Introduction and Testbed Setup

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).

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. For example, the WD Re and Seagate Constellation ES are tuned for durability under heavy workloads, while the WD Se and Seagate Terascale units are targeted towards applications where scalability and capacity are important.

Usually, the enterprise segment is quite conservative when it comes to capacity, but datacenter / cloud computing requirements have resulted in capacity becoming a primary factor to ward off all-flash solutions. HGST, a Western Digital subsidiary, was the first vendor to bring a 6 TB hard drive to the market. The sealed Helium-filled HDDs could support up to seven disks (instead of the five usually possible in air-filled units), resulting in a bump up to 6 TB in the same height as traditional 3.5" drives. Seagate adopted a six-platter design for the Enterprise Capacity v4 6 TB version. Today, Western Digital launched the first NAS-specific 6 TB drive targeting SOHO / home consumers, the WD Red 6 TB. In expanding their Red portfolio, WD provides us an opportunity to see how the 6 TB version stacks up against other offerings targeting the NAS market.

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 three different hard drives targeting the NAS market:

  • Western Digital Red 6 TB [ WDC WD60EFRX-68MYMN0 ]
  • Seagate Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD v4 6 TB [ ST6000NM0024-1HT17Z ]
  • HGST Ultrastar He6 6 TB [ HUS726060ALA640 ]

Each of these drives target slightly different markets. While the WD Red is mainly for SOHO and home consumers, the Seagate Enterprise Capacity targets ruggedness for heavy workloads while the HGST Ultrastar aims for data centers and cloud storage applications with a balance of performance and power efficiency.

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 three 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 in a RAID-5 volume and processed selected benchmarks from our standard NAS review methodology.

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:

 

6 TB Face-Off: The Contenders
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  • ganeshts - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    I will add them later tonight (along with the missing He6 benchmark numbers). Reply
  • romrunning - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    Ah... It just seems that some of your numbers in this face-off would change if the WD drive was 7200rpm instead of 5400rpm. Perhaps that would affect your conclusion as well. But I suppose if you didn't get a 6TB WD Red Pro drive, then it's a moot point. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    There is no 6 TB WD Red Pro out in the market. The Pro version tops out at 4 TB (for now) - 800 GB x 5 platters Reply
  • harshw - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    This week I had a LaCie 5Big NAS Pro barf on my 4TB Seagate NAS HDDs. Reformatting and re-testing them with sector scans revealed nothing. But the LaCie would claim that one disk was bad. Of course LaCie also claims the 4TB NAS HDDs are completely compatible.

    But to have a 16TB array die after re-synching 80% and having to start from scratch ... yeah it plain sucks.

    So yes, it is best to look at evidence from the field and not just rely on manufacturer's recommended & compatible lists. And it's not just WD Red ...
    Reply
  • Hrel - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    It's frustrating that despite the rapid growth in the NAS industry hard drive prices have remained largely stagnant. 4TB drives are basically at the same price point's they were a year ago. It used to be if a drive was released at $200 a year later it was $100 or less.

    I'm still waiting for 4TB drives to drop to the $100 mark before I make the jump.

    What happened to all those 121TB hard drives that we were supposed to be seeing? I specifically remember an article on anandtech like 1+ years ago talking about how 12TB hard drives would be a reality "a year from today". More than a year later, we're talking about 6TB drives. Very upsetting.
    Reply
  • Beany2013 - Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - link

    The floods in Thialand a few years ago set things back - we're only now seeing the manufacturers get their primary build locations back up to full speed not just in manufacturing existing gear, but developing new stuff.

    We've had 2tb drives for *years*, but 3tb and above are the results of the 'HDD Homelands' getting back up to speed as I understand it from my works disty/channel contacts, at least. Mebbe one for a pipeline article on the stagnation of HDD capacity, staffers?
    Reply
  • extide - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    When are we going to get 4k native drives!! I hate this stupid 512b emulation crap! Reply
  • Zan Lynx - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    I am pretty sure 4K native drives are already out there. I recall a Linux Kernel message thread discussing testing 4K drives and there was a tool to turn off 512B emulation.

    If you want them to turn off emulation, I doubt that will happen. Its too easy to leave the code in the firmware.
    Reply
  • edlee - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    seagate wipes the floor with all other manufactures when it comes to enterprise products.

    that being said, they are expensive as shit, so I bought WD red for my home Nas, but use seagate in my office server for reliability.
    Reply
  • jabber - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    Liabilities waiting to happen. Reply

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