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Seagate Enterprise Capacity v5 8TB Review


Author: AkG
Date: July 11, 2016
Product Name: Enterprise Capacity 3.5 v5 8TB Review
Part Number: ST8000NM0055
Warranty: 5 Years

With SSDs evolving at a breakneck speed, there are times when the rapid changes to traditional spindle-based storage are simply overlooked. And yet in the last year or so there have been several massive steps forward for HDD technology which has allowed drives to better compete against the rising SSD tide, at least from a price for capacity standpoint. For example, Western Digital has moved towards a helium-filled chassis to boost capacity and performance on their latest RED series.

However, a lot of the Western Digital RED’s performance stems from the fact that it is an exotic gas based model, which relies upon seven platters and fourteen read/write heads. While many, many consumers will find it to be a very good fit some many worry about what happens when the helium is slowly replaced by fresh air via a method called outgassing.

Considering the enterprise market is very sensitive about such things, another more conservative and traditional design may hold a lot of appeal. The recently released Seagate Enterprise Capacity 3.5 v5 8TB is one such model that fits this perceived need to a veritable ‘T’.

Unlike Western Digital, Seagate has deftly avoided the exotic route for the latest refresh of their EC series. There isn’t any helium used and there aren’t seven platters crammed into a chassis that was designed to house a mere six platters.

This particular model does not even use Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) technology which overlaps the platter’s sectors like shingles on a roof in order to increase density. Instead Seagate utilizes the tried, tested and true Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) technology. Put another way the new Seagate Enterprise Capacity v5 series is a classic 7,200RPM hard drive with very few unknowns to worry about and that will make it very appealing for enterprise-class customers who don’t want to be beta testers for new and potentially unproven technologies.

Without exotic ‘silver bullets’ to rely upon to reach its capacity threshold, Seagate had to do things the old fashioned way and simply increased the aerial density of the platters. As such the 8YB version uses six platters (and twelve heads) just like the previous EC 3.5 v4 model, but the aerial density has been boosted from 1TB per platter to a whopping 1.34TB per platter. This makes the Seagate EC 3.5 v5 one of the most advanced ‘classic’ hard drives available today.

But make no mistake about it; even though this drive does have one less platter, and two fewer read/write heads than some of its Western Digital competition it is still considered a high performance model solution. The Enterprise Capacity V5 lineup is meant for the most demanding of scenarios that would make a standard Western Digital RED curl up into a ball and bite its pillow. Unfortunately, the traditional approach also leads to it consuming more electricity, producing more heat, and generally being louder than any other 8TB 5,400RPM model.

But will the potential downfalls matter to business-minded buyers who will likely install these drives in offsite clusters? Many of them will be more than happy to trade a bit of noise, power and heat for proven technology, a long warranty, huge MTBF numbers and the performance allowed by a 7200RPM rotational speed.

To be blunt we have very little doubts on the performance side of this equation since a velocity of 7,200 RPMs combined with an aerial density of 1.34TB per planner should lead to some massive numbers. However, what remains to be seen is how much additional performance this new V5 has compared to its predecessor the V4, which is still a mighty powerful hard drive.

Helping to alleviate such concerns Seagate has included a few additional tweaks to the base design. For example, not only has Seagate doubled the onboard RAM cache capacity from 128MB to 256MB (via a single Winbond DDR3-1600 SDRAM IC) they have also drastically improved their caching algorithms. This improvement alone promises to noticeably improve the random write abilities compared to the previous series. The onboard controller has also been upgraded.

While Seagate has certainly made improvements they have also wisely carried over everything that made the v4 such a great choice for Enterprise customers. As with later versions of the V4, the new V5 has an impressive Mean Time Between Failure of 2 million hours, and a massive 550TB of writes per year for five years.

Also like the v4, the v5 includes Super Parity ECC, which adds 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 125TB of writes. This in combination with the RAID controller’s ECC means that with the exception of a catastrophic failure, write errors should be ultra-rare.

Also like its predecessor the Seagate Enterprise Capacity 3.5 v5 uses a state of the art chassis that allows for much more internal room than in the typical 3.5” model. Basically the metal chassis is not only thinner but also flatter allowing 6 platters alongside 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.

These are all features that are sure to appeal to the business market, but one feature that really stands out is the overall power consumption this new series boasts. On the surface a seemingly minor reduction from 10.6 watts of nominal power usage to 10.4 watts does not sound all that extraordinary, but it is actually quite impressive. Put simply this high performance, high queue depth hard drive has a watts per Terabyte ratting which is better than some older, smaller 5,400RPM models!

A mere 1.3 watts of typical power consumption per Terabyte of capacity is truly spectacular and it is this unique combination of performance, reliability, capacity and even efficiency that Seagate are counting on to help the v5 8TB justify its moderately high asking price of $362.

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