Introduction and Testbed Setup

Hard drives continue to remain the storage medium of choice for applications where capacity and cost factors outweigh performance requirements. Vendors have also realized that enterprise hard drives are an overkill for some applications, but the recently launched NAS-targeted drives do not deliver the necessary performance for those. In order to cater to that market, Western Digital introduced the WD Red Pro lineup a few months back. Last week, Seagate launched their competitor, the Enterprise NAS HDD.

We have already had comprehensive coverage of a number of 4 TB NAS drives and a few 6 TB ones. In this review, we will look at what the Seagate Enterprise NAS HDD (ST6000VN0001) brings to the market and how it compares against the other 6 TB drives that have been evaluated before.

The correct choice of hard drives for a NAS system is influenced by a number of factors. These include expected workloads, performance requirements and power consumption restrictions, amongst others. In this review, we will discuss some of these aspects while comparing the Seagate Enterprise NAS HDD against other drives targeting the NAS market. The list of drives that we will be looking at today is listed below.

  1. Seagate Enterprise NAS HDD 6 TB [ ST6000VN0001-1SF17Z ]
  2. Western Digital Red 6 TB [ WDC WD60EFRX-68MYMN0 ]
  3. Seagate Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4 6 TB [ ST6000NM0024-1HT17Z ]
  4. HGST Ultrastar He6 6 TB [ HUS726060ALA640 ]

Prior to proceeding with the actual review, it must be made clear that the above drives do not target the same specific market. For example, the WD Red targets 1- 8 bay NAS systems in the tower form factor. The Seagate Enterprise NAS HDD is meant for rackmount units up to 16 bays, but is not intended to be a replacement for drives such as the Seagate Enterprise Capacity v4 meant for higher-end enterprise use. The HGST Ultrastar He6 targets capacity-sensitive datacenter applications.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

Our NAS drive evaluation methodology consists of putting the units to test under both DAS and NAS environments. We first start off with a feature set comparison of the various drives, followed by a look at the raw performance when connected directly to a SATA 6 Gbps port. In the same PC, we also evaluate the performance of the drive using some aspects of our direct attached storage (DAS) testing methodology. For evaluation in a NAS environment, we configure three drives of each model in a RAID-5 volume and process selected benchmarks from our standard NAS review methodology. Since our NAS drive testbed supports both SATA and SAS drives, but our DAS testbed doesn't, only SATA drives are subject to the DAS benchmarks.

We used two testbeds in our evaluation, one for benchmarking the raw drive and DAS performance and the other for evaluating performance when placed in a NAS unit.

AnandTech DAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z97-PRO Wi-Fi ac ATX
CPU Intel Core i7-4790
Memory Corsair Vengeance Pro CMY32GX3M4A2133C11
32 GB (4x 8GB)
DDR3-2133 @ 11-11-11-27
OS Drive Seagate 600 Pro 400 GB
Optical Drive Asus BW-16D1HT 16x Blu-ray Write (w/ M-Disc Support)
Add-on Card Asus Thunderbolt EX II
Chassis Corsair Air 540
PSU Corsair AX760i 760 W
OS Windows 8.1 Pro
Thanks to Asus and Corsair for the build components

In the above testbed, the hot swap bays of the Corsair Air 540 have to be singled out for special mention.
They were quite helpful in getting the drives processed in a fast and efficient manner for benchmarking. For NAS evaluation, we used the QNAP TS-EC1279U-SAS-RP. This is very similar to the unit we reviewed last year, except that we have a slightly faster CPU, more RAM and support for both SATA and SAS drives.

The NAS setup itself was subjected to benchmarking using our standard NAS testbed.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ Z-Drive R4 CM88 (1.6TB PCIe SSD)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evolution 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:

Specifications and Feature Set Comparison
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  • hlmcompany - Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - link

    I can see that happening. I just never thought of IntelliPower as being such a thing. HDD's cannot vary their spindle speed during data access. A fixed spindle speed during operation is monitored by the drive, and if it changes, it is considered a major error. You'd actually hear the WD drive Click twice, and then read Track 0 in an attempt to re-calibrate it's position.
  • extide - Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - link

    This would be really easy to verify with a oscilloscope, just watch the waveforms going into the stepper motor... (But yeah, intellipower drives run at fixed speeds, although different models can run at different speeds than other models)
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - link

    Thanks.. that sounds better than their 1st explanations. Although I'd still prefer if they said straight "it's 5.4k rpm, give or take a few".
  • hlmcompany - Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - link

    Marketing.... *sigh*
  • hlmcompany - Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - link

    Seagate lists this drive as 7200 rpm, which matches its direct competitor, the WD Red Pro.
  • Oyster - Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - link

    Ganesh, I'll admit I didn't read between the lines, but why exclude the WD Red Pros from the analysis? Seems a bit out of place to compare an enterprise class HD to a non-enterprise class HD (WD Reds @ 5400 RPM, with 3 year warranty, lower MTBF)?
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - link

    Because there is no 6 TB Red Pro. Using 800 GB platters it already needs 5 of them to reach 4 TB and can not even reach 5 TB yet.
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - link

    Ganesh, in your conclusion you simply attribute the performance advantage of the Seagates to their larger cache. While the cache does help, it normally doesn't help a lot once you have enough of it. Otherwise we would see much larger caches already, as DRAM in the sub-GB range is really cheap, whereas we're talking about 500$ enterprise HDDs here.

    I suspect the larger platter density of the Seagates has more to do with their performance than the cache. Firmware also plays a major in real world HDD peformance.
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - link

    We observed similar performance advantages for the Seagate Enterprise Capacity v4 vs. the WD Red Pro at the 4 TB capacity point.

    Both of them use the same number of platters, have the same rotational speed. The only difference was the cache size.

    That said, things are indeed different in this case - the WD Red has lower rotational speed, but does have higher platter density (1.2TB/platter) at the 6TB point. So, I should probably have not stressed the cache size differences too much (just had a hangover from the 4TB review)
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - link

    The 4 TB Seagate Enterprise Capacity v4 also uses 1 TB platters, whereas the Red Pro uses 800 GB platters. Compare the sequential write speeds in MB/s (max - average - min):

    Red Pro 4 TB: 179 - 142 - 86
    Ent. Cap. v4 4 TB: 210 - 166 - 97
    Ent. Cap. v4 6 TB: 224 - 171 - 104

    The Seagates perform almost identical, with a minor advantage for the 6 TB model. However, the Red Pro is significantly slower.

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