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.


WD Red® Now in 6 TB Capacities; NASware 3.0 Increases NAS System Bay Count Support to Eight Bays; New WD Red Pro Deepens Reach into Medium to Large NAS Market

IRVINE, Calif, – July 21, 2014 – WD®, a Western Digital® (NASDAQ:WDC) company, and world leader in storage solutions, today announced the expansion of its award-winning WD Red® line of SATA hard drives for home and small office NAS (network attached storage) systems with the release of a 5 TB and first-to-market 6 TB capacity for NAS-specific storage and the introduction of WD Red Pro hard drives that address the medium to large business NAS market. Compatibility-tested with top NAS system manufacturers and optimized for power and performance, WD Red 3.5-inch hard drives are now shipping in 1 TB to 6 TB capacities; and the new WD Red Pro 3.5-inch hard drives are available in 2 TB to 4 TB capacities.

     “With the expansion and evolution of the WD Red family, WD once again is providing its loyal customers with increased capacity up to 6 TB; improved bay count support with up to 8 bays; increased product breadth with WD Red Pro; and more features with the latest generation of NASware technology,” said Matt Rutledge, senior vice president and general manager, WD Storage Technology. “WD continues to listen to its customers and bring exciting innovation to the category they helped to create.”

WD Red

     A storage industry innovation first introduced in 2012, WD Red hard drives address the unique environment of NAS and the growing demand for affordable, reliable and compatible storage that reduces customer total cost of ownership. With the release of 5 TB and 6 TB models, the WDRed line of hard drives is now further enriched with greater storage capacity and increased performance with NASware 3.0, an enhanced version of WD’s original NASware® technology, designed to improve reliability and system performance, reduce customer downtime and to simplify the integration process.

     WD Red hard drives also feature 3D Active Balance Plus, an enhanced balance control technology, which significantly improves overall drive performance and reliability. Exclusive for WD Red customers, WD offers free premium 24x7 dedicated support.

     By increasing NASware 3.0 capability, the WD Red 1–6 TB capacity drives are capable of supporting up to eight bay NAS systems with no negative impact to performance.

WD Red Pro

     Ideal for medium to large business environments, the new WD Red Pro line of NAS hard drives supports eight to 16 bay NAS systems. The enhanced design offers reliable, high performance storage powered by NASware 3.0. By introducing the WD Red Pro, WD now has a full portfolio NAS storage solution with the WD Red family (WD Red and WD Red Pro) for both consumer and business NAS solutions.

WD Green

     The WD Green™ line of cool and quiet hard drives is also seeing capacity expansion with 5 TB and 6 TB additions for high capacity consumer storage.

     High capacity WD 6 TB hard drives will integrate seamlessly with WD’s My Cloud®, My Cloud EX2, My Cloud EX4, My Cloud Mirror personal cloud storage as well as My Book® and My Book Duo external drive solutions and are compatible to work with a wide array of WD OEM NAS partners. An updated list of WD Red-qualified products and manufacturers is available on the WD website at http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=810.

Availability and Pricing

     Available now at select U.S. retailers and distributors, WD Red and WD Red Pro have three- and five-year limited regional warranties, respectively. Manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for WD Red 5 TB (model #: WD50EFRX) is $249.00 USD, and $299.00 USD for 6 TB (model #: WD60EFRX). Pricing for WD Red Pro 2 TB (model #: WD2001FFSX) is $159.00 USD, $199.00 USD for 3 TB (model #: WD3001FFSX) and $259.00 USD for 4 TB (model #: WD4001FFSX). More information about WD Red hard drives including terms of the limited warranty may be found on the company website at http://www.wdc.com/en/products/internal/nas/.

July 23, 2014 | 06:31 PM - Posted by Polycrastinator (not verified)

I think the real question here is, can a user update the firmware on the drive, and how big a hassle is it to do so? And will WD be informing customers somehow that they should update once the fix is done, assuming that's possible?

July 23, 2014 | 07:11 PM - Posted by JSL

Shouldn't be very hard. Either through a dos based boot usb stick with the executable firmware update, or probably though a windows executable.

Firmware updates for the old velociraptors (150/300/600) were all done via executable dos programs.


^ An old post of mine.

(the ones I updated are still in use in a tertiary back-up server ... the drives are going on 8 years of use)

July 23, 2014 | 08:02 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Thanks for bringing this up. Have you tried their old firmware updater tool on more recent motherboards in AHCI mode?

July 24, 2014 | 01:57 AM - Posted by JSL

Well, when I first updated the firmware using the dos based executable, I did it using an ICH10 hub in the P55 Southbridge (the system they were originally in that never spun them down to idle - just the config). When they were transferred to the tertiary server (a rarely used failover), it was an ICH9r chipset (P35sb), I flashed the drives from 4.02 to 4.04v04 to make sure I wouldn't have the TLER issue that they were prone with the older firmware for those velo's.

Given the fact that you can swap out the orom binary that handles ahci and soft raid for ICH8-10 chipsets within the bios, any intel system housing the ICH8+ io hub will definitely be able to do it.

Im pretty sure it would work fine with any SB 7xx and up AMD chipset (maybe not the 740 or 750 however).

Update: Just pulled one of those old drives to test firmware flashing on a Z87 based system. Can confirm, works (smart data resets with firmware flash).

July 24, 2014 | 03:06 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Awesome. Thanks much for the info!

July 23, 2014 | 10:11 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This is why I love PCPer. After reading the other reviews, i was all ready to buy the 6TB, now i'll wait until they start shipping drives with the updated firmware.

July 23, 2014 | 10:13 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

When it comes to storage Allyn is my #1 go-to guy. Great job I look forward to hearing about the follow up.

July 24, 2014 | 10:04 AM - Posted by Shambles (not verified)

I guess all the piles of money they've collected since they've artificially kept the prices raised since the flood wasn't enough to hire a few engineers.

July 24, 2014 | 12:10 PM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

Yeah- it's weird. Everyone and their grandmother makes an SSD anymore, but WD seems determined to die on the Hard Drive vine. I still buy their HDs ....
But they better hurry up- they have 1TB SSDs and they are getting bigger and cheaper all the time...

July 24, 2014 | 03:08 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

I dunno man, the Black2 was a bit of a niche product, but it wasn't a bad SSD, especially considering it was crammed into a HDD as well.

August 6, 2014 | 01:56 PM - Posted by drmaniac (not verified)

Is there any news about the firmware update?

I contacted the (german) WD Support and they didn know anything about a problem or a firmware update for the 6TB drive.

I wanted to buy 12 for a Raid6 Setup but now iam scarend, dont want to setup the NAS and update the single drives later then.

Thanks :)

October 8, 2014 | 05:37 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have a case opened with WD and it seems no firmware is really being developed. The support said that I am eligible for the firmware update, that they were developing it, but the case is now stalled. No more regular updates as before. Coincidently Amazon joined the review of all drives and now my comment is just another one in a gazillion. I am starting feeling disrespected. Stay away from this drive, unless you want to pay a lot for a faulty unit.

October 22, 2014 | 03:47 PM - Posted by Ive (not verified)

Looks like it might be fixed:

Although I don't see any links on the article to the actual firmware-update itself on WD's support page, only to WD Contact page. Does this mean we can't get the firmware update for these drives unless we contact WD first?

November 3, 2014 | 05:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have a case opened with WD, they say they have the firmware but I never receive it. They've been stalling the case. Don't know if it is just something related to the support or with the firmware itself. But I still don't have the firmware.

November 10, 2014 | 07:50 AM - Posted by tchester

Does the following comment have any merit. It is a comment from the Amazon site. I would prefer facts to opinions.

Once again the "load cycle count" issue has returned to their line of drives [WD 6TB RED]. If you don't know what this is you can Google, but basically the drive repeatedly parks the drive heads, thousands of times a day, because of an improper firmware setting on the drive. The drives are only rated to 600,000 load cycles and with them ticking of once every few seconds the drive will exceed its rating in less than a year.

This can be corrected by the user but it is a pain and requires you have certain hardware/software to do. Probably beyond most users. Exchanging the drive may or may not help because you have no idea if the next drive will have the same erroneous setting.

This has happened many times in the past few years, check the reviews for this and other WD drives. WD acknowledges this is the incorrect setting as do many NAS vendors that recommend these drives. And yet, WD can't seem to help itself from setting the IDLE3 parameter wrong every few months. This is a sign that they simply are unable to perform basic configuration management in their production facilities. If you can't manage that you don't belong in the HD business.

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