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Cloud provider pits 6TB hard drives in real-world face off

Lucas Mearian | Dec. 18, 2014
WD edged out Seagate in performance, but both drive models withstood punishment.

Backblaze Storage Pods in Data Center
Backblaze uses rackmounted arrays filled with hard drives that it calls "Storage Pods." Credit: Backblaze

Cloud service provider Backblaze has published performance and reliability data on two of the industry's leading 6TB 3.5-in. hard drives from Seagate and Western Digital (WD).

The result? Seagate's Barracuda 6TB desktop hard drive (model STBD6000100) was outperformed by WD's Red SATA NAS drives (model WD60EFRX). Seagate's drive also uses a little more electricity.

The good news is that both drive arrays -- one using WD drives, the other Seagate drives -- sustained more than 136TB of writes without a single drive failure or data error recorded. Backblaze calls its drive arrays "Storage Pods."

Newly installed Storage Pods accept data for the most part unencumbered until they reach 80% capacity. At that point, a Storage Pod will reduce the amount of data it receives each day. New Storage Pods come on line on a regular basis so that arriving data always has a place to go without delay.

What's a bit odd about this test bed is that Backblaze chose a WD NAS (network-attached storage) drive with a 5400rpm spindle speed to compete against a Seagate desktop drive with a 7200rpm spindle speed. The different speeds account for the disparity in power use, but not necessarily performance. Both models cost about the same and use 6Gbps SATA connectors.

"We almost never use 'enterprise' drives in our Storage Pods because they tend to cost 2x more... and the increased reliability (which is questionable)... doesn't justify the cost," Backblaze CEO Gleb Budman said via email to Computerworld. "The 6TB drives are both 'consumer' drives. The WDs are 'NAS' drives, but technically still consumer. We prefer to purchase 5400RPM drives when possible, since they're most power efficient. However, the Seagate 6TB drives don't come in a 5400RPM version."

Even so, WD drives at the 5400rpm speed were able to write data faster than the 7200rpm Seagate drives.

Backblaze performed the test, it said, because over the next several months it plans on transitioning from 4TB hard drives to the higher-capacity models.

"With over 10,000 hard drives needing to be purchased over the next several months, the choice of which 6TB hard drive to use is critical," Andy Klein, director of product marketing at Backblaze, wrote in a blog post.

Based on the results, Backblaze said it has ordered 230 WD 6TB drives to fill 5 Storage Pods.

"Assuming the Western Digital drives continue to perform as well in the 5 Storage Pods, we'll move forward with using the Western Digital 6TB drives in our Storage Pods over the coming months," Klein wrote.


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