QNAP TS 251+ for Container Station

After many years of running home server systems on Raspberry Pi, another one broke down and I decided I can to better, so I bought a QNAP TS 251+ with two WD 6TB Red drives (suitable for NAS).

My objective here is to mostly use the QNAP with Container Station; for running virtual machines on it.

First Impression

The TS 251+ looks profesionally black, but it is all plastic. Installation was fine but for someone with little computer experience I would imagine it a bit scary. A few things to note:

  • It restarted several times for firmware upgrades, and restarting took some time
  • There are some “I accept privacy…”-things to accept. I guess it is fine. But one reason you get your own hardware instead of running in the cloud is that you know your data is private. So if you are paranoid, read the fine print or get into the details.
  • I suggest you familiarize yourself with RAID0, RAID1 and JBOD before you start it up.
  • I suggest you read about Static Volume, Thin Volume and Thick Volume, and make up your mind, before you start it up (I think Thin makes most sense, especially for use with Container Station).
  • The Web GUI is good – very “modern” – in a way that it almost feels like a desktop computer. A bit over-engineered and messy if you ask me. There are very many features and details, and it is a bit intimidating and confusing at first.
  • Container Station is just what I want and need!
  • I find it silent and cool enough (44C reported under load)
  • It automatically started some “Raid Syncronization” that takes about 24h with my drives. Guess it is fine, but it makes me a bit nervous with something new that I hesitate to restart or reconfigure it because it is doing something low-level and important.

Container Station Problem

When I woke up in the morning it turned out my container was down. There was message from the middle of the night:

 [Container Station] Created interface "lxcbr0" with errors. Unable to start DHCP service.   

I found this strange, I could not start Container Station again, and I found other people had had this problem with no elegant solutions. I found that the problem was solved if I deleted the two virtual switches (docker0) and (lxcbr0); Container Stations creates them automatically when it starts.

I think my container may have crashed due to too little RAM in the middle of the night, and that somehow corrupted something.

Memory Upgrade

This model comes with 2GB RAM. That is quite enough, but not if you want to run Container Station conveniently. I have switched off most QNAP services, running a single LXC Container with syncthing using about 500MB of RAM, and the QNAP complains there is little available RAM (and it uses swap). So I think it is safe to say that to run Container Station or Virtualization Station, more RAM is recommended.

Officially max RAM is 8GB but there are multiple records of people saying it works with 16GB as well. It also appears that you may use just one memory module (out of two), they dont need to be installed in pairs.

So I bought 2x8GB and it seems to work perfectly:

  • Corsair DDR3L 1600MHz MACMEMORY
  • CMSA16GX3M2A1600C11

Virtualization

There are several Virtualization options with the QNAP:

  • Virtualization Station: running real virtual machines (like VMWare), emulating hardware. Just starting Virtualization Station used almost 1GB or RAM.
  • Container Station:
    • running (LXC) virtual linux machines, emulating just the kernel. This is much more light-weight, and it means the virtual machine shares disk and RAM with the main system (you do not need to allocate disk, all disk is available and shared for every virtual machine – they just live in separate folder)
    • running Docker containers
  • Linux Station: allowing the QNAP to work as a Linux Desktop.

Apart from virtualization, the QNAP also allows you to install things like WordPress, Mediawiki, MySQL and other services as packages.

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