Introduction and Testbed Setup

A couple of weeks back, Western Digital updated their NAS-specific drive lineup with 5 and 6 TB Red drives. In addition, 7200 RPM Red Pro models with 2 - 4 TB capacities were also introduced. We have already looked at the performance of the WD Red, and it now time for us to take the WD Red Pro for a spin. In our 4 TB NAS drive roundup from last year, we also indicated that efforts would be taken to add more drives to the mix along with an updated benchmarking scheme involving RAID-5 volumes. The Red Pro gives us an opportunity to present results from the evaluation of various drives that have arrived in our labs since then.

The SMB / SOHO / consumer NAS market has been experiencing rapid growth over the last few years. With declining PC sales and increase in affordability of SSDs, hard drive vendors have scrambled to make up for the deficit and increase revenue by targeting the NAS market. The good news is that the growth is expected to accelerate in the near future (thanks to increasing amounts of user-generated data through the usage of mobile devices). In addition, security threats such as SynoLocker have also underscored the necessity of frequent backups.

Back in July 2012, Western Digital began the trend of hard drive manufacturers bringing out dedicated units for the burgeoning SOHO / consumer NAS market with the 3.5" Red hard drive lineup. The firmware was tuned for 24x7 operation in SOHO and consumer NAS units. 1 TB, 2 TB and 3 TB versions were made available at launch. Later, Seagate also jumped into the fray with a hard drive series carrying similar firmware features. Over the last two years, the vendors have been optimizing the firmware features as well as increasing the capacities. On the enterprise side, hard drive vendors have been supplying different models for different applications, but all of them are quite suitable for 24x7 NAS usage. While mission-critical applications tend to use SAS drives, it is the nearline SATA versions that are more suitable for home / SMB users. These enterprise drives provide better reliability / longer warranties compared to the NAS-specific WD Red and the Seagate NAS HDD lineups.

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 evaluating ten different hard drives targeting the NAS market. One of the most glaring omissions in our list is HGST's Deskstar NAS. Due to HGST's strange sampling scheme, we are still trying to obtain enough drives for our NAS-specific benchmkaring, but they did send us their 4 TB SAS drive for participation in this roundup. Other than the HGST SAS drive, the other nine drives all carry a SATA interface.

  1. WD Red Pro (WD4001FFSX-68JNUN0)
  2. Seagate Enterprise Capacity 3.5" HDD v4 (ST4000NM0024-1HT178)
  3. WD Red (WD40EFRX-68WT0N0)
  4. Seagate NAS HDD (ST4000VN000-1H4168)
  5. WD Se (WD4000F9YZ-09N20L0)
  6. Seagate Terascale (ST4000NC000-1FR168)
  7. WD Re (WD4000FYYZ-01UL1B0)
  8. Seagate Constellation ES.3 (ST4000NM0033-9ZM170)
  9. Toshiba MG03ACA400
  10. HGST Ultrastar 7K4000 SAS (HUS724040ALS640)

The above drives do not target the same specific market. For example, the WD Red and Seagate NAS HDD are for 1- 8 bay NAS systems in the tower form factor. The WD Red Pro is meant for rackmount units up to 16 bays, but is not intended to be a replacement for drives such as the WD Re, Seagate Constellation ES.3, Seagate Enterprise Capacity v4 and the Toshiba MG03ACA400 which target enterprise applications requiring durability under heavy workloads. The WD Se and the Seagate Terascale target the capacity-sensitive cold storage / data center market.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

Unlike our previous evaluation of 4 TB drives, we managed to obtain enough samples of the new drives to test them in a proper NAS environment. As usual, we will 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 configured three drives of each model in a RAID-5 volume and processed 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, the HGST SAS drive was not subject to any of the DAS benchmarks. We plan to carry more detailed coverage of the HGST SAS unit in a future SAS-specific roundup.

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:

4 TB NAS and Nearline Drives Face-Off: The Contenders
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  • jabber - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    So actually nothing important. When I see these NAS/Storage articles I just can't help with a lot of eye-rolling at what folks write. Folks spending large amounts of effort and money on data that is of little value to anyone or anything.

    I best most here would actually get by with a 2TB external USB3 HDD.if they were honest. Oh and that includes the business they work for.
  • jaden24 - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    Well, what you are calling unimportant is a very subjective statement. To me, spending large amounts of time, effort and money is extremely worth it. Also, much of it has paid off over time since I have properly implemented good practices. This has allowed me to share a library of movies, tv shows and music with my family in 5 different rooms via XBMC because it is all centrally located.

    Having done all of that work to offer this content would be a total waste if I didn't take proper measures to ensure it is backed up. Surely, it wouldn't be smart to let an array fail and have to re-encode and format all of that data all over again; now that would take a lot of wasted time and effort.

    Besides, a 2TB external HDD would have to be USB3 (possibly with UASP) and hooked to a USB3 controller to achieve decent, multiple streams, but it wouldn't have redundancy. Also, 2TB is only going to hold so many movies. What if you like 400-480p movies, but I prefer 720-1080p movies? All of this comes down to preference, and this alone is what determines each of our own setups to suit our tastes.
  • sapius1 - Friday, September 26, 2014 - link

    I am a professional photographer and generate about 1TB/year of original content (growing each year). I absolutely need more than a 2TB external HDD.
  • m2inor - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    It's very easy to legitimately consume more than 200GB on any computer let alone a server:
    - I believe in having multiple copies of personal docs and media I created: photos, personal videos, emails, installers, projects, etc
    - if you have multiple desktops and laptops, each should be backed up
    - and don't forget to backup the backup devices :-)

    Do that for 30 years, and you'll have quite a collection. Only the inciminating evidence should be deleted on a regular basis.

    Oh, and you'll only need that one file a few days after you delete it.
  • dcaxax - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    When comparing NAS drives, reliability is by far the #1 concern. Power consumption and noise are also important, but by no means the deciding factor.

    Testing the WD Red drives (especially given the pretty high failure rates of the plain WD Reds) without saying something about reliability makes the whole article pointless.
    IF the drives are reliable, people will chose them over faster, chepaer and probablyn even noisier drivers. If you're going to to do this you needs to test at least 10-20 drives and come up with some kind of torture test to really push them.
  • jaden24 - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    This is exactly why I only buy hard drives with 5yr warranties. The length of a warranty tells you a lot about the confidence of a manufacture in their product. When bad luck does arise, (usually around the 3-5yr range), you have a drive that gets replaced with no questions asked. At least that is my experience with WD.
  • cen - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    Too bad HGST couldn't send the deskstar version.. I bought 4 of them a month ago for my FreeNAS build, excellent drives.
  • bsd228 - Friday, August 8, 2014 - link

    Ganesh - can you put some questions out to the manufacturers and write a short article on the relevance of URE? I find it very hard to take this metric seriously when consumer drives are all marked as 'better than 1 in 10^14,' a nice round number that hasn't changed in a decade (forever?). Has there really been no improvement? Are they all really the same? And are enterprise drives precisely 10x better? Unlikely. And what is really different about them?
  • shodanshok - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    We recently discussed the URE thing on the Linux raid mailing list. You can found more info here:
  • asmian - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    1 post is not a "discussion". And while this may be relevant for Linux users, it doesn't help anyone else, perhaps running RAID on Windows or using a NAS, for which some at least of these drives are marketed.

    In the last discussion on this here, there was mention that ZFS (at least with double parity) can avoid UREs affecting array rebuilds. However, it looks as if Storage Spaces and the new ReFS file system now in Windows 8.1 and Windows Server can achieve the same thing as ZFS with much lower system resources (although it is necessary to bypass the Storage Spaces UI on Windows 8.1 for proper configuration). Can anyone share any experience of using ReFS, since this is quite new and directly challenges the Nas4Free/FreeNas route which requires FreeBSD as an OS? In particular, it makes a single media storage server/HTPC combo a feasible proposition, which might be very useful for many...

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