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Synology & 3rd Party Hard Drives – What You CAN and CANNOT Do

13 juin 2022 à 01:53

Synology 2022/2023 NAS and WD & Seagate Hard Drive Compatibility

If you have been considering a large scale business or enterprise NAS solution from Synology in 2022/2023, then there is a good chance you have heard about a relatively recent change in how Synology has approached hard drive compatibility in this tier of their portfolio. This change (in brief) is that this tier of systems is only designed to be used with their own branded range of hard drives and SSDs (the HAT5300, SAT5210, HAS5300, etc) and practically all hard drives from long-standing partners such as WD and Seagate are not officially supported in their business/enterprise-scale systems. Now, it is important to stress that this is NOT a complete closed-door policy here. Indeed, after the initial negative reception to this policy change demonstrated in DSM 7 featured in the DS3622xs+ and DS2422+ reveals (Danger notifications, limited drive interaction options in storage manager, etc), Synology changed a number of these areas in their DSM 7.1 system when using 3rd party drive media. However, many users are still concerned with where they stand on using popular NAS hard drives such as Seagate Ironwolf, WD Red, Ultrastar and EXOS in their brand new Synology NAS drive. So, today I want to go through pretty much everything that you CAN and CANNOT do with 3rd Party hard drives in the larger scale Synology NAS drives with DSM 7.1 right now. However, if you are in a rush or just want the TLDR:

The GOOD News

  • Practically ALL Storage Services and Features of Synology’s DSM 7.1 platform are available when using 3rd Party HDDs (Seagate Ironwolf, WD Red, Ultrastar, etc) and I only found 2 things that weren’t (and even one of those is pretty small)
  • Thanks to recently released specifications and compatibility on the DS1522+ and RS422+ NAS for 2022, we can confirm that these system do NOT have limited HDD compatibility listings and in fact list all the usual HSS and SSD models you would expect
  • Synology has changed the red ‘DANGER/CRITICAL’ warning in the DSM notification panel of DSM 7.0 to show ‘Warning’ in amber. Still not ideal, but still a step up visually
  • SMART, testing, Scrubbing, Hot Spare, Drive management and ALL RAID configurations are available to 3rd party HDDs
  • ALL File Management tool are available with Volumes that contain unverified drives
  • ALL 1st Party Applications that I tested did not complain/refuse the use of volumes that contained 3rd party media

The BAD News

  • ALL non-Synology HDD/SSD is listed in Red in the drive manager as ‘unverified’. I wish (if they have to go down this road) that they list in amber or use less loaded terms
  • Even simple hard drive utilities in the Storage Manager to build a RAID pool and volumes are met with ‘unverified/incompatible warnings 3-4 times throughout, which can be jarring
  • Warning in DSM 7.1 GUI is always present
  • Still 100% unconfirmed but in my testing, Seagate Ironwolf Health Management was not visible in the DSM 7.1 Storage Manager via the 22′ Series NAS I used
  • HDD/SSD Firmware Update checking in DSM 7.1 Storage Manager only available to Synology Drives (eg HAT5300) and not supporting 3d party drives. Not unexpected, as it would require a big chunk of database maintenance management on the Synology side to provide this feature with multiple HDD brands.

Skip Ahead:

Important – Currently only Enterprise and Large Scale Synology NAS systems released from the 2022 Series onwards have stricter HDD/SSD compatibility in DSM 7.1. Smaller-scale home user, prosumer and SMB systems under 8x Bays still have compatibility and supported HDD/SSD for WD, Seagate, Toshiba and more. This article was made and detailed using a Synology DS2422+ NAS, supplied by CCL here. So, let’s get down to business. Here is what you would find if you look up hard drive and SSD compatibility on a large business class Synology NAS drive via the official brand’s support pages (in this case, the Synology DS2422+ 12-Bay NAS system):

Now, as you can see, the available list of compatible/supported drives is almost exclusively Synology branded drives. But what happens when if we were to ignore this and install drives that were not included on this list?

Synology Notifications, Warnings & 3rd Party HDD/SSDs

There is an exception (a Western Digital Ultrastar HC310), but there have been a few exceptions in the available drives list that have tended to be the result of Synology not providing a specific drive-based encryption method/on-board feature, capacity or media interface, but as time has gone on this has diminished. In order to get a better and more complete test range, I installed four Synology HAT5300 drives and eight hard drives that covered the bulk of popular currently available HDDs for desktop and rackmount NAS server use. These included WD Red, Red Plus and Red Pro, Seagate Ironwolf and Ironwolf Pro, Western Digital Ultrastar, Seagate EXOS and Barracuda (that last one was just because I had it spare and wanted to check). As you can see in the diagram below, all eight of the non-Synology branded drives were listed as unverified and the system status in the bottom right of DSM was displayed as ‘Warning’.

A closer examination shows us that the warning is guiding us toward the storage manager area to rectify a problem. This is something that some users have already voiced their concerns over (and subsequentially Synology changed their messaging after feedback since the DSM 7.1 update was rolled out).

These notifications are also triggered in the events log at the top right of the screen and each HDD that I installed resulted in the system creating a warning alert for each. At least the nature of this alert was defined a little clearer and made reference to the drives installed not being featured on the official compatibility list for this device.

In order to see the extent of how the system interprets and interacts with 3rd party storage media in this 2022/2023 generation NAS, I wanted to go ahead and create a single drive storage pool on the WD Red Pro HDD and then create an accompanying Volume inside. So, this was Storage Pool 1 and Volume 2 (with Pool & Volume 1 is comprised of Synology HDDs). You can see that the 8x 3rd party drives (so, regardless of in/out of the pool+volume I created) as displayed in red at all times.

Looking at a single drive in the HDD/SSD tab of Storage manager shows lots of hardware information about the drive that is installed, much like any other drive. I am pleased that you are still able to see/monitor the 3rd party drives in this NAS still in DSM 7.1, even with the alert in the events log.

If you visit that alert in the events log, you can see a little more information on the nature of the alert. The event detail is a little brief, but Synology’s position on this subject is quite clear and although there is zero talk of the system not being supported by the brand down the line, they do add that they recommend using drives on the official compatibility list (ie, in this case, the bulk of which being their media) to ensure system performance and prevent data loss.

Using 3rd party drive media in the storage pool creation wizard is still possible and Synology has not attempted to block/suspend this in any way in DSM 7.1. That said, it will present you with a further warning with each screen (this one being a pinch more heavy-handed though). I know Synology want to be abundantly clear on this and want it presented that you are proceeding on a course that they do not recommend, but less experienced storage users might bulk at this warning.

When the storage pool that is made up of 3rd party storage media is created, it will be available to view alongside all other storage pools in the storage manager of DSM 7.1. The same goes for if/when you create one or more volumes inside that storage pool, but all storage associated with the 3rd party storage media will be labelled as ‘at risk’ as the pool contains “one or more drives that are unverified”. So, right now we 100% can use 3rd party drives in storage pools and volumes, but they are not without the warning in place. Let’s take a closer look at the rest of the storage manager options in DSM 7.1 and how much they can be used with 3rd party drives.

Synology Storage Manager and 3rd Party HDD/SSDs

3rd party hard drives in a large scale/enterprise 2022/2023 NAS still have the drive health information options available when selecting them in the storage manager. They are still listing with an angry red ‘unverified’ message, but health status, check history and S.M.A.R.T are still available to check the drive. In my testing, I was not able to see the Seagate Ironwolf Health Management tool (that is included on Seagate Ironwolf HDDs and visible in the NAS GUI normally), but I did not have sufficient media to identify if this was related to the new DS2422+ not supporting this feature or DSM 7.1 not allowing the featuring in the storage manager at this time.

The smart testing tab, when comparing the number of options provided in the DSM 7.1 storage manager between Synology HDDs and 3rd party HDDs, was pretty much identical! Below is how they appear via the web browser, side by side.

As mentioned, pretty much all the services and features of DSM 7.1’s Storage Manager are available to non-Synology drive media, such as the usage analyzer.

The same goes for if you choose to use 3rd party drives as hot spares (i.e accessible replacement media for if a RAID storage pool fails). You still need to ensure that the drive media in question is sufficient capacity, but it’s still good to know that hot spare use is still available.

Continuing, you also have the option of improving/changing RAID storage pools that are comprised with 3rd party drives still. This is reassuring to those that were concerned that their WD/Seagate storage pools might not be expandable/scalable in DSM 7.1 as needed on these enterprise and bigger scale solutions.

I was also surprised that the Drive Benchmark tool in DSM 7.1’s storage manager still could be used by 3rd party drives. Although this is a small tool, it can be remarkably handy for testing drives sustained activity on the fly. This tool worked with both 3rd party HDD and SSDs in testing still.

Options for scheduled or immediately actioned Data Scrubbing were also available to 3rd party drives still. Another useful and often overlooked RAID maintenance that I’m glad is still available in DSM 7.1 with non-Synology Drives.

The in-built SSD Cache advisor (the tool that recommends the level and capacity of SSD that you need to factor into your daily storage is also more than happy to interact with storage volumes that are built of 3rd party drives too. As the DS2422+ I used for these drive tests does not feature m.2 SSD slots, I was unable to confirm whether the system would accept 3rd party SSDs for caching in this enterprise DSM 7.1 NAS system. I COULD have used the E10M20-T1 or M2D20 PCIe cards to add storage, but then that would introduce an additional component into the mix and those cards also arrive with their own SSD compatibility listings already.

Overall, the big takeaway in the Synology DSM 7.1 Storage manager when it comes to using 3rd party HDD and SSDs is that you can do pretty much EVERYTHING with these drives as you can do with Synology’s own storage media. The only things that were not available were the ability to upgrade HDD/SSD firmware from within the software (something that is understandably only available to Synology media for reasons for database maintenance and accuracy I am sure) and I was unable to completely confirm whether Seagate ironwolf health management was available. EVERYTHING else in Storage Manager is available to be used. However, the lines Synology have drawn with regard to their system are pretty clear, with warnings at every screen and a persistent warning on the desktop GUI. Let’s go up a level and look at how the systems file management and more general storage tools interact with pools/volumes that are comprised of 3rd Party Media.

Synology File & Folder Management and 3rd Party HDD/SSDs

Much like when I explored many areas of the Storage Manager in DSM 7.1, I found virtually nowhere in the general system applications where using 3rd party media-built volumes presented a problem or limitation to the user. First up was File Station and (probably one of the earliest and most important things you will do) I was able to easily and quickly create a shared folder on a 3rd party drive volume as easy/seamless as normal.

The Shared Folder had ALL of the usual configuration options available (visibility, recycling, compression where appropriate, etc) and because BTRFS was still available during the volume’s creation, those benefits were also available to this shared folder too. Interestingly, there were no warnings or recommendations by the system when using this particular pool (unlike the louder stance during the storage pool/vol creation) and, spoiler alert, I never again in my testing was presented with any warnings or recommendations by the system during any further interactions with tools and services.

The file manager presented no limitations or restrictions in its services when used with 3rd party drive foundation volumes and that means that if you are considering a Synology installation for a client/associate and are concerned that their access outside of the DSM 7.1 primary browser GUI will show them warnings regarding non-Synology HDD media, this will not be the case and so far it seems that these amber indicators do not go further than the default storage setup, desktop widget (which can be disabled in 1 click) and the alerts log. Let’s test a variety of popular Synology applications to see if there is any kind of reference to drive compatibility or limitation in their presentation.

Synology Applications in DSM 7.1 & 3rd Party HDD/SSDs

There are ALOT of Synology first-party applications available in DSM 7.1 and chances are that you are going to be using at least 2-3 regularly (backups, multimedia, surveillance, collaboration tools, virtual machines, general sharing, etc), so knowing if the use of 3rd party storage media in a large scale or enterprise Synology NAS solution in 2022 is going to be smooth/unrestricted is going to be paramount. Once again, I found no limitations or hindrances in DSM 7.1 with the DS2422+ and drives I tested compared with the same operations using the Synology HAT5300 drives. Even directly in the app center itself, I was able to select the volume that had the 3rd party media as the default installation directory for all apps if I wanted, without any limitations or warning.

The improved resource monitor in DSM 7.1 also allowed full and unfettered monitoring of the full storage pools, volumes and individual drives as normal.

In the control panel, the shared folders that I created on the 3rd party drive built volume could still be added to the media indexing folders with zero restriction, limitations and without any notification or warning.

The same goes for using some of the background applications such as snapshots and replication used with the non-Synology drive volume. These services also had all of their more customizable features of retention, schedules and capacity available too.

Heading into more business’y territory, the Synology Virtual Machine Manager was still able to use the volume made of 3rd party drives as an available storage space, as well as accessible for VM images and services. The number of these larger-scale solutions from Synology that are deployed for VM utilization is growing rapidly as the tool improves (as well as used in conjunction with the likes of VMware, Hyper-V, SaaS and PaaS providers to sync/migrate from over time) so this was always going to be a crucial area of storage concern for many in DSM 7.1’s drive support.

Equally, there was no limitation to the individual configuration options that Synology VMM includes for the storage you connect it to.

You will also be pleased to hear that the full range of backup and synchronization tools that are included with Synology DSM 7.1 have unrestricted access to volumes made of 3rd party drive media. I tested Hyper Backup, Cloud Sync and Active Backup Suite – all three could utilize volumes, regardless of the drives in the pool, with equal features and services. I was unable to test Hybrid Share, but I saw no indication that this would have any limitation either.

Users looking to use the Synology storage as a direct target for ISCSI LUNs will also be pleased to hear that 3rd party drive built volumes worked 100% normally and there were zero warnings on screen.

Finally, Synology’s ever-evolving Surveillance station software had complete, unrestricted and no-warning access to the 3rd party HDD volumes and there was no hindrance whatsoever when connecting the service. The DS2422+ and large-scale solutions like it are always going to be popular with users who choose Synology for this CCTV software (those recordings can add up to terabytes in no time at all) and with Synology providing 16TB drives at max capacity in summer 2022 and the likes of WD and Seagate hitting 22TB right now, many users will want to know that 3rd party media in these systems is still viable.

Synology 2022/2023 Enterprise/Business NAS & 3rd Party HDD/SSDs – Conclusion

As mentioned in my introduction, I really did struggle to find anything on DSM 7.1 on the DS2422+ using 3rd party hard drives that were restricted or barred from use at all. There IS the ever-present amber warning on the system’s initial GUI splash screen, but there did not seem to be any restriction on the services and features of DSM 7.1. So, this leads to the question of support and also what makes the Synology branded media better choice for the end-user. For that first point, I reached out to Synology earlier in the year to ask for further clarification on how support would be provided by the brand with regard to system’s that are utilizing storage media that is certified/confirmed/present on the Synology Compatibility pages. Here was that response from back in Feb ’22:

We have always recommended only using the drives tested and verified by our engineers to ensure long-term system reliability many many years ago. While non-verified drives can still be used on all devices, the updated policy is being introduced on new products primarily purchased by our business and enterprise clients in an effort to highlight the potential issues with using them. The policy still allows for the use of non-verified drives but with certain restrictions, such as status indicators and alerts indicating the system is not in an officially supported configuration and certain drive metrics not being supported. At the same time we understand that there is room for improvements to the user experience while still ensuring our customers are aware of the issue. In an upcoming DSM update, we are adjusting the alert level shown and also adding drive S.M.A.R.T. monitoring for unverified drives.

So, it would look like the comments on multiple social message boards (Facebook, Reddit, Syno Forums, etc are at the very least being read), However, for many this message does not fully cover the question of detailing the level of support that the brand will indeed provide in the event of perfectly reasonable failure. I raised this matter with Synology with the following examples for guidance (as I felt they covered a cluster of existing scenarios posed by users online):

Example #1, a Synology DS3622xs+ or DS2422+ owner purchases their unit and 12 Seagate EXOs HDDs, then 36 months down the line they suffer an unexpected (but perfectly reasonable) PSU failure. Will the brand support this user and provide a replacement PSU?

Alternatively, Example #2, if the hardware failure (still within perfectly reasonable parameters of hardware that is mass-produced of course) is controller board based? Where will the utility of non-Synology media stand?

A senior Synology manager provided the following response and clarification:

When a customer makes a technical support request, our engineers will work with them in troubleshooting the cause of the issue and to find a solution to resolve it. If it is determined that a failure is directly attributable to a 3rd-party component that has not been validated by Synology, our engineers may make the decision to reject continuing the diagnostics process. This is carried out because in many cases, there is little that our engineers can do without having those exact components on hand to replicate the problem and then determine a way to workaround or mitigate them.

You can read the rest of that article and all the points it covered HERE – https://nascompares.com/2022/02/17/synology-nas-and-hard-drive-compatibility-in-2022-should-i-be-worried

On the subject of what makes Synology Drive media a recommended choice in Synology solutions, Synology was keen to highlight that:

  1. Better reliability: From our observation, our support tickets relating to HDD/SSD issues dropped 19% so far, which means users will gain better reliability with Synology HDDs.
  2. Enhanced performance: Performance when multiple devices read sequentially compared to 3 Party HDD +36%
  3. Seamless update: online HDD/SSD firmware update from DSM without downtime or rebuilding disk array

As further releases in the Synology 2022 range start to appear on the market (most recently the RS422+, RS822+ and DS1522+ at some point) we are seeing Synology’s position on Hard Drives in these less enterprise or large-scale solutions soften somewhat. listing many more HDD and SSDs from 3rd party brands (but still nowhere near as many as in previous NAS releases such as the DS920+ or DS1621+, with many glaring omissions from the likes of WD and Seagate, see here). Bottom line, it is always going to be the prerogative of Synology to choose the storage media they believe is in the best interest of the systems that provide, but I don’t think this is a subject that is going to be removed any time to everyone’s satisfaction. Right now you can definitely take advantage of pretty much the whole Synology DSM 7.1 features and services with your new high-end 2022/2023 Synology NAS purchase, but until more time passes and we have case examples of support queries running smoothly on forums such as Reddit of Synology’s official support forum, many will still have a lingering doubt about using 3rd party media on these systems. We will be doing more in-depth HDD comparisons with Synology media and 3rd party alternatives in the Synology DS2422+ very soon, so stay tuned and/or subscribe to hear about it first and once again thanks to CCLOnline for supplying us with the Synology NAS for our tests. Have a great week

 

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