Western Digital to Buy SanDisk for $19 Billion

Subject: Storage | October 21, 2015 - 09:22 AM |
Tagged: western digital, WD, sandisk, ssd, hard drives, solid-state drive

western-digital-evy.jpg

Western Digital has agreed to purchase Sandisk for $19 billion in cash and stock, a deal which values Sandisk at $86.50 per share and represents a 12% premium over yesterday's closing price. Current Western Digital CEO Steve Milligan will remain in charge of the company, which retains its headquarters in Irvine, California, while SanDisk's CEO Sanjay Mehrotra is expected to remain with Western Digital and join their board of directors.

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Sandisk had reportedly been looking for a buyer, with Micron the other likely candidate according to this morning's report from The Wall Street Journal. The move should help to better position Western Digital in the SSD space, something rival Seagate appeared to be focused on when purchasing LSI last year. Neither company has any significant presence in the consumer solid-state market dominated by Samsung, and it will be interesting to see where WD goes with the Sandisk brand.

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Specifications

Introduction:

It has been a while since we took a look at some hard drives here at PC Perspective. While seemingly everyone is pushing hard into Solid State Storage, those spinning platters have gotten the computer industry by for several decades, and they won't be going away any time soon so long as magnetic domains can store bits for cheaper than electrons can. SSDs have been eating away at the market for OS and single drive mobile needs, but when it comes to bulk storage, nothing beats a great hard drive for the money. Since many users would rather avoid maintaining a large array of drives, getting the capacity of each 3.5" unit higher is still a need, especially for storage hungry consumers. Enterprise units have been pushing into 8TB territory lately, but the consumer sweet spot currently remains at 6TB. Western Digital entered this area in July of last year, pushing their popular Green and Red lines up to 6TB. While the capacity was great, those two lines are mean to be power saving, slower spinning drives. When platter speeds are low, the laws of physics (and of rotational latency) kick in and dictate that they could never perform as well as their 7200 RPM counterparts.

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...and now they have filled that gap, with their Black and Red Pro models now made available in up to 6TB capacities. To clarify the product lines here, the Green and Black products are intended for usage as a single drive, while the Red and Red Pro are meant for operating in NAS devices and use in a RAID. The two drives in this review are the faster spinning models, so we should see better performance all around. Spinning those platters faster means more power drawn and more heat generated by air friction across the platters, as we can look into below:

Specifications:

Western Digital Red Pro 6TB:

  • Model: WD6001FFWX
  • Max Sequential Read: 214 MB/s
  • Form Factor: 3.5”
  • Interface Type: SATA 6.0 Gb/s (SATA 3)
  • UBER: <1 in 1015
  • Power (active/idle/standby): 10.6W/7.4W/1.6W
  • Warranty: 5 years

Western Digital Black 6TB:

  • Model: WD6001FZWX
  • Max Sequential: 218 MB/s
  • Form Factor: 3.5”
  • Interface Type: SATA 6.0 Gb/s (SATA 3)
  • UBER: <1 in 1014
  • Power (active/idle/standby): 10.6W/7.6W/1.6W
  • Warranty: 5 years

For comparison, the slower spinning 6TB Red and Green models run at 5.3W/3.4W/0.4W. Lesson learned - moving from ~5400 RPM to 7200 RPM roughly doubles the power draw of a high capacity 3.5" HDD. Other manufacturers are doing things like hermetically sealing their drives and filling them with Helium, but that is a prohibitively expensive proposition for consumer / small business drives, which is what the Black and Red Pro lines are meant to satisfy. It has also been proven that Helium filled drives are not the best if their track geometry is not optimized as well as it could be.

Western Digital Releases My Book Pro - up to 12TB of Thunderbolt Connected Storage

Subject: Storage | September 8, 2015 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, thunderbolt, My Book Pro

Western Digital has launched a new Thunderbolt RAID-capable external drive called the My Book Pro:

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The My Book Pro connects a pair of 3, 4, 5, or 6TB HDD's to a host system via either 20 Gbps Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 (at 5 Gbps). The unit comes preconfigured as a RAID-0 to give full capacities of 6, 8, 10, or 12 TB, but can be switched to RAID-1 or JBOD mode upon connection to a host system. Note that RAID-1 (mirroring) will cut the usable capacity in half - limiting to the capacity of a single drive. As seen above, there are also a pair of USB 3.0 ports at the front of the unit for connecting additional devices to the host via the My Book Pro.

wdfMB_Pro4.jpg

Looking at the rear, we see a pair of Thunderbolt ports (daisy chaining of up to six My Book Pros is supported), as well as a USB 3.0 port.

We are not sure which drives come pre-installed, but the press release clearly states 7200 RPM and since WD just launched a higher capacities of the Red Pro, we'd guess that was their choice here.

Press blast appears after the break.

Western Digital Launches 5TB and 6TB Black and Red Pro

Subject: Storage | August 18, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, Red Pro, hdd, Black, 6tb

It's been a while since Western Digital updated their Black series of HDDs, with their 4TB release taking place over two years ago. I'm happy to say that for those looking for a massive HDD suited for holding that enormous games folder too large to fit on your SSD, your wait is finally over, as today WD has updated the Black line to include 5TB and 6TB capacity units.

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The Black series introduced that nifty dual stage actuator technology nearly five years ago, and has added a few more bells and whistles along the way. These new models include a 128MB cache and run on dual-core processors.

Along with that news also comes an update to their Red Pro series, which was also limited to 4TB in capacity when they launched last year. Red Pro models will now also include 5TB and 6TB units, so those wanting the most performance and lowest response time from their NAS can now also enjoy that performance at a 50% gain in capacity.

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The new 6TB Red Pro also includes a 128MB cache and can peak at 214MB/sec (at the start of the disk). Also included in these is WD's NASware 3.0 firmware, which is specifically tuned to enable packs of these operating in packs while minimizing the effects of vibration on performance.

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The 5TB Black comes in at $264 while the 6TB comes in at $294. The Red Pro's come at only an additional $5 over the Black, respectively (small price to pay for better compatibility with larger arrays). Both the Red Pro and Black carry a 5-year warranty.

Press blasts for the 5/6TB Black and Red Pro appear after the break.

Western Digital Launches Re+ Datacenter HDD, Bests HGST He6 in Power Consumption

Subject: Storage | March 10, 2015 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, Re+, hdd, 6tb, 5TB

Western Digital has just launched a new entry in their Datacenter Capacity HDD lineup:

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The Re+ is based on the Re series of enterprise 3.5" HDDs (first revision reviewed here), but this one reduces the spin speed down from 7200 RPM to 5760 RPM. The HGST Ultrastar He6 is a great power efficient and Helium filled drive, but while that unit spins at 7200 RPM, it's max data rate is only 177 MB/sec. The 6TB WD RE spins at the same speed with a much higher rate of 225 MB/sec, but also draws more power than an He6. By reducing the platter speed, WD was able to bring power consumption into the 4.6-6.2W range with peak transfer rates of 175 MB/sec. The competing He6 draws 5.0-7.0W.

While dialing back the RPM was a simple way to achieve this very low power consumption, the He6 would still have the advantage in seek times (a faster spinning disk means less time waiting for the data to come around to the read head). The seek time argument may be moot given the purpose of these HDDs leans towards cold/warm/archival data storage that is very infrequently and sporadically accessed. Still, it is an interesting point that WD's platter density was so much higher that they could simply slow the RPM and yet maintain throughputs competitive with a faster spinning unit.

In combination with this announcement is the fact that the Re and Se lines (formerly limited to 4TB) are now available in 5TB and 6TB capacities. With the Se moving up to 6TB, we may see a Red Pro in the same capacity in the near future (depending on demand).

More to follow on these at a future date. Full press blast after the break.

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Test System Setup

A while ago, in our review of the WD Red 6TB HDD, we noted an issue with the performance of queued commands. This could potentially impact the performance of those drives in multithreaded usage scenarios. While Western Digital acted quickly to get updated drives into the supply chain, some of the first orders might have been shipped unpatched drives. To be clear, an unpatched 5TB or 6TB Red still performs well, just not as well as it *could* perform with the corrected firmware installed.

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We received updated samples from WD, as well as applying a firmware update to the samples used in our original review. We were able to confirm that the update does in fact work, and brings a WD60EFRX-68MYMN0 to the identical and improved performance characteristics of a WD60EFRX-68MYMN1 (note the last digit). In this article we will briefly clarify those performance differences, now that we have data more consistent with the vast majority of 5 and 6TB Reds that are out in the wild.

Test System Setup

We currently employ a pair of testbeds. A newer ASUS P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt and an ASUS Z87-PRO. Storage performance variance between both boards has been deemed negligible.

PC Perspective would like to thank ASUS, Corsair, and Kingston for supplying some of the components of our test rigs. 

 
Hard Drive Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i7-4770K
Motherboard ASUS P8Z77-V Pro/TB / ASUS Z87-PRO
Memory Kingston HyperX 4GB DDR3-2133 CL9
Hard Drive G.Skill 32GB SLC SSD
Sound Card N/A
Video Card Intel® HD Graphics 4600
Video Drivers Intel
Power Supply Corsair CMPSU-650TX
Operating System Windows 8.1 X64 (Update 1)
  • PCMark Vantage and 7
  • Yapt
  • IOMeter
  • HDTach *omitted due to incompatibility with >2TB devices*
  • HDTune
  • PCPer File Copy Test

Read on for the updated performance figures of the WD 6TB Red.

IDF 2014: Western Digital announces new Ae HDD series for archival / cold storage

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 9, 2014 - 04:51 PM |
Tagged: WDC< Western Digital, WD, idf 2014, idf, hdd, Cold, Archival, Ae

We talked about helium filled, shingled HDD's from HGST earlier today. Helium may give you reduced power demands, but at the added expensive of hermetically sealed enclosures over conventional HDD's. Shingling may give added capacity, but at the expense of being forced into specific writing methods. Now we know Western Digital's angle into archival / cold storage:

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..so instead of going with higher cost newer technologies, WD is taking their consumer products and making them more robust. They are also getting rid of the conventional thinking of capacity increments and are moving to 100GB increments. The idea is that once a large company or distributor has qualified a specific HDD model on their hardware, that model will stick around for a while, but be continued at an increased capacity as platter density yields increase over time. WD has also told me that capacities may even be mixed an matched within a 20-box of drives, so long as the average capacity matches the box label. This works in the field of archival / cold storage for a few reasons:

  • Archival storage systems generally do not use conventional RAID (where an entire array of matching capacity disks are spinning simultaneously). Drives are spun up and written to individually, or spun up individually to service the occasional read request. This saves power overall, and it also means the individual drives can vary in capacity with no ill effects.
  • Allowing for variable capacity binning helps WD ship more usable platters/drives overall (i.e. not rejecting drives that can't meet 6TB). This should drive overall costs down.
  • Increasing capacity by only a few hundred GB per drive turns into *huge* differences in cost when you scale that difference up to the number of drives you would need to handle a very large total capacity (i.e. Exabytes).

So the idea here is that WD is choosing to stick with what they do best, which they can potentially do for even cheaper than their consumer products. That said, this is really meant for enterprise use and not as a way for a home power user to save a few bucks on a half-dozen drives for their home NAS. You really need an infrastructure in place that can handle variable capacity drives seamlessly. While these drives do not employ SMR to get greater capacity, that may work out as a bonus, as writes can be performed in a way that all systems are currently compatible with (even though I suspect they will be tuned more for sequential write workloads).

Here's an illustration of this difference:

capacity 1.png

The 'old' method meant that drives on the left half of the above bell curve would have to be sold as 5TB units.

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With the 'new' method, drives can be sold based on a spec closer to their actual capacity yield. For a given model, shipping capacities would increase as time goes on (top to bottom of the above graphic).

To further clarify what is meant by the term 'cold storage' - the data itself is cold, as in rarely if ever accessed:

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Examples of this would be Facebook posts / images from months or years ago. That data may be rarely touched, but it needs to be accessible enough to be browsed to via the internet. The few second archival HDD spinup can handle this sort of thing, while a tape system would take far too long and would likely timeout that data request.

WD's Ae press blast after the break.

Podcast #310 - NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet, WD 6TB Red and 4TB Red Pro HDDs and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 24, 2014 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, nvidia, shield, shield tablet, tegra, tegra k1, WD, red, 6tb red, 4tb red pro, A88X-G45 Gaming, xiaomi, maxwell, amd, Intel

PC Perspective Podcast #310 - 07/24/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet, WD 6TB Red and 4TB Red Pro HDDs and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:25:40

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

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.

** Update ** WD corrected early shipments of these drives and we have a full retest of the corrected units posted here.

*** 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 - 06:21 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).

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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.

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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.