It's All In The Mind

Musings of an active mind

Building a reverse NAS (RNAS)

Posted by activemind on April 17, 2008

What the hell is this? Hold on let me explain and then maybe you can help me find a better term…or maybe something like this already exists and I just don’t know about it.
So what is a NAS (Network Attached Storage). It is a small device (like NSLU) or a enclosure (like Airlink ANAS 250) where it has a ethernet port and a USB port. You take a USB hardisk and plug it into the USB port. You take a ethernet cable and plug it into you router and Voila. Now you have a hard disk that can be accessed on your network.
So the basic philosophy is that the USB port expects a hard disk and the clients come from the ethernet side.

Well what I am looking for is something reverse of this.

Meaning, I want the USB port to “appear” as a hard disk and the ethernet port to provide the storage. So that I can plug the USB port into any device needing a USB hard disk and it will use my network storage as the storage.

Still doesn’t make sense.

Okay, let me give you an example. Take the case of a DVR/Tivo. So a DVR/Tivo records on a hard disk and some of the newer models allow you to use a external USB harddisk. But now if you want to view the recorded content on your PC you have to unplug the hard disk and plug it into your PC. Or if you have a networked home viewing system with a central server (one of these days I will write a post about my networked home video system…one of these days 🙂 then its a pain because the content is on the hard disk in the other room but you want to watch it in this room….so either you get off your ass, unplug the hard disk, move the content to central server and then watch it, or you just watch something else. Most of the time it ends up being number 2 (at least in my case). But the problem arises when your kid wants to watch something you recorded and you want to watch something that coming live…guess what…you end up recording your live stuff and the kid gets to watch his recorded stuff. Now watching a recorded game when you already know the result is not too much fun…..

So now, if I have a device or enclosure or something that has a USB and a ethernet port, I can plug the USB into the DVR/Tivo. The device would make itself appear like a hard disk to the DVR/Tivo and use the ethernet to access the central sever for all its storage needs. Like a reverse of NAS. Meaning the storage is on ethernet port and USB port on the device appears like a hard disk.
Before embarking down road, I thought that there MUST be SOME device already out there that does jsut this. So I looked and one option came pretty close…but not that close. Airlink 101 has a hard disk enclosure which has ethernet and USB ports. So all good. You record via USB and access via ethernet from anywhere. Not that simple. It turns OFF The USB port as soon as you plug in the ethernet cable. I know it sucks!! All the required interfaces present, just some stupid firmware programmer decided he would not allow both the ports to be accessed at the same time because the company could save 10c by not putting the bus arbritation logic. Not trying to get too technical…but anyways…

So I think I have THE DEVICE in mind that I think can do this. Yes, same old NSLU.(on a sidenote, NSLU is one of the few gadgets where if you search for it, no where does the company’s name show up in the first couple of hits. Its a VERY popular device in the linux community but somehow Cisco does not seem to be too fond of this Linksys device after the buyout) It has all the needed ports and can run opensource Debian linux on it. Now I need to find the right s/w and packages to do this but I think its doable.

What da ya thunk?

11 Responses to “Building a reverse NAS (RNAS)”

  1. Gaurav said

    Well, my DVR is for 2 TVs so we can watch independent channels/recordings. Use linux media server for streaming media (photos/videos/music) which I can watch over the PS3 or the windows media center. More and more products are becoming network aware and you might see NAS capable DVRs in future as well (once RIAA stops suing).

    So, the reverse NAS doesn’t really have a big market and hence no products (we actually explored this area in 2005). It is the market which eventually drives products/technology.

  2. Mark said

    This is indeed a growing market, just considering the number of DIVX compatible DVD players with USB ports out there. this is without mentioning the multitude of other devices such as portable media players such as my 7 inch LCD TV with USB port.

    I have sooured thew netr and by accident came across this post.

    What one clearly needs is a “hardware” Network client for SMB or NFS. I have had literally hundreds of suggestions from folks who have no idea what I want to do after explaining.

    There is however one possibility, that may work if you need to connect only one USB device to shares on your network. I recently was directed to this:
    ALthough it does not make a fake USB sisk from your network, apparently it will make a USB disk from the devices conected to a Linksys Slug or NSLU2, whitch itself WILL connect to the network. SOmewhat limiting I know.

    I tried to look into openwrt for this and anther possibility but the documentation for the build for my Airlink101 ANAS350 is pretty slim. I found no complete docs anywhere. All I know is that everything I attempted resulted in no LPR/LPD printer support which worked on the Airnas firmware which uses mini-lpd.

    My DVD player only uses USB1.X so the SLUG solution would need further refinement. Aside from that I always read about poor throughput on the Linksys NSLU2

    If you get any other solutions or test the NSLU2 . please let me know

  3. Gregory R said

    Ever heard of Popcorn hour A110 ?

  4. Mark said

    Gregory R

    I really do not think the Popcorn hour will help the original poster. If you are suggesting it as a replacement, it does not record.

    This poster has a Lexus, and you tell him to go buy a Ford.

    I suggest that you are therefore just another irrelevant poster that wants to be an authority, when the solutions you offer are unrealistic.

  5. Rohrer said

    Once again the sharp lcd hdtv is one of the hottest gifts this Christmas, they’re selling out fast. I found mine at

  6. SEX said



  7. there are bargain dvd players that are sold in our area. i think they are generic low cost dvd players :'”

  8. ehternet cables are still the ones that i use for my home networking applications `~:

  9. Chris Leavoy said

    Damn! This was posted almost three years ago. Has any such product come on the market yet?

  10. Double Damn its 2013, and still no such product.

    It would have been nice to hook all theose usb photo frames & TV’s to my NAS (or how about DLNA server?)

  11. Like I said, how can you call human rights with ethnic discrimination true human rights? But the problem now isu00a0like no matter you say, they don’t believe or even listen to. Well, walk away when they say “crack down”, and come back when there is news on the economy…nAnyways, thanks for your prompt responses ^_^ Come on

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