Synology, as one of the leaders in this market segment, actively develops the firmware of its devices and constantly adds various interesting and useful functions to them. However, it is not always possible to integrate new software modules into the existing environment, and then the company releases “major” updates. At the same time, the development cycle for new older versions consists of several stages, some of which involve enthusiastic users. This allows the company to get a much broader response and significantly improve the quality of the product.
For the release of the beta version of DSM 7.0 and the beginning of public testing, we offer a small overview of what awaits us in this update. But first of all, let us remind you that although beta versions are usually already quite stable in operation, it is strictly not recommended to use them in real work with important data.
This review, for obvious reasons, will be like a patchwork quilt of a picture-by-picture review, when we only briefly go through different topics in a description format, without going into details. Such events are usually accompanied by a press release, which uses familiar English expressions such as “improve usability, reliability, performance, and scalability”. If you try to translate it into Russian briefly, you get “we improved everything again.” Typically, with such major updates, the company also creates a document describing the changes as well as new features. He was used in the preparation of this material. But, of course, in the future we will definitely return to this topic in more detail and on real devices.
Working with disks, volumes and block devices
The first thing that is recommended to pay attention to is a completely redesigned module for managing disks, pools, volumes. You cannot see it on the virtual DSM, so for illustrations we use screenshots from the manufacturer here.
First of all, the new design should be noted. Users of the current version will have to adapt – the changes are quite strong here. On the other hand, it can actually be more convenient to manage disks and volumes. In particular, for models with a large number of bays and / or external expansion units, real disk layouts will be shown instead of depersonalized rectangles of different colors.
In addition, the configuration scheme for the SSD cache has also changed – its presence is immediately visible in the volume properties. To increase the speed of working with a large number of files, the option to write BTRFS metadata to the SSD is provided. Additionally, the process of writing data from the read-write cache to the SSD back to hard disks was accelerated in the event of a loss of fault tolerance at the caching volume.
Another useful feature is the explicit display of the space occupied by files (versions) of the Drive package on a volume. Previously, users often had a question about “missing” disk space.
In the new version of the manager, several additional features have been added for servicing fault-tolerant pools. Forced regular operation of replacing a disk in an array with an unused / spare (“Replace Drive”) allows the administrator not to wait for a disk to “fall out” of the array. In addition, through this function, you can replace the disks in the array with larger ones. Of course, for this operation it is necessary to have an unused slot, so it will mainly be of interest to users of enterprise-level systems. At home, few people allow themselves to have empty slots in models with 4 or 6 compartments.
Adding the “Auto Replacement” checkbox to lower the threshold for starting the procedure for automatically replacing a disk in an array with a hot-swap disk can hardly be called a major update, but those who are trying to minimize the risk of data loss will certainly delight.
The Fast Repair feature, when rebuilding a failover pool after a disk failure, copies blocks to the new disk based on their actual usage in the volume, significantly reducing recovery time.
In the current firmware version, if there are no hot spares, after replacing the failed disk, you must start the pool restore operation via DSM. In the new version, the “Auto Repair” item has been added to the array properties, which eliminates the need for manual intervention – the recovery will start automatically when the system detects the replacement of the disk with a new one.
As we can see, these new features allow the administrator to more comfortably manage disk arrays, reduce downtime, and reduce the risk of data loss.
To expand the use cases for block devices, the company redesigned the “iSCSI Manager”, now called SAN Manager, and added support for the Fiber Channel protocol. To use it, you need a fairly modern and efficient network drive, as well as a controller card to install in it.
The last two items on the list are a significant increase in the performance of RAID6 volumes and an expansion of the volume supported by the Peta Volume service up to 1 PB. In a press release for the beta of DSM, the company also announces work on volume-level deduplication.
Unfortunately, we did not see support for RAID60 arrays here, which is clearly in demand for large installations. For some customers, it would also be helpful to implement a built-in feature to “recycle” retired drives and securely erase the information stored on them (eg Secure Erase for solid state drives).
Access control and security
The second, no less important, direction of DSM development is security and access control. In the new version of the software, several functions demanded in the corporate segment were implemented.
The first is keeping a log of access rights changes. This function monitors the installation of new rights through Windows Explorer when accessing via SMB and records the username and IP address of the client on which this operation was performed.
The second service allows the administrator to export the current access rights to shared resources for audit purposes, checking the rights of specific users or groups. Filters are provided to simplify the analysis of the report.
In the section for controlling current connections, the function of forced disconnection of the user has been added, which will help to “release” the files blocked by him for use by other users.
In large companies, an important element of security policy is the delegation of rights to additional administrators. DSM update offers more flexibility here. In particular, you can separately grant the right to manage users or shared folders, control performance, work with backup services, and so on.
New features have been added to the Synology Drive Admin Console. It will now be easier to monitor the work of a large number of employees and connections from different devices.
Habitual logins and passwords today rarely meet security requirements. You can improve the situation with the use of two-factor authentication, but this significantly reduces convenience. In the new version of DSM, the company has added two new secure remote access schemes.
Firstly, when logging into DSM, the user can use the confirmation through the branded mobile application. In this case, in the browser it will be enough to indicate only your name.
The second option is to implement the FIDO2 protocol. It can be used with USB dongles, Windows Hello (including PIN, face recognition, and fingerprint), or TouchID on macOS.
It’s no secret that today cloud technologies are widely used by both ordinary home users and companies of any size. As we recall, Synology DSM has many services that fall into the cloud category, including document syncing and backup.
The Hybrid Share solution is focused on the corporate segment and may be of interest to companies with multiple offices and the need to provide access to shared data.
At its core, this technology transforms familiar shared folders on the NAS into hybrid ones – with the help of Synology C2 cloud storage. Moreover, several network drives located in different offices can “connect” to this folder at once.
For users, in fact, everything looks like a regular local resource. It can be accessed using all supported protocols – SMB, NFS, AFP, FTP, as well as through a browser and File Station. You can use these folders for the Drive service, including storing up to 32 versions of documents.
At the same time, DSM provides transparent broadcast of requests for files in the cloud, and for acceleration it uses a local folder cache.
After creating a hybrid share from one of the devices, you can mount it on other NAS.
Additionally, the company offers a tool for downloading files from cloud storage, which does not require the user to have a network drive.
Of the mandatory requirements for NAS, support for the latest BTRFS and the presence of at least 2 GB of RAM are declared.
Of course, Synology C2 cloud storage is not free. But according to the company, tariff plans will be available with payment for the actual volume and with its automatic expansion if necessary. The cloud service panel will implement functions for managing shared folders, controlling their volume and connected clients.
In general, this service looks quite interesting, however, the declared gain in access / synchronization performance when accessing from several offices will probably be available only if they are located in geographic proximity to the data center (there are currently two of them – in Germany and in the USA).
Customers with multiple Synology NAS can use CMS to manage them more conveniently from one point. It has settings for features such as disk volumes, notifications, shared folders, users, rights, updates, and a few others. However, for this service to work, it is necessary to provide a network connection of all devices, which is not always possible. In addition, at the moment, in the personal area of your Synology account, you can find out the status of devices connected to it and a couple of their characteristics.
The development of this system was implemented in the Active Insight service. It provides more control over the company’s cloud servers.
The service allows you to check the status of network drives through a browser from anywhere on the Internet, including historical data on the load on the processor, memory, volumes, disks, cache and hardware sensors.
In this case, the user can configure control of metrics and notifications when values go beyond the set limits.
Note that the company has added a paid subscription to this service for additional functions – storing logs for a year, updating indicators with an interval of one minute, custom triggers for notifications.
Active Insight is also supported in the new branded mobile app, making it even easier to remotely monitor your devices.
Active Backup for Business
The very convenient and useful package Active Backup for Business will finally be able to back up and restore workstations and servers running Linux operating systems. This is undoubtedly very good news for fans of these operating systems.
As for macOS, its support is also expected in the new version of DSM, but only next year. Now, for these systems, you can use the standard Time Machine package.
Other useful innovations are the use of a more efficient compression algorithm, the ability to migrate virtual machines after a quick recovery in VMM back to VMWare and Microsoft hypervisors.
Note that both Active Backup for Business and Hyper Backup do not allow copying the same data to several different locations in their jobs. Of course, you can do several tasks, but still this is not the most convenient option. I would like to see the implementation of this feature in new versions. In addition, in addition to implementing the FC interface, the company could offer support for external tape drives or backup libraries here.
The only thing that is announced as a new interesting one for home users is the next incarnation of a package for organizing a photo album. The company has decided to combine the current Classic Photo Station and Automatic Moments in the new Synology Photos suite. It is assumed that this program will suit the requirements of both professionals and ordinary users.
The new version uses Personal Space and Shared Space views, which are transformations of Moments and Photo Station, respectively. In particular, the first option involves posting photos in the user’s home folder and providing general access through links (with support for uptime and protection with an additional password). The second one stores photos in the shared folder Photo and allows you to flexibly configure access control to albums based on user accounts of the NAS.
There are two options for organizing photos for viewing: by catalogs (albums) and a timeline.
Both views support face recognition and automatic album organization.
In addition, you can use your own set of criteria for creating “conditional albums”. For example, add camera type, tags, georeference, and so on.
Smart Filters will help you find the right photos based on different criteria.
Like the current versions of photo albums, the new package will receive its own branded mobile application for Android and iOS. One of the demanded functions in it is the automatic or manual copying of photos from mobile devices to the network storage.
At the same time, to reduce the load on the network storage and increase the speed of operations, the new program can use the resources of mobile devices to create previews of photos and convert videos.
From the presentations, videos and interface of the new DSM version, we can see that the company is really paying a lot of attention to its core development. Of course, this is not to say that these updates represent something uniquely new that fundamentally changes the experience and use cases of solutions. Still, Synology has long been indulging its users with hundreds of packages and services. So here we rather see a consistent movement and development of some functions and capabilities.
In addition, it is pleasant that the company is actively developing the capabilities of its software and offers new functions not only to users of the current line, but also to those who have been using devices for several years. Of course, based on such a brief presentation, it is difficult to make a complete impression of the new version and evaluate how correct it was to increase the major number by one. But in general, the general vector for safety, reliability and performance is clearly visible. We will try to evaluate the described functions and capabilities in practice and tell you more about them.