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 - 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.

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, 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.

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Packaging

Introduction:

Late last year, Western Digital launched their My Cloud series, first with a single-drive My Cloud, and immediately followed up with a beefier small-office product, the 4-drive My Cloud EX4. Then earlier this year, they filled My Cloud gap (so to speak), with a 2-drive variant of the EX4 - the My Cloud EX2. As the EX2 was more of a business type of NAS, it commanded a bit of a price premium as compared to competing 2-bay NAS devices. The logical solution is was for WD to expand the standard My Cloud lineup upward by adding a 2-bay device to their existing consumer line.

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The My Cloud Mirror is very similar to the My Cloud EX2. You get the bulk of the same features as compared with the EX2, but with some of the more workstation / enterprise features removed. Here's a couple of slides to help explain those differences:

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EX2vsMirror-2.png

Packaging:

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Packaging is simple, with only a power adapter, ethernet cable, and quick start guide needed.

Read on for more on Western Digital's new My Cloud Mirror!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Packaging

Introduction:

Last October, Western Digital launched the My Cloud. This device was essentially a network connected version of their My Book line of external hard drives, but with Internet connectivity and apps that could reach back to the My Cloud even when you were away from home. One month later, WD launched the My Cloud EX4, a much beefier version which supported redundant arrays of 4 hard disks, redundant network and power, and a load of other features. There was a rather large gap in features between these two devices, as the only RAID option was more of a small business one. Today Western Digital closed that gap:

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The My Cloud EX2 is essentially a My Cloud, but with dual drive bays, and a few additional features. Check out this projected trend below:

WD EX4-market shift.png

You can see there was a definite void in the 2-drive range that needed filling. With those two drives, you get a few options for redundancy or capacity+speed:

EX2 family.png

All standard RAID options for a 2-bay appliance are met here, though the vast majority of users should opt for the default RAID-1 mirrored set.

 

Packaging:

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Packaging is simple here with only a power adapter, ethernet cable, and quick start guide needed.

Read on for more on Western Digital's new My Cloud EX2!

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

Subject: Storage | February 25, 2014 - 08:00 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:

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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 8, 2014 - 01:20 AM |
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:

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

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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!

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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:

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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!

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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:

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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!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Features

Introduction:

Today Western Digital launched an important addition to their Personal Cloud Storage NAS family - the My Cloud EX4:

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The My Cloud EX4 is Western Digital's answer to the increased demand for larger personal storage devices. When folks look for places to consolidate all of their bulk files, media, system backups, etc, they tend to extend past what is possible with a single hard drive. Here is Western Digital's projection on where personal storage is headed:

WD EX4-market shift.png

Where the My Cloud was a single drive solution, the My Cloud EX4 extends that capability to span up to four 3.5" drives. When it comes to devices that span across several drives, the number 4 is a bit of a sweet spot, as it enables several RAID configurations:

WD EX4-RAID options.png

Everything but online capacity expansion (where the user can swap drives one at a time to a larger capacitiy) is suppoted. While WD has stated that feature will be available in a future update, I find it a bit risky to intentionally and repeatedly fail an array by pulling drives and forcing rebuilds. It just makes more sense to back up the data and re-create a fresh array with the new larger drives installed.

Ok, so we've got the groundwork down with a 4-bay NAS device. What remains to be seen is how Western Digital has implemented the feature set. There is a lot to get through here, so let's get to it.

Read on for more on Western Digital's new My Cloud EX4!

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

Subject: Storage | October 10, 2013 - 09:21 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:

Western Digital launches My Cloud storage device

Subject: Storage | October 2, 2013 - 10:42 PM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, My Cloud, cloud storage, cloud

Imagine a device of a similar form factor to the Western Digital My Book, but instead of USB or Thunderbolt connectivity, you had a Gigabit Ethernet connection and a dual core CPU capable of handling large throughputs to your home network. Toss in some back end software and a handfull of remote access apps for various mobile devices, and you have what Western Digital calls the My Cloud:

WD My Cloud.jpg

The concept behind this is to have something similar to DropBox, with some differences. We will be diving further into the My Cloud shortly and will publish a full write-up for your viewing pleasure, but for now it seems to cover every base except for having your shared data available on mobile devices when those devices are offline (with the exception of cached copies, of course).

Full press blast afer the break: