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Boris

Western Digital Red drives - my opinion on choice

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Boris

I'm a big proponent of buying the right tool for the job... which is why I really like the new WD Red drives for my HP N40L Micro Server home server/NAS.

 

When most people look for a home NAS drive today, the choice for most people is between the Western Digital Green, Western Digital Red and the Seagate Barracuda drives.

 

Spec sheets:

- Seagate Barracuda (ST3000DM001)

- Western Digital Red (WD30EFRX)

- Western Digital Green (WD30EZRX)

 

First of all, let me state the criteria which I find important for a home NAS server:

- Power efficiency (on 24/7)

- Drive capacity

- Reliability

- Warranty

 

Power efficiency:

According to Tom's Hardware the WD30EZRX (Green) consumes 6.1w at idle while the WD30EFRX (Red) consumes 3.9w. Both consume slightly higher when used. According to AnandTech, the WD30EZRX (Green) consumes 3.65w at idle while the ST3000DM001 (Baracuda) consumes 6.43w. I'm not so concerned about why Tom's and AndandTech disagree on power usage, however in their testing, the drives went through the same tests and in relative terms the Red drives use considerably less power.

 

Drive capacity:

The three aforementioned drives were listed because they all have high storage density. One could bump up to 4tb drives but the cost/price ratio doesn't seem to be worth it. Lastly, the Hitachi (HGST) drives are now overpriced and rarely available since the acquisition by Western Digital. So they were left from my list.

 

Reliability:

The WD Green drives are known to have aggressive head-parking which causes a high amount of load cycles of the read head. This may be cured using the WDIDLE utility, but I'm not sure what that does to the warranty and I've read instances of where the firmware update was unsuccessful. For those of you running a hardware RAID controller, you will also find that the green drive doesn't have TLER (Time Limited Error Recovery). So if there's a bad sector that develops on the drive and it takes its time trying to re-read the data, the RAID controller may think the drive isn't responsive and will kick it out of the array pool.

 

The Seagate drive is listed as being a good fit for home-servers and NAS applications, but Seagates own specification rates the drive to 2400 Power On hours. At 8-hours per day and 5-days per week, this adds up to about a year. Does that mean the drive will quit after a year of usage or that it can't be on 24/7 for more than 100 days? Absolutely not. It's just a small consideration based on the manufacturers' specifications.

 

The WD Red drives are built to run cooler and have improved harmonics (think enterprise drives here). They are also built to be on 24/7 and have proper IDLE/TLER settings for our application.

 

Warranty:

Seagate: 1-year

WD Green: 2-years

WD Red: 3-year with 24/7 support (whatever that means :))

 

You'll notice I didn't list performance as one of the criteria because in a home NAS it's not that important. I've done a bit of testing with the WD Red drives and they had no problems with a constant susatained copy of 140Mb/sec from one drive to the other. This is fast enough to max out a Gigabit network and realistically only important when performing some type of long-running batch (i.e. backup). In the end, I determined the performance of any of these drives is good enough for a home server which is mostly there to store and stream content.

 

Conclusion:

Hitachi GST used to be the yard-stick by which all other drives were measured, but those days have come and gone. Given the criteria listed and the drives currently available, it was easy to see that the Western Digital Red drives wins the battle. Their only drawback is the price. The WD Red drives are typically priced ~20% higher than the other two. I'm as cheap as the next guy, but had no problem justifying this difference due to the increased savings in electrical consumption over the years and the added warranty period. Everything else is just gravy.

 

Though the decision was an easy one for me, I don't want to lead people to believe that the other drives aren't worthy. Quite the contrary - the Red just eeks them out and is purpose built for my (our?) needs.

 

These drives work well in my HP N40L Micro Server and I would whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone looking to put them into their server(s).

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Renny

Cant say I disagree with your assessment. I just installed 3x2tb Reds in a raid5 array. Performance in streaming is not an issue which is all I really care about.

Time will tell however as to reliability and their ability to overcome small issues/errors in a raid environment

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GavinCampbell

I also just installed 3xtb red drives in an external esata encloser. They are setup as a parity storage pool and run quite well. I use to have random drives in there and notice with this new setup it is both much quieter and much cooler inside the box.

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ikon

One question for all of you. One of the biggest items WD is promoting is that the drives have dynamic vibration mitigation. Have any of you paid any particular attention to how much vibration your enclosures are making; putting your hand on them, etc.?

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GavinCampbell

One question for all of you. One of the biggest items WD is promoting is that the drives have dynamic vibration mitigation. Have any of you paid any particular attention to how much vibration your enclosures are making; putting your hand on them, etc.?

 

Its a noticable difference.

 

Before I had 4 random drives in the external inclosure and they were all 7200rpm drives. When I turned it on I could hear them all spin up as well as feel the drives. And it was a noticable amount of noise when they were running.

 

I replaced the 4 of them with 3 red drives. You can still feel the vibration slightly but not like the other drives. Much harder. They are also cooler and quieter. But keep in mind they are 5400rpm drives as well.

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ikon

Thanks GavinCampbell. One reason I'm interested is because I'm of the opinion that many of the drive failures in enterprise installations are due to vibration caused by 2 things:

  1. most multi-drive enclosures secure the drives too tightly into the enclosure, transferring all the vibrations from the drives around the enclosure - they need dampening systems in these enclosures;
  2. each drive in a multi-drive enclosure vibrates at its own frequencies that can amplify and aggravate each other. The result is overall chassis vibration that is greater than the sum of the individual drive vibrations.

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Boris

Thanks GavinCampbell. One reason I'm interested is because I'm of the opinion that many of the drive failures in enterprise installations are due to vibration caused by 2 things:

  1. most multi-drive enclosures secure the drives too tightly into the enclosure, transferring all the vibrations from the drives around the enclosure - they need dampening systems in these enclosures;
  2. each drive in a multi-drive enclosure vibrates at its own frequencies that can amplify and aggravate each other. The result is overall chassis vibration that is greater than the sum of the individual drive vibrations.

 

You may be right...

 

One thing to keep in mind is that these drives mitigate vibration in two ways:

1. "3D Active Balance Plus" (sorry, I don't speak marketing and I can't find a translation anywhere)

2. They're very lazy - note how poorly they perform in access time and I/O ops (Tom's Benchmark results)

 

These drives are very smooth (for lack of better word) and very quiet, but you pay for it in performance. Since we're not running games off of these disks nor is this a store for SQL server data we don't really notice how poorly they perform (by design). This is very different from true enterprise drives which run at much higher speeds and where harmonics are that much more important (especially since you have these fast-moving drives in much larger quantities per enclosure). So these aren't quite "enterprise," but that's a good thing for us. Who wants to listen to HD chatter? ;)

Edited by Boris

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ikon

I think the fact that they're designed for NAS use is the key to getting good performance from WD Reds. By combining them into RAID arrays the performance of the array can exceed considerably the performance of an individual drive, particularly for read operations.

 

BTW, "3D Active Balance Plus" is the 'dynami vibration mitigation' I was speaking of earlier.

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Boris

Was listening to the homeservershow last night and was surprised to hear this thread mentioned :).

 

Just wanted to give a response based on something that was mentioned in the show. I believe Jim said that he hasn't had any problems with any of the drives he's used in the past regardless of brand/model/etc. My experience has been exactly the same inside of my PC's. I've had many brands and types of drives over the years, but only experienced a handful of failures.

 

In addition, a lot of HD failures in desktops are easy to recover from. The OS manages/ignores any sector failures until it reaches a point that it can't. Typically you'll lose a few sectors which the OS can't recover from and worst case is you might lose a file or two or your machine will BSOD/no longer boot/etc. Either way, you plop in a new drive and recover 99%+ of your data. No serious harm or foul.

 

Now, let's look at NAS boxes, the pickiest ones being those with a hardware raid controller cards. They manage their data at the at the disk level; there's no OS managing filesystems. So this means if you lose a single sector the controller will notify you of a bad drive and depending on the type of array you have, you'll have to swap in a new drive (very quickly if you like your data) and wait many hours for rebuild. You better hope that while the array is being rebuilt there are no other sectors/drives lost on any other drives (which happens more than we'd think).

 

The reason I mention this, is to draw a distinction between a true NAS box and a desktop. There's a reason specialized drives are used in RAID arrays by enterprises, instead of just a WD Green or even Red. There's also a reason why harmonics are important in enterprise drives: one sector may result in a drive failure whereas in my desktop there could be hundreds of unreadable sectors and I may be none the wiser.

 

For most of us who are managing our "RAID" in software through Windows these issues aren't as serious of a concern, since the OS knows how to recognize and ignore bad sectors. Not only does this extend the life of the drive it also makes us ignorant to failures. On top of that, using a filesystem such as ReFS or ZFS we have even more protection and recovery.

 

So once again, a bit difference between a NAS/server and our desktops. Even in our software-based setups there are many benefits to running these non-desktop drives (WD Reds): reduced harmonics, longer warranty, better support, quieter operation, very low power consumption but good throughput, less heat, etc.

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