Why virtualise your NAS environment?
WD Red NAS hard drive (WD30EFRX)
WD's Red drives are designed specifically with network attached storage devices in mind
- Three-year warranty
- Good performance
- Efficient performance
- High data density
- Specific spin speed not stated
WD's Red drives are good solution if you've just bought a NAS enclosure and aren't sure what types of drives you want to stick in there. They have a slightly longer warranty than desktop drives, as well as a longer stated mean time between failure, which is key for drives that will likely be on all the time.
Price$ 219.00 (AUD)
WD's Red series of hard drives is designed to be used with network attached storage (NAS) devices, rather than in desktop computers. The drives are new additions to the company's already colourful internal drive line up, which includes the Blue series (for everyday computing), the Green series (for low-power systems) and the Black series (for high-end PCs).
What makes these drives NAS-ready is their ability to run non-stop 24 hours a day, every day, and they are backed by a support plan that includes a dedicated 24-hour a day hotline in case you ever run into trouble with a drive and need advice on how to proceed.
The capacities available for the Red drives are 1TB, 2TB and 3TB and they are in a typical, 3.5in desktop drive form factor. They feature SATA III, 64MB cache and firmware called NASware that is specifically optimised for the NAS environment. WD claims that the Red drives have an increased mean time between failure (MTBF) of 35 per cent over standard desktop drives, allowing them to run all day, every day with less chance of failing than typical desktop drives under the same workloads.
They have a three-year warranty, which is one more year than the two years offered for WD's Blue and Green desktop drives, but which is two years short of the five years offered by the high-performance Black drives. It's also two years short of what WD offers with its enterprise-class drives, such as the WD RE.
We tested the WD Red drives, which are designed for small office and consumer NAS devices, in a Qnap TS-469Pro, which is a 4-bay NAS device. We had two 3TB Red drives (model WD30EFRX) at our disposal and installed them in a RAID 1 array, which would be the most common type of array for a NAS with two drives in it. The maximum formatted capacity of this array is 2.7GB as the information on the drives is duplicated for redundancy in case one drive fails.
We used a Billion BiPAC 7800VDOX modem/router with Gigabit Ethernet for our tests, and replicated those tests with a Linksys X3000 modem/router with Gigabit Ethernet for comparison, which resulted in negligible differences in performance across the board compared to the Billion router. Our test computer contained a 10000rpm Western Digital Raptor hard drive in order to facilitate fast transfers to and from the NAS device across the network.
During operation, the WD Red array consumed a maximum of 35W of power when performing reading and writing tasks, which makes them quite economical. The spin speed of the Red drives is not specifically stated. Instead, WD lists the revolutions per minute of the drives as "IntelliPower", which suggests that the motor spins at an undisclosed rate specific to the drive, but at a lower rate than a typical 7200rpm hard drive. Basically, it's a specification that's designed to reduce power consumption, yet still provide adequate performance.
Compared to two 1TB Seagate Constellation ES drives (model ST31000524NS) that we tested in the same NAS device in a RAID 1 array and running the same tests, the WD Red drives were four Watts more efficient while operating, and two Watts more efficient while idle. That's not an entirely fair comparison though, as the Seagate drives have a lower data density and are designed for the enterprise, not just for consumer and small business NAS devices. However, it gives an indication as to what the Red drives can do against more robust drives in the same platform.
The overall performance of the Red drives, despite the more economical power consumption, compared favourably to the Seagate drives. In fact, for large file transfers, the numbers were almost identical. The WD Red array wrote large files at a rate of 51.32 megabytes per second (MBps) — the exact same rate that the Seagate array recorded — and it read large files at a rate of 90.62MBps — a little lower than the 92.06MBps rate of the Seagate array. Small files (think MP3s and JPEG photos) were written by the Red drives at 49.31MBps — faster than the Seagate drives' 48.22MBps — but read at 62MBps — slower than the Seagate drives' 70MBps.
The Red drives are good and if you are building a NAS array you should consider them over regular desktop drives due to their slightly longer warranty and stated always-on reliability. Retail pricing for a 3TB Red drive is $219, which works out to be about seven cents per formatted gigabyte, and only a little bit more than a 3TB Green drive according to street pricing we saw at the time of writing.
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