DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

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DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

Postposted on Thu Aug 18, 2011 10:36 am

First, my infrastructure: 1 HTPC, 1 Desktop, 1 Laptop. Also: 2 smart phones, lots of consoles. Possibly a tablet and additional desktop in the future.

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I'm (still) looking at putting up a NAS in order to centralize content, do backups and provide scratch space, etc.

When it comes to DLNA, Network Shares and iSCIS I think I understand the basics of what these three technologies do, but I'm not sure that I "get" them, as in do I really understand how they're used practically, and which ones to select for what, etc. Anecdotes, real-world experience and general education all appreciated.

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What I sort of understand:

1. Good old network shares. - Probably what I'm most familiar with. Share a directory structure on the NAS, and then I can map it as network drive for quick and dirty organized access.

2. DLNA - Media streaming - The main benefit I see to this is that it will allow just about anything to (semi) easily get the music and movies I've placed on the NAS. Xbox, PS3, HTPC, even the phones. Also guests bringing tablets or notebooks over too. Finally, +100 to geekdom if set to allow tablet/phone selecting a movie, and having it play e HTPC/TV.

3. iSCSI - Allows me to mount a directory (or is it a whole volume?) to a PC on the network as if it were a physical drive. I think it's neat, but its the hardest for understand the benefits of, since I don't see a clear use case.

===

A jumble of use-thoughts :

With regards to media consumption, the HTPC is currently the biggest consumer. Being that it's a full-fledged PC, I'm wondering whether going DLNA is worth it. Why stream when I can access the file directly? This means I could potentially get around picky standards/codec restrictions--but do I lose out on things like DXVA acceleration?

Of course, they're not mutually exclusive. Seems to me I could provide the HTPC full file access via network shares, but have the content organized for DLNA streaming so that other equipment can play along. Does this make sense?


Also, what would I do with an iSCSI target? I read up on one person trying to use an iSCSI target so that his Media Center could record TV straight to that drive over the network (but I believe 7MC supports recording to network shares?). Also, I thought it might be great if I built the new laptop thin on storage and just used the NAS to store bulk content (like media)--but again, I can do this with a network drive instead of iSCSI.
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Re: DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

Postposted on Thu Aug 18, 2011 10:49 am

Our sysadmin did some tests and he said iscsi was definitely faster than SMB shares.
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Re: DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

Postposted on Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:04 am

bthylafh wrote:Our sysadmin did some tests and he said iscsi was definitely faster than SMB shares.


Great, thanks! That's just the sort of info I'm looking for.
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Re: DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

Postposted on Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:05 am

DLNA shares the media stream from the source, that is, it sends the contents of the file, or modifies it realtime for whatever device requests the content based on the DLNA protocol (including transcoding).

SMB / Mapped directories share information as files.. This is called file-level access. Files are opened as read or read-write and contention is handled by the server.

iSCSI is a block-level direct access to a target (virtual drive) via ethernet. The Host (device accessing the drive) is responsible for the file system and file handling. If you look into iSCSI, be very careful about multi-host mapping.. It's not easy to have 2 machines play nicely with one filesystem concurrently. You need linux or windows server to do this correctly (unsure if mac can do clustering).

iSCSI is mostly used for SAN's and has a real place in the enterprise (I use it for HA virtual environments here at work), but it's not forgiving of noob mistakes, and one wrong setting can toast/corrupt a volume. Stick with DLNA or SMB for home video sharing, unless you specifically need remote access to data on ONE machine.

If you do venture into iSCSI, make sure you enable jumbo packets, and enable all hardware tcp/ip checksum processing (if any) on the cards to minimize CPU overhead when moving a lot of data to the disk.
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Re: DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

Postposted on Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:56 am

To echo cheddarlump, iSCSI is not what you want. iSCSI is really intended for one host connecting to the iSCSI target at a time. It is indeed faster than SMB since it's the actual SCSI commands wrapped in a packet and transmitted via TCP/IP and has little overhead compared to SMB. That's also the limiting factor on sharing. If you have two hosts connecting to one iSCSI target, and they aren't specifically designed to work this way, they will corrupt the file system nearly instantly.

AFAIK, Windows clusters are only active/passive and only the active node actually has the iSCSI volume mounted at any given time. I know this is the way our Windows 2008 clusters (SQL cluster, file server cluster, print server cluster, and DHCP cluster) are setup.
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Re: DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

Postposted on Thu Aug 18, 2011 12:38 pm

Here's the basics of what you need to know:

iSCSI vs. Network Share (SMB):
When you use a network share, you're dealing with whole files. The NAS device is responsible for creating the file system that stores the files, and presents those files to the clients. The NAS "server" is responsible for managing contention should multiple clients try to access the share/file. Conversely, iSCSI is a block protocol. What ends up happening in this case is the NAS device creates a virtual disk file, and presents this disk to the client. The client is then responsible for creating the file system on the disk and modifying the contents. The NAS device will have no concept of what data is on the iSCSI disk, and relies on the clients to manage their own connections to it.

Long story short: Use SMB to share files among multiple clients. Use iSCSI if you need to make a networked location appear as a local disk to one (or more in the case of clustered services) system and/or application.

DLNA is a (somewhat) separate piece to this topic. DLNA will scan the file stores on the NAS device, and present the appropriate media files using the DLNA protocol (rather than SMB). DLNA will not work with iSCSI shares (remember, to the NAS, the iSCSI virtual disk is a single file).

Given your scenario, what you probably want to do:
1) Setup appropriate network/SMB shares on the NAS that your client systems can use them to store data.
2) Setup DLNA on the NAS to scan those local shares and distribute the media on them to clients.
3) Ignore iSCSI (the only potential are in your use case could be a a scratch disk, but I would argue it would be far to slow and you'd be better off getting another local disk).
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Re: DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

Postposted on Thu Aug 18, 2011 2:07 pm

rock. gerbils = the best :)

This is exactly the sort of information I was looking for. thanks guys.
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Re: DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

Postposted on Thu Aug 18, 2011 2:41 pm

I'm runnning Windows Home Server (V1 powerpack 3) and a Core2Duo motherboard with a bunch of hard disks in a server tower in the basement.
Most everything on the network is connected via wired GB ethernet (and wireless iphones and laptops).

It can do really nice incremental backups of all my various Windows machines (7-8 total) and offers great bare metal restore capability.
All media files are stored there and my systems can access all the files via shares.
For my iOS devices I run the Airvideo app and run the Airvideo server app on the WHS server as a service.
It can also run a DLNA server if I wanted (like for the PS3 as I've done before).

That's the solution I picked (similar sounding to what you wanted) and it's really been running great FWIW.
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Re: DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

Postposted on Thu Aug 18, 2011 2:50 pm

dextrous wrote:AFAIK, Windows clusters are only active/passive and only the active node actually has the iSCSI volume mounted at any given time. I know this is the way our Windows 2008 clusters (SQL cluster, file server cluster, print server cluster, and DHCP cluster) are setup.


Server 2008 can do Active/Active

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc730992(WS.10).aspx
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Re: DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

Postposted on Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:49 pm

Ryu Connor wrote:
dextrous wrote:AFAIK, Windows clusters are only active/passive and only the active node actually has the iSCSI volume mounted at any given time. I know this is the way our Windows 2008 clusters (SQL cluster, file server cluster, print server cluster, and DHCP cluster) are setup.


Server 2008 can do Active/Active

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc730992(WS.10).aspx


One of the reasons for this is Hyper-V support. You'd need the remote disks to be active/active to get the same sort of concurrency that vSphere/ESX has. ESX supports it by having it's own file-based locking mechanism in place on VMFS volumes. Not sure how Windows gets away with it.
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Re: DLNA vs. Network Share vs. iSCSI

Postposted on Thu Aug 18, 2011 6:15 pm

the one drawback about dlna is you can't stream .iso. not a big deal if you plan on encoding everything. if your looking to throw all your dvd's on your nas ripping is going to be much faster than encoding plus, you get to keep the dvd menu, bonus footage, audio setup and all that good stuff. bluray too.

not sure about xbox support for .iso. i play everything through my wdtv live plus off a nas using network shares not dlna.

plus dlna sucks for any kind of directory structure, seems to just throw everything in either audio, video or pictures. at least that's why my player does, not sure about anyone elses.
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