Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital
Tagged: wdc, WD, Red Pro, red, hdd, 6tb, 4TB

Introduction and Specs

Introduction:

*** NOTE ***

In the preparation for this review, we noted abnormal behavior with the 6TB Red. After coordination with Western Digital, they replicated our results and will be issuing a firmware to correct the issue. We are publishing this piece as-is, with caveats added as appropriate. We will revisit this piece with an additional update once we have retested the 6TB Red on the updated firmware / configuration. More information / detail is available in our related news post on this matter.

*** END NOTE ***

Last year we covered the benefits of TLER enabled drives, and the potential for drive errors in a RAID can lead to the potential loss of entire arrays. Western Digital solved this problem by their introduction of the WD Red series. That series was since incrementally updated to include a 4TB capacity, and other Western Digital lines were also scaled up to 4TB capacities.

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This week the Red line was updated to include both 5TB and 6TB models, sporting 1.2TB per platter. Performance is expected to be slightly improved over the older / smaller capacities of the Red. The upgraded line will use an improved 'NASware 3.0' firmware, which makes improvements to Western Digital's software based vibration compensation. These improvements mean WD can now support up to 8 Reds in a single chassis (up from 5 with NASware 2.0).

Also announced was the new Red Pro line, available in capacities up to 4TB. The Red Pro is just as it sounds - a 'Pro' version of the Red. This model borrows more features from WD's enterprise line, making it very similar to an SE series HDD. Imagine a Red, but at 7200RPM and more aggressive seek times. The Red Pro also borrows the enterprise-grade 5-year warranty and is supported in chassis up to 16 bays, thanks to built-in hardware vibration compensation. When all is said and done, the Red Pro is basically a WD SE with firmware tweaked for NAS workloads.

As a recap of what can potentially happen if you have a large RAID with 'normal' consumer grade HDD's (and by consumer grade I mean those without any form of Time Limited Error Recovery, or TLER for short):

  • Array starts off operating as normal, but drive 3 has a bad sector that cropped up a few months back. This has gone unnoticed because the bad sector was part of a rarely accessed file.
  • During operation, drive 1 encounters a new bad sector.
  • Since drive 1 is a consumer drive it goes into a retry loop, repeatedly attempting to read and correct the bad sector.
  • The RAID controller exceeds its timeout threshold waiting on drive 1 and marks it offline.
  • Array is now in degraded status with drive 1 marked as failed.
  • User replaces drive 1. RAID controller initiates rebuild using parity data from the other drives.
  • During rebuild, RAID controller encounters the bad sector on drive 3.
  • Since drive 3 is a consumer drive it goes into a retry loop, repeatedly attempting to read and correct the bad sector.
  • The RAID controller exceeds its timeout threshold waiting on drive 3 and marks it offline.
  • Rebuild fails.
  • Blamo, your data is now (mostly) inaccessible.

I went into much further detail on this back in the intro to the WD 3TB Red piece, but the short of it is that you absolutely should use a HDD intended for RAID when building one.

Continue reading our review of the new WD 6TB Red and 4TB Red Pro!!

Western Digital launches 6TB Red and 4TB Red Pro - with a configuration issue

Subject: Storage | July 23, 2014 - 03:21 PM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, Red Pro, red, 6tb, 4TB

Western Digital has extended its Red line with 5 and 6TB models, sporting 1.2TB per platter. Performance is expected to be slightly improved over the older / smaller capacities of the Red. The upgraded line will use an improved 'NASware 3.0' firmware, which makes improvements to Western Digital's software based vibration compensation. These improvements mean WD can now support up to 8 Reds in a single chassis (up from 5 with NASware 2.0).

20140715-194643.jpg

Also announced was the new Red Pro line, available in capacities up to 4TB. The Red Pro is just as it sounds - a 'Pro' version of the Red. This model borrows more features from WD's enterprise line, making it very similar to an SE series HDD. Imagine a Red, but at 7200RPM and more aggressive seek times. The Red Pro also borrows the enterprise-grade 5-year warranty and is supported in chassis up to 16 bays, thanks to built-in hardware vibration compensation. When all is said and done, the Red Pro is basically a WD SE with firmware tweaked for NAS workloads.

We typically have our WD reviews post right at the NDA. On this piece, we opted to hold back as we've been working with Western Digital on some abnormal performance results we saw with the 6TB Red. Below are the results seen in Iometer. Note that the 6TB Red failed to demonstrate the expected 'ramp up' seen with other drives. HDDs normally show increased performance as Queue Depth increases. This is because the HDD controller is able to see multiple pending requests and optimize its access pattern. The more commands in the queue (higher QD), the more the HDD can optimize the pattern, and therefore the higher resulting IOPS seen.

iometer-ios-file.png

As you can see above, the 6TB Red appears to behave as if NCQ is disabled. Some might argue (in reviews that have already published) that the drive still performs well, but the plain truth of the matter is that a HDD effectively operating without NCQ removes the drives ability to scale when multiple commands are issued. Any test issuing more than one command simultaneously will see a lesser result as compared to a properly configured drive, so things like streaming multiple videos or several users actively simultaneously accessing a NAS will see a negative impact on performance.

The 4TB Red Pro did not demonstrate the issues noted above, and Western Digital has just issued this statement in response to our feedback. Here it is:

WD has learned that initial production units of WD Red 5* and 6 TB drives perform below our expectations in random-read benchmark tests when measured with specific testing software. We have found a configuration setting to be causing these particular test results, for which we are developing a firmware update to correct the configuration setting. In the intended application -- multi-drive NAS systems -- the drives have performed to our high expectations in WD’s labs and by our system partners; users will experience normal WD Red performance.

WD is committed to providing optimally performing storage products, designed for intended applications, and we will have a firmware update available through the WD Red Product Customer Service support line as it becomes available.

*Limited quantities of 5 TB have shipped with the earlier configuration setting.

We have decided to publish the full article covering both new drives, including the 6TB Red in its (currently shipping) misconfigured form. It will go live once I add the necessary verbiage explaining the misconfiguration seen on the 5TB and 6TB Red. Stay tuned for that piece later tonight (**EDIT** our review is now live **EDIT**), as well as a follow-on piece to be published as soon as we have the updated firmware from Western Digital.

Full press blast on the 6TB Red and 4TB Red Pro appears after the break.

Seagate's 6TB HDD, bigger but pricey

Subject: Storage | July 15, 2014 - 03:42 PM |
Tagged: hdd, Seagate, enterprise, 6tb, sata

For many users the purchase of a 6TB SSD is out of their price range and for many businesses who need long term storage the return on investment simply doesn't justify an SSD.  In some cases tape backup is sufficient but not always which is where products like Seagate's 6TB Enterprise drive excel, a 7200 RPM with an impressive 216MB/s stated sustained transfer rate.  It comes with a 5 year warranty and is rated at 550TB per year which means that even if it is heavily used you should not expect failure rates to be high.  It does cost a bit at $480 which makes the SAS 4TB model a bit more attractive but when your data needs its space it is hard to find a larger drive.  Check out the benchmarks at Overclockers Club.

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"Compared to your standard consumer level 3TB drive this thing is double the capacity and brings home the money with the performance. To have capacity and performance at the same time is the golden ticket. Although this drive has the added cost of being an enterprise drive, having dealt with some enterprise drives I can say it is well worth it if longevity and long up time is what you are looking for.”

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Seagate Packs 6TB Into 3.5" 7200 RPM Enterprise Capacity Hard Drive

Subject: Storage | April 8, 2014 - 08:22 PM |
Tagged: Seagate, sata 6Gbs, SAS, Hard Drive, enterprise, 6tb

Seagate's latest enterprise class hard drive offers up to 6TB of space in a 3.5" form factor. The Enterprise Capacity series drive comes in both SATA III 6Gbps and 12Gbps SAS interfaces. Seagate was able to achieve an impressive 1,000 Gb/inch or about 1.25 TB per platter with the drive's five total platters adding up to the 6TB capacity. Perhaps even more impressively, Seagate was able to offer up a 6TB, five platter, 7,200 RPM drive without using helium.

The 6TB Enterprise Capacity hard drive comes with a 128MB DRAM cache. It is rated at 216 MB/s for sequential transfer speeds and an average latency of 4.16 milliseconds. The drive also supports 256-bit AES encryption and an instant secure erase function which overwrites data multiple times. Seagate further claims the drive is rated for 24/7 workloads at 550TB/year with a MTBF of 1.4 million hours. The drive comes with a five year warranty.

Seagate Enterprise Capacity 6TB Hard Drive.jpg

The drive will come in several variants depending on the storage interface. LaCie has already committed to using the new drives in its dual bay external storage products. Seagate has not released pricing on the new 6TB drive, but stated that it would price the drive at the same $/GB as last year's 4TB model. Expect the price to be around $650 MSRP before contract and bulk order deals.

It is a neat drive for sure, and I hope that the technology trickles down to the consumer space quickly, as 4TB has been the maximum single drive capacity for far too long!

For now, the drive will be used in the datacenter, production house, and security/surveillance markets (particularly in the datacenter market where rack space is at a premium).

Source: Tech Report

HGST Working With Helium To Inflate Hard Drive Capacities

Subject: Storage | September 19, 2012 - 08:27 AM |
Tagged: western digital, WD, patter density, hitachi, hgst, helium, Hard Drive, 6tb

Western Digital-owned Hitachi Global Storage (HGST) recently announced that it is pursuing the mass production of helium-filled hard drives. The culmination of six-plus years of research and development, Hitachi’s engineers have come up with a workable solution to craft a sealed enclosure to contain the helium and internal drive hardware over the long term and in a way that can be mass produced. While the company is not ready to talk specifics or announce individual products, HGST (Western Digital) is going on record in stating that its helium-filled “hard drive platform” will offer up performance, power efficiency, and capacity improvements in a 3.5" form factor (with up to seven platters) sometime in 2013.

helium hard drives.jpg

Don't try this at home folks, it won't actually work :).

The current crop of hard drives have small holes on the top to allow air pressure equalization, as the drives are not a fully-sealed design (and is why dunking them in oil is a bad idea). The proposed helium-filled hard drives would change that design, by being fully sealed from the outside environment after being filled with the noble gas. Steve Campbell, CTO at HGST stated the following in the company's press release:

 “The benefits of operating a HDD with helium fill have been known for a long time. The breakthrough is in the product and process design, which seals the helium inside the HDD enclosure cost effectively in high-volume manufacturing,”

But why exactly is helium better for hard drives? In short, the gas is one-seventh (1/7) as dense as the air around us. This reduction in density allows for the platters to spin faster, or at the same spindle speeds at today's drives while experiencing less resistance and turbulance from versus an air-filled hard drive. Thanks to the reduced drag force, Hitachi can pack the platters closer together, which means that it can place more platters into the 3.5" hard drive form factor than ever before – up to seven with the current design. Further, the motor does not have to work as hard to drive the platters which results in quieter operation and more power savings. HGST also claims that using helium allows for better thermal conductivity, and allows the helium-filled hard drives to run up to 4°C cooler than an equivalently-configured air-equalized drive. Granted, 4°C is not that much of an improvement when looking at a single drive (or even a few in a desktop system), but it can add up to some decent cooling savings when these drives are utilized in datacenters.

Hitachi Global Storage does not yet have any specific products to announce publicly, but the company did offer up a few performance numbers that certainly seem promising – an in line with the company's goal of reducing the "total cost of ownership," or TCO. In addition tot he temperature improvements, the company claims up to 23% power reduction versus air. And when HGST factors in its seven-platter design, they have managed to bring the Watts-per-Terabyte (W/TB) 45% versus current drives. Assuming the helium-aided hard drives use the same (or more) amount of platter area as the company's previous drives, Hitachi/Western Digital could offer up to 7TB hard drives when combined with the company's 1TB per platter areal density improvements.

It has the potential to get even better, however. Should the engineers be able to integrate Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) – similar to what Seagate is pursuing – helium hard drives could offer up approximately 85TB 3.5" drives thanks to the additional two platters. Previously, Seagate envisioned up to 60TB HAMR hard drives in the 3.5" form factor. Those numbers are fairly far off in the future (and theoretical), however. On the other hand, Seagate believes that 6TB HAMR hard drives are reasonably close to public consumption, and if a HAMR drive could also benefit from the extra platters, potential spindle speed improvements, and power savings of using helium, I think 8TB+ is not out of the question while using less power than a traditional air-equalized (not sealed) 6TB HAMR-equipped hard drive.

Extremetech does bring up an interestng point about pricing, though. Mainly that helium is much more expensive than simply using the air around us! And as it is used up, it will only get more expensive, which are likely costs that will be passed onto consumers. Fortunately, it should not be too much of a premium that customers would have to pay (over a traditional hard drive) because a 3.5" hard drive will need only a small amount of the helium gas to realize the benefits, according to PC Perspective's resident storage guru Allyn Malventano.

What do you think about the prospects of a heluim-filled hard drive? Will we see such devices within our lifetimes, and just how much will these things cost? I suppose we'll have to wait until next year to find out!

Source: HGST