Seagate Shipping 16 TB Exos X and IronWolf PMR Hard Drives for Enterprise and NAS

Source: Seagate Seagate Shipping 16 TB Exos X and IronWolf PMR Hard Drives for Enterprise and NAS

Seagate Using Its 9-Platter Helium-Based Platform To Hit 16 Terabyte Capacities and Beyond

While Seagate has been shipping 16 TB hard drives to hyperscale enterprise customers since late march, the company is finally bringing the high capacity drives to the broader retail market under its Exos X line for enterprise customers as well as IronWolf and IronWolf Pro lines aimed at networked attached storage (NAS) for SOHO/SMB customers. These new drives utilize a helium-filled 9-platter platform using PMR and TDMR technologies to offer up 16 TB of storage in a 3.5″ form factor 7200 RPM drive (256 MB cache) in SATA 6Gbps and SAS 12Gbps interface options.

The Exos X16 sits at the top end with a 5 year warranty and 2.5 million hour MTBF rating. Supporting self encryption and secure erase, the new 16 TB drives are aimed squarely at data center customers looking to maximize their storage density and TCO numbers with Seagate claiming up to 33% more PB/rack versus their 12 TB predecessors and lower cost of ownership (including e.g. more favorable TB/watt). The Seagate rates the Exos X16 at up to 261 MB/s maximum sustained transfers and 170 / 440 random 4K QD16 WCD read / write respectively. Other specifications include an average latency of 4.16ms, 5W average power usage, and 10.0W (10.2W for SAS models) max watts.

The IronWolf and IronWolf Pro drives are slightly cheaper and use the same drive platform but are not rated to the same metrics as the Exos X line. Specifically, Seagate rates the IronWolf Pro at 1.2 million hours MTBF and 300 TB/year and the IronWolf at 1.0 million hours MTBF and 180 TB/year. Further, while the 16 TB IronWolf Pro comes with a 5 year warranty and Resuce Data Recovery Service, the base IronWolf hard drive only has a 3 year warranty. Seagate also only rates the performance at up to 250 MB/s for the 16 TB IronWolf Pro and 210 MB/s for the 16 TB IronWolf. Average latency appears to match the Exos X at 4.16ms, however. The spec sheets do not contain numbers for random read/write performance. The lower-tier IronWolf is slightly less power efficient at 5.3W average idle. The SATA only IronWolf is aimed at NAS devices with up to eight bays while the IronWolf Pro is aimed at NAS products with up to 24 bays.

Now for the fun bit: pricing. The Exos X16 (there are several models) has a MSRP of $628.99 or $638.99 for SATA or SAS respectively. The 16TB IronWolf Pro (ST16000NE000) has a MSRP of $664.99 while the 16TB IronWolf (ST16000VN001) sits at $609.99.

What is interesting to me about these drives is that Seagate was able to offer a 16 TB drive using PMR (with a bit of help from TDMR) technology and without having to rely on alternatives with compromises like SMR (shingled magnetic recording) or more exotic technologies like HAMR/MAMR. Two Dimensional Magnetic Recording (TDMR) is neat as the tracks data is stored on have become so narrow that they are smaller than a single read head; TDMR setups use multiple read heads to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio and reduce magnetic inter-track interference. There are possible read performance gains, but is more expensive as the multiple heads need to be paired with a faster controller that can handle the increased processing and bandwidth requirements.

In a previous earnings call, Seagate stated that the 16 TB Exos X16 would become their highest revenue SKU in Q2’20 and that the 9-platter helium filled platform could support 18 TB when using host managed SMR. Perhaps most interesting for those eagerly waiting for HAMR to finally make an appearance, the platform is apparently drop in ready for HAMR which the company expects to take them to 20 TB and beyond starting as soon as 2020. It is pretty amazing how far storage has come and how much capacity continues to be possible using conventional/traditional recording methods despite how often the density wall is said to be hit only to have it move further away thanks to some R&D breakthrough prolonging its life/usefulness. Similar to the silicon and shrinking manufacturing processes in CPU/chip development, at some point there will be a dead end or at least a point at which further progress is not worth the cost and a new way of computing will be more effective, at some point traditional magnetic recording will only get us so far and other technologies (e.g. HAMR) and storage methods (even cheaper flash or even something totally new, e.g. crystal or DNA-based) will have to step in but until them I am enjoying the ride of seeing just how much storage can be squeezed out of spinning rust!

From the latest press release:

"The Exos X16 is key in reducing total cost of ownership for enterprise system developers and cloud data centers while supporting multiple applications with varying workloads,” said Sai Varanasi, vice president of product line marketing at Seagate Technology. “The Exos X16 is the industry’s leading helium-based 16TB capacity drive. We are partnering with our cloud/enterprise customers to bring this product to the market to fulfill the pent-up exabyte demand in data centers.”

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About The Author

Tim Verry

Tim is a long time computer geek and DIY system builder that specializes in family tech support.

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