I WILL be testing and confirming this ASAP – updating this article as soon as I know the answer. Now the fact that the Synology DS923+ NAS online resources state that the NVMe SSD Bays can be used for M.2 NVMe SSD storage does NOT mean that ALL Synology NAS with these bays will support this feature. In previous years, when I have discussed this feature with Synology team members at events, they have always been pretty clear on this. They did not want to enable this feature on systems that did not provide the hardware and/or bandwidth to support its full use. So, for example, the DS918+ and DS920+ (which both feature M.2 NVMe SSD Bays) are built on PCIe Gen 2 architecture, whilst most M,2 NVMes available right now commercially are either PCIe Gen 3 or Gen 4. Synology HAS released several PCIe3 NAS’s in the last 1-2 years with M.2 SSD bays (such as the AMD Emb.Ryzen powered DS1621+, DS1821+, and DS1621+xs+), but for whatever reason, the feature was still not made available (perhaps because the available lanes were spread too thinly and the bays are perhaps PCIe 3 x2 – That’s not a blanket statement, just a hypothesis. PCIe Generation increases the bandwidth. To massively oversimplify it a bit, PCIe 2 is 500MB/s and PCIe 3 is 1,000MB/s, and the x2, x4, X8 etc figure is a multiplier. So a PCIe 2×2 = 1,000MB/s, whereas PCIe 3×4 = 4,000MB/s. ALL of these numbers are potential maximum bandwidth (i.e the pipe which the SSD can try to fill) and do not factor in a whole bunch of dual-lane architecture stuff, but the gist is pretty much there. Remember, although I mentioned earlier about external performance (i.e 10GbE networking), the only internal limitations for apps, data and services are the PCIe Lanes afforded to the M.2 bays and the CPU+Memory inside the system. The more bandwidth and horsepower the NAS has, the BETTER the results and then you are talking big performance numbers!
Synology DS923+ NAS Review – Quick Conclusion
Synology has clearly made something of a gamble in the release of the Synology DS923+ NAS. There is no avoiding that making the switch from the Intel Celeron that has historically been the build choice of this product family and opting for the AMD Emb.Ryzen has ruffled some feathers! On the face of it, the R1600 here has a heck of alot of going for it over the previous generation! Higher clock speed, greater PCIe Gen 3 Support throughout, that 4-32GB of DDR4 memory in such a compact system and just generally giving you a lot more horsepower to play with, as well as better bandwidth potential inside and out! But at what cost? The 1GbE standard connectivity in the base model leaves alot to be desired, the proprietary 10Gb upgrade (though incredibly handy) limits the upgradability a tad and the lack of an integrated graphics processor is likely going to result in many long-term Synology advocates to skip this generation. Synology Diskstation Manager (DSM 7.1 at the time of writing) still continues to impress and although the brand still continues to heavily push their 1st party priorities, they have left a little more wriggle room in DSM 7.1 than DSM 7 before it in terms of media compatibility. In terms of design, I cannot fault Synology on this as the DS923+ chassis still arrives as one of the best-looking and still exceptionally well-structured devices at this physical scale and storage level. As always, a Synology NAS is more about the software than the hardware (and the DS923+ delivers in spades on the software side!) and with DSM 7.2 around the corner improving things. Just always keep in mind that the Synology DS923+ NAS is a system that arrives with the slight emphasis on having to do many things ‘their way’. If you are less technically versed, then you will definitely appreciate this level of user-friendly design and assistance, but more technically minded admins’ main strain a pinch! In short, the DS923+ IS a good NAS drive, but its focus has certainly ebbed more towards the business user this generation than the home.
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