Seagate updates drives in biggest-ever refresh

Increases caches from 16MB to 64MB, incorporates Samsung technology in SSDs

Seagate today announced five product refreshes that include both its solid-state drive (SSD) line and its high-performance, midrange and high-capacity hard-disk drives. The upgrades boost performance and capacity by between 50 per cent and 100 per cent.

All of its new drives come with a self-encrypting option. Seagate boosted the cache on all of its HDDs from 16MB to 64MB, which boosts performance on each model.

With the exception of its new 3TB Constellation ES.2 HDD, the product launch consists of all 2.5-in. form factor drives.

"We're standardizing on 2.5-in. form factor and SAS interface. That way, we can help reduce [system manufacturer's] operating costs and increase their efficiencies," said Teresa Worth, senior product marketing manager for mission critical technology at Seagate.

The SSDs

Seagate kicked off its flurry of product upgrades with its line of SSDs, which includes a single-level cell (SLC)-grade Pulsar XT.2 product and its multi-level cell (MLC) Pulsar.2 drives.

Last August, Seagate announced a partnership with Samsung, the world's largest producer of NAND flash chips. Seagate's new SSDs are based on Samsung's 32 nanometer (nm) NAND flash circuit technology.

Seagate only announced its first full SSD a little more than a year ago. That Pulsar line is based on Seagate's own proprietary controller technology.

Seagate new high-end Pulsar XT.2 SSD is based on SLC-NAND technology, which has roughly 10 times the endurance of MLC-based NAND flash. With that in mind, the company is for the first time offering a 5-year warranty on a drives, which comes in 100GB, 200GB, and 400GB capacities with a 6Gbit/sec. serial-attached SCSI (SAS) interface.

But what really sets the new Pulsar line apart is its endurance based on new error correction code and wear-leveling software. Seagate claims the Pulsar XT.2 can sustain up to 10 full drive writes per day every day over its three-year warrantied lifespan, which amounts to 15 petabytes worth of data written to the drive.

"Those numbers are higher than any application can drive to. Our hard drives don't even do that," Worth said.

The Pulsar XT.2 is 50 per cent faster than its predecessor and boasts a random read/write rate of 48,000 and 22,000 I/Os per second, respectively. It has a sequential read/write rate of 360MB/sec and 300MB/sec, respectively, and an average seek response time of about 10 milliseconds.

Seagate's new highest capacity SSD, the Pulsar.2, is based on MLC-NAND flash memory, meaning it stores two versus one bit per cell, which ups capacity but lowers endurance. So the Pulsar.2 comes in capacities ranging from 100GB to 800GB but comes with a three-year warranty.

Worth said the Pulsar.2 is the first MLC-based SSD built for the enterprise by "an enterprise-class vendor."

Both the Pulsar XT.2 and Pulsar.2 are being marketed by Seagate as "Tier 0" storage for external arrays for high performance enterprise applications such as server virtualization, online transaction processing (OLTP), data warehousing, content delivery networks (CDN), and cloud computing. Both drives are also expected to ship in the second quarter of the year.

As a higher capacity, lower cost drive, the Pulsar.2 is also offered with a 6Gbit/sec serial ATA (SATA) interface along with a SAS interface option. SAS is more expensive because it is dual ported, meaning it has failover capability if one port goes down.

Because Seagate updated the error correction code on its SSDs and hard drives, it has bumped the average failure rate (AFR) from .55 per cent to .44 per cent. A .44 per cent average failure rate (AFR) means that fewer than one-half of one percent of drives are likely to fail during their warrantied lifetime.

Seagate said it has not yet rated the performance on the Pulsar.2 and therefore is not releasing any read/write speeds on the SSD.

The hard disk drives

On the hard drive front, Seagate introduced two new enterprise-class Savvio models with 15,000rpm and 10,000rpm spindle speeds.

Seagate boosted performance and capacity on its high-performance server HDD, the Savvio15K. The new 15K.3 comes in 146GB and 300GB models, which doubles the capacity over its predecessor, the 15K.2. Like the drive before it, the 15K.3 uses a 6Gbit/sec SAS connection, but updated error correction software bumps its reliability from a .55 per cent average failure rate to .44 per cent. A .44 per cent average failure rate means that of 100 drives shipped, fewer than half of one percent are likely to fail during its warrantied lifetime.

In other terms, the Savvio 15K.3 has a meantime between failure rate of two million hours, compared to the 15K.2, which had a MTBF of 1.6 million hours.

The 15K.3 has a sustained data transfer rate of 201MB/sec compared with 161MB/sec for the 15K.2. One area that the new Savvio 15K.3 doesn't surpass its predecessor is in power consumption. The drive sucks 7.9 watts versus 7.2 watts for the 15K.2.

Seagate also boosted capacity on its midline storage array drive, the Savvio 10K.5, which now comes in capacities ranging from 300GB to 900GB. The 10K.4 came in capacities of 450GB to 600GB. Like the Savvio 15K.3, the new 10K.5 comes with 6Gbit/sec SAS connectivity. Seagate, however, also kept a Fibre Channel option for the drive.

"The reason why we kept the Fibre Channel interface is because we still have a handful of [systems manufacturers] still using Fibre Channel. Keeping the interface helps them with the transition to SAS," Worth said.

Worth said the Savvio 10K.5 is the first 2.5-in drive it has sold that surpasses the capacity point of its 3.5-in enterprise-class drives.

The drive has the same average failure rate as the Savvio 15K.3.

The Savvio 10K.5 boosts sustained data transfer rates to 168MB/sec over the 10K.4, which had a rate of 141MB/sec It maintains power consumption at 8.4 watts.

Seagate's high-capacity, lower-performance near-line data drive, the Constellation ES.2 also got a 50 per cent boost in performance with its latest release. The 7200rpm drive now includes a 3TB model, over the previous model, which came in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB models. The Constellation ES.2 is best suited for virtual tape libraries and other disk-based, short-term online archives.

Unlike the two previous Savvio drives, Seagate boosted the encryption algorithm from 128-bit AES to the 256-bit AES encryption standard.

The drive also features a new data integrity tool called "RAID rebuild". During a drive failure, the disk first attempts to use one of the redundant read/write heads to copy data to a new drive versus a full RAID rebuild, which can take up to 85 per cent longer, said Barbara Craig, senior product marketing manager for Seagate's near-line storage products.

Like other high-capacity drives, the Constellation has five platters and each platter had two read/write heads for a total of 10 read/write heads per drive. So if one read/write head fails, the drive automatically tries the second.

The Constellation ES.2 now includes a 6Gbit/sec serial ATA (SATA) option - up from 3Gbit/sec -- as well as the previously available 6Gbit/sec SAS version.

The drive's performance got a marginal boost from a 150MB/sec sustained throughput rate to 155MB/sec.

Other than capacity, the biggest change to the drive comes in its power use. The new drive model drops from 8 watts to 7.4 watts. Unlike the previous two Savvio drives, the Constellation has a average failure rate of .74 per cent or 1.2 million hours between failures.

Seagate plans to ship the Savvio 10K.5 before the end of the month. The Constellation ES.2 will ship early next month and the Savvio 15K.3 is planned for the second quarter.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Tags Seagate TechnologyDrivesstorage

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Lucas Mearian

Computerworld (US)

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