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:

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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.

WD® INTRODUCES COLD-DATA-STORAGE HDDS
OPTIMIZED FOR THE MODERN DATACENTER

Progressive-Capacity, Energy-Efficient WD Ae Drives Enable Archive Tier of Storage Optimized for Web-scale, Cold-data Infrastructures

Moscone Center (IDF Booth #363), San Francisco, Calif., and Irvine, Calif., – Sept. 8, 2014 – WD®, a Western Digital (NASDAQ: WDC) company and world leader in storage deployed for modern datacenters, today announced its innovative WD Ae™ line of hard drives designed for the unique operating characteristics of the emerging archive tier within web-scale datacenters. Built on a platform to achieve optimal total cost of ownership (TCO), WD Ae hard drives utilize the lowest possible power consumption and a Progressive Capacity™ model to enable a new tier of storage for large-scale cloud infrastructures.

     “Modern datacenter customers came to us with a need for an HDD solution designed specifically for ever-expanding cold-data repositories,” said Matt Rutledge, senior vice president and general manager, storage technology, WD. “Now in our third generation with over 700 petabytes deployed, WD is bringing the WD Ae drive to the broader market, representing another vital component of WD’s capacity storage portfolio, which delivers features and product attributes optimized for the rapidly evolving storage market.”

     The expanding scale of data creation and the corresponding need to retain, preserve and extract value from that data creates a new and unique challenge for large-scale datacenter entities.  Reliable, long-term data management for massive-scale data storage is becoming ever more critical.  The conventional tools and technologies for cost-effective storage are not effective in massive-scale datacenters, so entirely new approaches to storage architectures and associated component technology are emerging.

     “Cloud service providers have rapidly growing volumes of generally inactive data to store and manage, while at the same providing customers with access to the data at almost any time,” according to John Rydning, IDC’s vice president for hard disk drive research.  “WD’s new WD Ae line of HDDs is aimed directly at these storage use cases, and is helping to define a new, active archive enterprise storage sub-segment, thus opening new HDD storage opportunities for the HDD industry.”

     Focusing on the unique attributes of cold data, WD has led the cold/archive market with multiple generations of archive storage, activelyevolving a product formula to deliver the optimal combination of cost-effectiveness, power efficiency, storage density and application intensity. WD Ae drives are purpose-built archive HDDs with extreme areal density on a high volume mechanical platform that offers increased power efficiency and a Progressive Capacity model.

     Part of the unique attributes of the WD Ae hard drive family includes: a dense five-platter platform, which renders an optimal mix of power, performance, capacity and cost; capacities greater than 6 TB; SATA 6 Gb/s interface; and a workload and reliability rating of 60 TB/yr workload and 500 Khrs Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF).  

 WD Ae Progressive Capacity

     As technology and manufacturing processes mature over time, incremental capacity increases are realized. WD’s innovative Progressive Capacity model allows distribution of these incrementally higher capacity models to take advantage of their fullest available capacity: 6.1 TB, 6.2 TB, or 6.3 TB, for instance. These more granular capacity increments result in far greater capacity attainment through the life of a product platform. At the massive scale of modern applications, the availability of incremental capacity each quarter renders exceptional value to datacenters who can realize improvements in capacity-per-drive, capacity-per-volumetric space and reduced infrastructure overhead.

Hot vs. Cold Data Storage - the Data Storage Temperature Continuum

     While approximately 20-30 percent of data on most networks is active, commonly referred to as “hot,” the majority of data, 70-80 percent is inactive or “cold,” meaning it is unchanging and infrequently accessed. Given the challenges of storing petabyte- or exabyte-scale data, public cloud and private cloud ecosystems are focused on creating entirely new tiers of storage to deal with the varying degrees of “data temperature.” The cold data tier is emerging in a manner very similar to the way the “Tier 0” emerged over the past decade to deal with critical performance requirements.  Now the industry is adding a new tier on the opposite end of the data temperature spectrum, often referred to as “Tier 3” storage.

     Cold storage is the practice of creating a new tier of important information not frequently accessed for long periods of time, and can include structured, unstructured, or semi-structured data that has timeless value, and of which the exact schedule of retrieval is uncertain. As a result, data retrieval times can be relaxed, compared to the speed at which hot data needs be retrieved.

     Ultimately, with purpose-built and cost-optimized cold data storage infrastructure and devices, IT departments can deliver vastly improved time-to-archive and time-to-retrieve cold/archive data that outstrips capabilities of monolithic tape libraries, while utilizing standard hard-drive based storage solutions that are abundantly used and understood to realize optimal application value and significant storage cost savings.

Availability

     WD Ae hard drives will be sold in box quantities of 20 and available to select distributors and integrators starting late 2014. WD Ae drives are covered by a three-year limited warranty. More information about WD’s Ae datacenter hard drives can be found on the company website athttp://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=1340. WD Ae hard drives will also be showcased in several key partner booths (Supermicro – booth # 700) at the Intel Developer’s Forum (IDF) at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif.

About WD

     WD, a Western Digital company, is a long-time innovator and storage industry leader. As a storage technology pacesetter, the company produces reliable, high-performance hard disk drives and solid state drives. These drives are deployed by OEMs and integrators in desktop and mobile computers, enterprise computing systems, embedded systems and consumer electronics applications, as well as by the company in providing its own storage products. WD’s leading storage devices and systems, networking products, media players and software solutions empower people around the world to easily save, store, protect, share and experience their content on multiple devices. WD was established in 1970 and is headquartered in Irvine, California. For more information, please visit the company’s website at www.wd.com.

     Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ: WDC), Irvine, Calif., is a global provider of products and services that empower people to create, manage, experience and preserve digital content. Its companies design and manufacture storage devices, networking equipment and home entertainment products under the WD, HGST and G-Technology brands. Visit the Investor section of the company's website (www.westerndigital.com) to access a variety of financial and investor information.

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September 9, 2014 | 10:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Stories like this are why pcper has a permanent place in my bookmarks toolbar. You guys seem to share my fascination with HDDs/SDDs, and tend to cover stories regarding them rarely mentioned elsewhere. Keep em coming.

May 19, 2015 | 01:45 AM - Posted by Rob (not verified)

> " ... not as a way for a home power user to save a few bucks ... can handle variable capacity drives seamlessly ... ".

Common sense be damned, that's the first thing someone will try; using Partitioning to 'even out' the Drive Capacities.

Here is correct usage: https://www.backblaze.com/blog/our-6tb-hard-drive-face-off-revisited/ .

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