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Seagate Enterprise Capacity v4 6TB HDD Review

AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,274
With every new generation, hard drive manufactures keep pushing the boundaries of what was once thought impossible and are releasing models with dramatic increases in both performance and capacity. Unfortunately, consumers' demands have increased and an even quicker pace - to the point where what was once considered a 'massive' drive is now no more than adequate. This truth is most painfully self-evident in the Enterprise storage market where cloud storage requirements have literally skyrocketed overnight and there’s absolutely no end in sight the growing need for storage. However, unlike in other segments, Enterprise buyers are looking primarily for durability and reliability alongside sheer performance.

In order to appease these requirements Seagate has thoroughly updated their lineup, though there may be some confusion about their newest naming schemes. These Enterprise Capacity-series drives are meant as nearline solutions for bulk data storage and data analytics whereas the complementing Terrascale series is targeted towards highly scalable, low power applications. There are also Enterprise Performance drives that target high output SAS environments where there 10K RPM speeds can boost output of mission-critical tasks.

In order to keep with this segmented yet holistic approach to their enterprise customers, Seagate did some consolidation. For example, the last generation Constellation ES.3 was rebranded. carried the name “Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v3” and topped out at 4TB while featuring rotational speeds of 7200RPM. It used four 1TB platters which is a pretty typical layout, even today.


The Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4 is something of an encore presentation of its predecessor but there are some unique technological advances which allow for better throughput and a drastically increased capacity range. 1TB platters are still being but back-end architecture has been updated to handle the physical demands of a 6 platter design. There are also baseline firmware and component changes that allow for better overall performance and drastically boosted longevity under the most extreme of environments.

On the performance side of the equation Seagate has some to the table with six platters spinning at 7200RPMs and a dual core controller backstopped by a massive 128MB of onboard cache. This is an obvious recipe for success but the design does post some unique durability concerns since additional platters ups the error potential by a significant amount. To ensure their approach didn’t tarnish Seagate's multi-decade long reputation in the enterprise arena, the engineers did go a touch overboard and created a drive that is - if anything - over engineered to the extreme.


From the outside you would never be able to tell that this new model is rated for a whopping 550TB of writes per year, has a Mean Time Between Failure of 1.4 million hours. Those figures are nothing short of staggering but Seagate went an extra step and included an all-silver chassis to boost component shielding while supporting their design with a highly sophisticated firmware that takes error correction to the next level.

Unlike typical hard drives, which use basic ECC, the new v4 6TB includes Super Parity ECC, adding an additional parity bit on top of the normal ECC parity. The additional 'super' parity allows this drive to boast an uncorrectable error rate of 1 per 10 to the 15th power - or 1 uncorrectable bit per 125TBs of writes. This in combination with the RAID controller's ECC means that with the exception of catastrophic failure, that write errors should be ultra rare.


Increased error correction is all well and fine, but Seagate's engineers were highly aware of the fact that catastrophic failures would be much more common if they simply opted for their previous chassis and stuck two more platters in it. To this end they started by giving the platters more internal room by making the base of the chassis flatter and a touch thinner. This not only helps reduce the weight of the drive down to a 'mere' 780 grams, but allowed the design team room to include an additional inertia actuator, a sealed top plate mounted spindle motor and even a turbulence reducing top disk separator plate -which will keep the heads from 'cow belling' or slamming into the platters. Best of all, by doing all this Seagate did not need to use an exotic gas like helium which can leak out over time.

All these improvements also have an additional benefit which will help push this drive from the ordinary into the extraordinary category for many enterprise consumers. Put simply, this drive may have 50% more platters than its predecessor, but by decreasing turbulence while increasing the overall efficiency of the physical components Seagate was able to keep the average power draw to just 11.27W.

This power envelope may sound high in a world with SSDs, but it is the same read/write power consumption specification that the last generation 4TB v3 / ES.3 SATA drive has. While parity with the last generation may not sound all that impressive, for Enterprise consumers interested in running hundreds or even thousands of these drives a rating of 1.872 watts per Terabyte compared to the last generations 2.807watts represents a massive leap forward. This 33% improvement will help reduce total power draw and cooling requirements, which translates to a lower Total Cost of Operating.


When you mix in SAS and SATA models with optional Self Encrypting Device FIPS 140-2 support, as well as Seagate's Instant Secure Erase, the end result is a new line that may offset a massive amount of refinement over its predecessors. It is this unique combination of performance, reliability, capacity and even efficiency that Seagate are counting to help the v4 6TB justify its rather high asking price of $560.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,274
Test System & Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our testbed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the Vista load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being a Intel DC S3700 800GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks such as OS startup, Firefox reload and data transfer times. For data transfer we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or OCZ SSDToolbox and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

For all RAID testing an LSI MegaRaid 9240 was used; however all drives attached were configured as JBOD and MS Windows 7 built in drive management tools were used to create the RAID array.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory:
8GB Corsair Vengeance "Blue" DDR3 1600
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel DC P3700 800GB
SAS Controller: LSI MegaRaid 9240
Power Supply: XFX 850
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,274
Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


<i>For this benchmark, HD Tune Pro was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these storage devices. We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and thus we no longer included it. The most important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/read.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Write Performance


<i>For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

The sequential file performance of the new Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4 is simply astonishing. As you can see this 7200RPM drive has the capability to be <i>faster</i> than a 10K RPM Western Digital VelociRaptor. That is simply astonishing considering the fact that the VelociRaptor 1TB is neither slow nor inexpensive. It also shows some very good improvements over the previous generation.
 
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AkG

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5,274
ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


<i>The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Thanks to its six platters, this drive's performance curves are beyond what other 7200RPM models can achieve. Compared to the last generations' SAS version -which is faster than the SATA version - the new V4 is faster at both read and writes <i>and</i> large and small file sizes. While the small file performance of the VelociRaptor isslightly better than the Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4, that is the only hard drive which can even compare to this new Seagate HDD.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB.



Even after a dozen Crystal DiskMark tests the result always came back the same; simply amazing. To be perfectly blunt this drive reacts more like a 10,000RPM HDD rather than a typical 7,200RPM drive. What is even more impressive is the fact that this Seagate's firmware has been heavily tweaked for RAID performance and yet the single drive performance is nearly off the charts. Obviously, when done correctly there is a lot to be said for six, high density platter designs.


PCMark 7


While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.


The Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4 may not exactly be meant to be used as an 'OS' drive, but these results do speak for themselves. Once again the only drive which can beat it is a 10,000RPM Velociraptor and as for 7,200RPM models, the Seagate v4 is without equal. Even SAS drives are slower which is truly remarkable.
 
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AkG

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AS-SSD

AS-SSD


<i>AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/asd_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/asd_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

These results simply should not be coming from a 7,200RPM drive. Even with its inherently larger latency only a VelociRaptor 1TB is able to beat it and even then the differences are not all that great. Considering the Enterprise Capacity v4 costs about 1/3 per Gigabyte of what a VelociRaptor does, a very good case can be made for this drive being the better <i>value</i>.

If you are like most consumers that statement probably makes your brain hurt, but the fact of the matter is this drive offers near 'Raptor levels of performance and can do so for a lot longer than what the 'real' VelociRaptor can <i>and</i> offer six times the capacity while doing it.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,274
IOMeter

IOMETER: Our Standard Test


<i>IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per device (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments and workstation environments.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/iom.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

On the surface the new v4 is only a moderate improvement over what the previous v3 could offer. However, the v3 in this chart is the SAS version and not the SATA version, so comparing the two is not entirely fair to the v4. Put simply SAS is faster than SATA when it comes to enterprise grade hard drives. With this taken into account the very fact that this SATA v4 easily outperforms the previous generation's SAS, and nearly matches a 10,000RPM VelociRaptor is very impressive.


IOMETER: File Server Test


<i>To test each drive we ran 6 test runs per device (1,4,16,64,128,256 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 6 subparts were set to run 100% random, 75% read 25% write; testing 512b, 4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 6 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 6. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for file server usage.
</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/iom_f.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

When you combine excellent areal density with twelve read/write heads and mix in a high performance dual controller backstopped by mega-sized cache the end result is simply stunning. This is to be expected as File Server - aka 'cloud' servers - are the bread and butter for Seagate and obviously the firmware has been heavily tweaked for this usage pattern.


IOMETER: Web Server Test


<i>The goal of our IOMeter Web Server configuration is to help reproduce a typical heavily accessed web server. The majority of the typical web server’s workload consists of dealing with random small file size read requests.

To replicate such an environment we ran 6 test runs per device (1,4,16,64,128,256 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 95% read 5% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for web server environments. </i>


<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/iom_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Once again the additional platters and additional read/write heads do make a noticeable - and positive - impact on performance. By solving the previous technical issues with six platter designs, Seagate just may have created an entirely new class of 7,200RPM drives.


IOMETER: Email Server Test


<i>The goal of our IOMeter Email Server configuration is to help reproduce a typical corporate email server. Unlike most servers, the typical email server’s workload is split evenly between random small file size read and write requests.

To replicate such an environment we ran 5 test runs per drive (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 3 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 3 subparts were set to run 100% random, 50% read 50% write; testing 2k,4k,8k, size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these numbers add them together and divide by 3. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for email server environments.
</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/iom_e.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

This model really does shine like no 7,200RPM drive before it. Obviously Western Digital's Enterprise Division is going to be playing catchup as their R.E. series has become a lot harder to justify.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Vista Start Up / Adobe CS5

Vista Start Up


When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. While all the other tests were run with a Windows 7 operating system, this particular test uses another older test bed's “day to day” OS (copied over to our new testbed) which has accumulated a lot of crud over the months from installs and removals. We chose the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line as it is the last program to be loaded on start up.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Adobe CS5 Load Time


<i>Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. Let’s see how our review unit faired in the Adobe crucible! </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

While we doubt many Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4 6TB's will make their way into home systems (barring the occasional IT admin who smuggles one home) we can honestly say that this drive's performance does go a long way towards justifying its high asking price.

More to the point, Seagate obviously have proven the merits of 6 platter designs and we can see most future Enterprise drives coming with this layout. The increase in performance may not 50% over that of four platter design but it is significant. Considering Enterprise consumers are clamoring for bigger and bigger options this boost in performance will be a nice little bonus for server administrators who are still not completely sold on the merits of NAND in the server room.
 
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AkG

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Firefox Performance / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


<i>Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worse case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

As expected this drive thrives in deep queue depth scenarios. Even though a 10,000RPM VelociRaptor is faster than the Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4 6TB drive, that is the only one which can even come close.


Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

It is rather odd to say this about a $550 hard drive, but these results prove the Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4 to have one of the better price to performance ratios we have seen any enterprise grade drive boast. It may cost a veritable fortune but its performance is just that good.
 
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AkG

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5,274
Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


<i>While it is important to know how a drive will perform under optimal conditions, more realistic scenarios are just as important. Knowing how drive will behave when partially or even nearly full than when it is empty is very important information to know. To quickly and accurately show this crucial information we have first filled the drive to 50% capacity and re-tested using both synthetic and real world tests. After the completion of this we then re-test at 75% and 90% of full capacity. </i>


Synthetic Test Results

<i>For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/data_pcm7.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Real World Results

<i>For a real world application we have opted for our standard Adobe CS5 test.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/EC_v4_6TB/data_adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

As expected the Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4's performance drop-off is very predictable, very gradual and nowhere near as severe as what happens when four platter drives are filled to capacity. Even with 2TB of its capacity filled up, this drive is <i>faster</i> than most <i>empty</i> 7,200RPM drives. Excluding every other sterling result this drive has posted so far, this one test has justified the Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4's high asking price.
 
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