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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  • Supercell99 - Friday, December 12, 2014 - link

    Most cloud providers are very slow if you use their storage solutions based on HDD. I am referring to in-house shops that run Dell/HP with Vsphere or Oracle DB's. Anything needing a lot of storage and decent I/O. The price difference to make a drive with SAS interface and SATA is very minimal, but the performance difference can be big when under a lot of simultaneous requests.
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, December 11, 2014 - link

    Sure, SAS enterprise HDDs are faster.. but at QD > 32 any HDD is just crawling. For such high loads you really want your hot data to be on flash.
  • hlmcompany - Thursday, December 11, 2014 - link

    Exactly. That's why real Enterprise Storage manufacturers, like HGST, provide a host of flash storage, including HH-HL, high capacity, PCI-E storage or low capacity flash caching for large HDD farms.
  • shodanshok - Thursday, December 11, 2014 - link

    WD Red drivers seems to have some serious performance bottleneck, even taking into account the slow (5400 RPM) spindle speed.

    They seem to suffer from an underpowered controller and simplified firmware, as it seem to be unable to coalesce multiple 512B writes in one 4K sector. For example, see how bad the WD Red fares in HD Tach 512B random write test:

    WD RED: 25.475 ms
    Ent NAS: 6.646 ms

    While the enterprise NAS has a larger cache (128 MB vs 64 MB), it is difficult that the cache alone can account for such a large performance improvement in a random write scenario.

    On the other side, the random read test is in-line with the different spindle speed (~18.5 ms vs ~14.5 ms)

    @ganesh: any possibility to ping WD about that?
  • theKai007 - Thursday, December 11, 2014 - link

    Intel announced the Intel IoT Platform, a reference model end-to-end designed to unify ans simplify connectivity and security for the Internet of Things.
  • BPB - Thursday, December 11, 2014 - link

    Are any of these suitable for DVR-type applications? I'd like to get a bigger drive for my WMC setup. I've been using the WD AV-GP series since they are geared towards non-stop I/O in DVR-type usage.
  • Visual - Monday, December 15, 2014 - link

    Not at all. Raid helps distribute the data across drives and get some speedup at most linear to the number of drives, but random access is still random access, and is still slow.

    What romrunning "invented" is a software stack that remaps sectors to make random logical access be physically sequential. I believe some company, maybe Fusion IO, did have something like this, though now that I look for it I can not find anything that is not Flash-based.

    The idea can definitely work pretty well for speeding up random writes, but for reads it needs some quite good analysis and statistics about what the commonly read sequences are and does not seem too feasible. Maybe that's why they dropped it and use flash caches.
  • Visual - Monday, December 15, 2014 - link

    And why this did not appear as a reply to the post i clicked 'reply' on (in a new tab)? Anandtech... get some web devs with a brain... it is not rocket science.
  • shodanshok - Monday, December 15, 2014 - link

    Modern copy-on-write filesystems as ZFS and BTRFS (and, to a limited extent, even classical filesystems as EXT4 and XFS) do exactly that. They transform random writes in sequential one, using the available space similar to a circular log buffer.

    For write-intensive, read-insensitive workload they are a great choice, but for some common scenario (eg: databases) they performs quite poorly. Moreover, the resulting files are often very, very much fragmented, leading to very log read performance (when used on top of spinning disks).

    For more information and some benchmarks:

  • akula2 - Thursday, December 18, 2014 - link

    This review has some misses w.r.t Enterprise segment. Hardware architecture isn't great. Most importantly this implementation isn't suitable to employers with hundreds of employees accessing data from multiple nations. Lastly, based on my five years of experience in deploying NAS solutions in my businesses I observed Seagate drives fail more than their Hitachi counterparts.

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