Intel's EvanSport NAS Platform

Intel's recent foray into the consumer electronics (CE) space started with the 2007 launch of the Intel CE 2110 media processor. It was intended for digital set top boxes and media players / recorders. Based on a 1 GHz Intel XScale processor core, it had all the necessary integrated DSPs, GPUs, encryption engines and other I/Os. Around the same time, the Intel XScale business was sold to Marvell. Therefore, the follow-up Intel CE 3100 series for the same target market was based on a 800 MHz Intel Pentium M processor. The development of the Atom microarchitecture made it necessary to have yet another shift when it came to the Intel CE 4100. Fortunately, both Intel CE 4100 and the follow-up, CE 5300, are based around Atom cores. In an effort to branch out, the Intel CE 5300 series first debuted as a STB / media player platform (tagged Berryville in March 2012). A year later, it was also re-launched as a storage platform, EvanSport, for home users with media-centric usage patterns.

The CE5300 SoC ticks all the necessary I/O interfaces and features necessary for a media streaming platform. On the networked storage front, the blocks of interest are the high speed IOs, the GMAC and the security processor. We have one GbE interface. The typical x86 2-bay NAS usually comes with dual network ports (capable of port trunking), but units based on EvanSport are unlikely to have that. This is acceptable, considering that the unit is supposed to cater to home consumers who want to use it as a media server.

The other aspect of interest is the number of SATA and PCIe lanes. Two SATA ports point to most EvanSport designs ending up with two hard drive bays. As more and more data is generated by home consumers (thanks to smartphones which make it easier for users to shoot pictures and videos), two bays may not be sufficient moving forward (particularly when RAID protection is applied). NAS vendors may choose to use the two PCIe lanes along with a SATA bridge to provide two additional SATA ports on the board. Therefore, the maximum number of bays that we can hope to see with acceptable performance in a EvanSport-based NAS will be four.

The security processor is an interesting component. It contains an AES engine, but is primarily meant for handling DRM content in a STB environment. It should potentially be possible to use it to accelrate performance of encrypted volumes. However, it is up to the NAS vendors to take advantage of the feature.


Introduction Setup and Usage Impressions


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  • Namisecond - Friday, December 20, 2013 - link

    when your wifi software reports a connection at 54mb/s your actual throughput is not going to be or anywhere near 54mb/s. Reply
  • npz - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    What do you mean by "Full HD"? If you mean capable of handling the h.264 spec for higher quality settings, then no, there are almost no devices with cheap, fixed function decoders than can do that. You would be relying on software decoding only that would be pushing even high end quad-core portables to its limits (and sometimes, even that is not enough). Reply
  • npz - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    Also, there is a problem with transcoding such files with these Atoms: the hw decoder may not be able to handle your format either, so you would end up using the weak cpu for decoding Reply
  • Jaybus - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    So you would have the even weaker smartphone do the transcode? Reply
  • jwcalla - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    By "Full HD" I simply mean 1080p. My three year old phone can handle that.

    What device doesn't have hw-accelerated video decoding? And who would own such a device for media display if it can't handle such a simple task?

    Asking a NAS to do it seems out of character.
  • brucek2 - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    Even if there's never a bandwidth problem inside your home, there's almost surely going to be one when you're traveling outside your home.

    I also think you are overestimating what 3 year old and older devices can do. I'm sure there are plenty of streams that have been labeled "1080p" that they can play, but I'm equally sure there are plenty of 10+gb bluray rips they can not.

    Finally, if your primary consumption is via a multi-format capable device like a HTPC, you may not know for sure or want to deal with making sure all your files are decodable in hardware by all your devices. That's why you have a transcoder in between for those cases when you are going out to less capable devices to make sure that the bandwidth used and the format sent is going to work for that application.
  • robinthakur - Thursday, November 28, 2013 - link

    There are many many devices (such as PS3, 360 etc) which cannot access MKV containers where transcoding is the only option from a NAS or building an XBMC frontend box, which is still quite expensive and leads to one more power hungry device on the network. Being able to run XBMC with a media output from the NAS itself would actually be a much better solution for me as long as the CPU isn't getting hit constantly and the deive is near silent. Some people use Android based XBMC, but if you need lossless HD Audio, codec support and proper refresh rate support, your best, quietest, smallest option is actually a Mac mini running XBMC, but they do cost... Reply
  • YaBaBom - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Think users who have laptops/tablets/phones--if they have different devices with different capabilities, it's nice to be able to transcode the content from a high-bitrate original to something that best fits the mobile device. Plex does this automatically via software encoding on Windows boxes--i was really hoping to read that it could use the hardware encoder to do the same thing for multiple users (My old Core2Duo server struggles to do this for just one stream). Reply
  • Nephelai - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    Two pc's each with a data disk. /robocopy once per week. Job done. NAS /shrug Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    For the average household, 2 PCs at idle will probably consume upward of 40 W (minimum -- assuming they are Atom / Brazos based ones). This one, at load, consumes less than 35 W. You will still miss the mobile app data access functionality and lot of other perks provided by a NAS. Reply

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