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

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 9, 2014 - 01:51 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:

WD_AE_PRN.jpg

..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.

capacity 2.png

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:

tiers.png

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 - 09:58 AM |
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.

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

Program length: 1:25:40

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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.

20140715-195152.jpg

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.

Computex 2014: WD Shows SATA Express-based PCIe HDD

Subject: General Tech, Storage, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2014 - 12:37 AM |
Tagged: computex, computex 2014, WD, ssd, pcie, SATA Express, hdd

SATA Express is an interface to either connect a hard drive to PCIe lanes, or up to two drives via SATA. Obviously, PCIe bandwidth over a cable connection is the real draw. To use the full speed, however, the drive needs to be able to communicate over PCIe. Currently, the standard uses two PCI Express 2.0 lanes (1 GB/s).

WD-SATAe-demo.jpg

Now that Z97 and H97 have launched, WD is set to show off the technology at Computex. The above image is apparently of a dual-drive product, containing 4TB of rotating media and 128GB of SSD memory. I am immediately reminded of the Western Digital Black2 dual drive which Allyn reviewed last November. That product crammed a 120GB SSD into a 2.5" 1TB HDD, which appeared to the system as two separate drives. The drive has "Technology Demonstration" written in red font right on it, but it could be a good representation of what the company is thinking about.

WD also asserts that their prototype uses standard AHCI drivers, for OS compatibility.

If you want to see this product in action, then -- well -- you kind-of need to be at Computex. At some point, you might be able to see it in your own PC. When? How much? No pricing and availability, again, because it is a tech demo.

Source: WD

Western Digital launches surveillance-oriented WD Purple series of 3.5" HDDs

Subject: Storage | February 25, 2014 - 05:00 AM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, surveillance, Purple

Western Digital has several lines of hard disks to choose from. You have Greens, Blues, Blacks, enterprise RE's, and even ones named after dinosaurs. Then came a mix of RE and GP in the form of the RE4-GP. Then came the Red series, which carried some more of the enterprisey features from the RE series over into a NAS-tailored drive that sipped power like a Green. Then there was the AV-GP which took a green and tweaked the firmware to better handle multiple video streams being read to and written from the disk simultaneously.

You'd figure they had every possible angle covered, but apparently there was a hole to fill. Turns out the home / small business surveillance market is a bit of a big deal. We're talking about those security systems you see capturing 16 or even 32 video streams simultaneously. Add the fact that these larger systems tend to store their streams to a RAID as opposed to a single disk. What was needed was a drive capable of handling a greater number of simultaneous streams than an AV-GP, while also carrying over the RAID features of the Red, and doing so without driving costs into the enterprise territory of the SE/RE.

Behold the solution:

WDPurple_CoverOn_Left_4TB 022014.jpg

The WD Purple is an Advanced Format HDD that is optimized for recording up to 32 HD video streams simultaneously:

WD Purple efficiency slide.png

Writing 32 separate streams to a hard drive would usually lead to the heads thrashing about, trying to keep up with what appears to be random writes. The Purple has much smarter firmware that has been tuned for this specific purpose (seen above maintaining 50% idle time while handling 32 HD streams). While these firmware optimizations would hurt performance in normal consumer use, for heavy surveillance usage, this is likely the closest you can get to SSD performance for this application - without high cost/GB of using solid state as a solution to such a capacity hungry problem.

Speaking of cost/GB, Purple drives are quite reasonable, starting at $89 for 1TB up to $199 for the flagship 4TB capacity.

Press blast after the break:

CES 2014: PEPCOM Tidbits: Western Digital and Linksys

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2014 - 10:20 PM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, router, linksys, CES 2014, CES, 802.11ac

Western Digital:

Last night at the PEPCOM Digital Experience, we swung by Western Digital's booth. While there are no new launches at CES, it's always nice to see the full spread all laid out on display:

2014-01-06 22-11-28.JPG

4TB Green and Black, 1TB Blue, Ultra Slim drives, and of course the Black2.

2014-01-06 22-11-43.JPG

The other table shifts to backup and external storage, scaling up through the My Cloud to the larger EX4.

Linksys:

My eye was also caught by the behemoth of a router that is the Linksys WRT1900AC!

2014-01-06 22-12-53.JPG

This beast is way more than an evolution on the old WRT54G. While there are four antennas, the dual band Marvell radios are only 3x3 capable. They can, however, choose among the four antennas to achieve the best possible throughput. The '1900' rating comes from 1300Mbps (5GHz) + 600Mbps (2.4GHz). This router will be Open-WRT capable out of the box, so you can expect the folks like DD-WRT and Tomato to have usable firmware built very shortly after launch, which is expected sometime around April of this year. Let's check out the ports:

2014-01-06 22-14-39.JPG

Not only is there USB3, but we also have eSATA for even faster connectivity. Throughput to connected storage should be stellar as the on-board CPU will be a 1.2 GHz dual core ARM. Radios and CPU will be cooled by a built-in fan, and Linksys also noted they will be launching an 8 port Gigabit switch in a matching (and stackable) form factor. Open source firmware buff tech note: 128MB Flash, 256MB RAM. MSRP: $299.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

If you're into the laptop storage upgrade scene, you hear the same sort of arguments all the time. "Do I go with a HDD for a large capacity and low cost/GB, but suffer performance"? "I want an SSD, but can't afford the capacity I need"! The ideal for this scenario is to combine both - go with a small capacity SSD for your operating system and apps, while going with a larger HDD for bulk storage at a lower cost/GB. The catch here is that most mobile platforms only come with a single 2.5" 9.5mm storage bay, and you just can't physically fit a full SSD and a full HDD into that space, can you? Well today Western Digital has answered that challenge with the Black2 Dual Drive:

131125-055912-4.3.jpg

Yup, we're not kidding. This is a 120GB SSD *and* a 1TB HDD in a single package. Not a hybrid. Two drives, and it's nothing short of a work of art.

Continue reading our review of the Western Digital Black2 Dual Drive!!

Podcast #277 - GTX 780Ti, OCZ Vector 150 SSD, Details about Kaveri, and much more from APU13!

Subject: General Tech | November 13, 2013 - 09:38 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, gtx 780ti, Vector 150, ocz, r9 290, R9 290X, 290, 290x, WD, My Cloud, EX 4

PC Perspective Podcast #277 - 11/14/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 780Ti, OCZ Vector 150 SSD, Details about Kaveri, and much more from APU13!

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: 1:09:03
  1. Reminder about Halloween contest - update when I get home
  2. Week in Review:
  3. 0:30:50 This episode is brought to you by Carbonite.com! Use offer code PC for two free months!
  4. Closing/outro

Western Digital announces new Sentinel DS5100 and DS6100 small business NAS devices

Subject: Storage | October 10, 2013 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD

Today, Western Digital announced a couple of additions to their small business NAS solutions.

WD Sentinel DS6100 101013.jpg

These two new devices, marked in blue on the below spec comparison chart, are an updated version of the previous Sentinel DX4000 and RX4100 models. The new units feature Xeon processors running Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials. Unlike previous models, the new units can boot from separate 2.5" HDD's (or SSDs) running single or in a RAID-1 mirrored pair, meaning the system does not have to rely on the primary storage array for OS files. The use of the new Windows Server also enables the use of Storage Spaces in lieu of the on-board RAID solution, should the configuration require it.

WD Sentinel.png

These are definitely higher end NAS devices which pack a lot of processing punch. As a result, they are a far cry from an ARM powered home NAS in price as well as in performance. We're following these releases closely, and expect additional releases along these lines from Western Digital in the future. I hope to see an 8 bay (or greater) model materialize as well.

Full press blast after the break: