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Event Coverage

Synology 2016 Conference highlights: New NAS devices, a router and more

By Koh Wanzi - 17 Sep 2015

Synology 2016 Conference highlights: New NAS devices, a router and more

Willie He, Sales Manager at Synology, kicked things off at the event.

Synology’s conferences are an annual affair, where the company takes the opportunity to trot out its new portfolio of devices and software for the coming year and showcase its latest hardware. These yearly conferences are held across the globe, and the 2016 conference is slated to be held in 18 cities, up from 15 last year.

We were present for the Singapore leg of Synology’s global tour to get a look at the goodies Synology has got planned for the future and the new technologies it will be rolling out. And with issues like data protection, cloud storage, and the continued proliferation of wearables and mobile devices at the forefront in recent times, Synology says its products are designed in line with market trends and demands.

Here are some of the key highlights from the event:

 

An updated NAS OS: DSM 6.0

Right off the bat, we were introduced to DiskStation Manager (DSM) 6.0, the latest version of Synology’s NAS OS. The new OS has been revamped from the ground up, and now comes with several baked-in features that will satisfy enterprise and power users.

DSM 6.0 enables improved performance thanks to support for 64-bit architectures, in addition to greater flexibility because of the modular nature of upgrades. (Image Source: Synology)

For instance, it now supports a 64-bit architecture, which means that it can utilize more than the 4GB of memory that 32-bit systems are limited to. As you might imagine, this has the potential to greatly improve system performance.

Furthermore, it has adopted a modular approach to the implementation of application functionality. Previously built-in applications are now applied as independent upgrades, improving on system reliability and flexibility. This also looks like it’ll help users keep their systems running leaner and quicker.

DSM 6.0 also supports multiple business-oriented solutions for data backup and recovery. There’s Cloud Station Backup, a new software suite that supports Windows, OS X, and Linux PCs.

Synology is actively bolstering its data protection credentials with Cloud Station Backup, a real-time PC backup solution. (Image Source: Synology)

In order to make file recovery faster and more efficient, it dispenses with a rigid system of scheduled daily backups, opting instead for a more dynamic and flexible system that creates a recovery point only when files have been modified. This has the added benefit of doing away with meaningless recovery points that are created even when no data has been changed.

Recovery points are created in real-time and in response to file modifications. (Image Source: Synology)

To further ensure that you only need to deal with relevant restore points, it’s also implemented something called “Intelliversioning”, an algorithm that keeps only the most important versions of each file.

Synology's "Intelliversioning" algorithm keeps only the most important versions of each file, instead of simply preserving the latest, but not necessarily most crucial, copies. (Image Source: Synology)

Another feature we liked was something Synology called “Snapshot + Replication”, thanks to the support for the Btrfs file system, which also enables things like data deduplication and improved file consolidation across multiple drives. Snapshots of files can be taken as frequently as every five minutes, which effectively protects against things like accidental deletions. This reduces the Recovery Time Objective (RTO), the time within which a business process should ideally be restored in the case of a disruption to avoid unacceptable breaks in the workflow. This feature is especially useful because unlike working on a local computer, deleting files on NAS systems is often a permanent affair - there's no Recycle Bin to help you restore files, they are instantly gone.

Thanks to support for the Btrfs file system, Synology has been able to implement Snapshots in order to guard against things like accidental file deletions. (Image Source: Synology)

And even though Synology’s business clearly depends on you buying into the merits of a private cloud, it still gives you the option to back up your data to business-grade cloud services like Amazon Cloud Drive and OpenStack Swift. This means that you can upload the same sets of files to multiple public clouds, ensuring that your data will always be available.

Synology supports multiple business-grade public cloud services. (Image Source: Synology)

 

Virtualization technologies

And here’s where we begin to venture deep into enterprise technology. A lightweight container technology called Docker DSM supports multi-tenant environments by containing the virtualization in the application layer, thus eliminating the need to set up a virtual machine.

Docker DSM supports multiple users in places like schools and SMEs. (Image Source: Synology)

Then there’s Virtual DSM, a more comprehensive virtualization technology for more demanding enterprise customers. This is the real deal – a hypervisor or virtual machine monitor is used to partition the system and create virtual machines.

Virtual DSM has a higher hardware requirement than Docker DSM. (Image Source: Synology)

Virtual DSM also supports Live Migration, which allows workloads to be migrated to another host with zero downtime or disruption. Synology had a live demo of this for us, where the video played in the background even as the migration was going on. This means that employees in a company can continue to access resources on the NAS system even as it is being moved from one NAS system to another.

Workloads can be migrated to another NAS server without any disruption. (Image Source: Synology)

 

Private office suite

Synology also introduced an entire suite of office productivity apps designed for collaboration and security. First of all, there is MailPlus, a private cloud-based email service that allows you to create your own mail server on your own private cloud. This looks like it'd be good fit for businesses that are concerned about privacy and want to have better control over their email servers. 

Synology's MailPlus is a private cloud-based email service. (Image Source: Synology)

Here's a look at the interface below. We're not pointing fingers, but that's one very familiar looking interface right there. You're also able to drag and drop labels onto emails to categorize them, and also customize your background with select themes.

Where have we seen this interface before?

There was also Spreadsheet, Synology's equivalent of - dare we say it - Google Sheets. You get the expected features like online group collaboration, and the ability to browse and restore your editing history in case someone with butter fingers accidentally deletes an entire column of figures. 

Spreadsheet is Synology's way of allowing online collaboration on worksheets à la Google Sheets. (Image Source: Synology)

For note taking, you have Note Station, which allows you to take notes offline and group related notes into notebooks. There's even a quick way to convert tables to graphically pleasing charts like the one you see below.

There's a tool to let you quickly convert tables to graphical charts.

 

Wearables support and a video library

Finally, there’s support for one of the hottest wearables around, the Apple Watch. According to Synology, DSM 6.0 is the first NAS OS to do so with its DS note and DS audio mobile apps. This essentially allows you to use simple gestures or voice control to check or create notes on the watch itself, and even play music that's stored on your own private cloud.

The Apple Watch pairs with your iPhone 5 and above via Bluetooth, allowing you to play music as long as the devices remain paired.

DSM 6.0 supports the Apple Watch with apps like DS note and DS audio. (Image Source: Synology)

A look at the DS music interface on the Apple Watch. (Image Source: Synology)

And then there’s Video Station, a sleek-looking video interface that lets you arrange your movies into playlists and automatically grabs information about films you upload from the Web.

Thumbnails and movie details are automatically grabbed from the Web.

It also supports Windows 10 and offline transcoding, allowing users to take advantage of the universal Windows 10 app platform and switch between different devices to get their movie fix.

 

New and more affordable NAS devices

 

DS216play

 The DS216play in the flesh.

Synology also introduced us to the DS216play, one of two new NAS devices and part of its consumer-oriented Play series of products. Here’s a look at the key specifications of the device:

  • Dual-core 1.5GHz CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • Consumes just 6.83 watts when hibernating
  • 4K (3840 x 2160) video transcoding
  • H.265 (HEVC) codec support

The DS216play is a two-bay device that will be introduced to the market at an even lower price point that its predecessor, the DS214play. You can find the latter device on Amazon for about US$300, but Synology says that we can expect the DS216play to be much more budget friendly. It is expected to be available sometime in October.

DS716+

The two drive bays on the DS716+ pop open via a click mechanism, allowing for easy installation or swapping of drives.

As a member of Synology's Plus series, the DS716+ NAS server is geared toward businesses and power users. You can find its specifications as below:

  • Intel Braswell Celeron N3150 1.6GHz CPU
  • AES-NI Hardware Encryption Engine
  • 2GB DDR3L-1600 RAM
  • Dual GbE LAN
  • SATA 6Gbps support

This is actually the most powerful Braswell CPU available, and the DS716+ also supports 4K video transcoding. Because it supports real-time video transcoding, you'll be able to play 4K videos on devices that don't have the necessary hardware to carry out the transcoding. Furthermore, there's the option to expand it to take up to seven hard drives by connecting Synology's own DX513 expansion unit, allowing it to scale up to meet the needs of SMEs and small businesses.

In addition, Synology is claiming a huge performance improvement in terms of read and write speeds over its predecessor, the DS713+, probably in part thanks to its faster SATA interface (the DS713+ only supports SATA 3Gbps).

We haven't been clued in yet as to how Synology might price this, but it will only be available late in the fourth quarter of this year.

 

Expanding into new territory: Synology's first ever router

The Synology RT1900ac router is the company's first ever foray into the networking market.

There was also surprising news in the form of Synology’s first ever router. The company talked about branching out from its core NAS business, and the RT1900ac router is its first attempt to do so.

It comes with nifty features like parental controls, advanced QoS capabilities to set restrictions by device and application, and the Package Center, what Synology says is the first ever app market for routers.

There’s also support for mobile apps, so you can tweak the settings from the phone itself. For further details, you can check out our separate article on the router itself. The router is expected to be available sometime in October for around US$150 to US$200 (S$210 to S$280).