Month: May 2017

WD Announces A New Mobile Products At MWC 2017

At Mobile World Conference 2017, Western Digital Corp. (WDC) announced a handful of new mobile products. These products come under both the SanDisk product lines. These products include a new microSD card ideal for 4K and full HD video. WD announced a few new flash/USB drives. And the company announced a new iNAND for embedded flash storage, the 7350.

As mobile technology continues to advance, the devices themselves can’t always keep up or it becomes cost prohibitive to buy the higher end/higher capacity models. There are always the options of offloading content onto computers, NAS devices, or clouds but most users like to have all of their information at their fingertips. WD’s new products can help customers realize this end.

For users that want to take full advantage of the new A1 Standard, SanDisk has launched the new 256GB SanDisk Extreme microSD card with A1. For Android based smart phones (specifically the ones using Android Marshmallow 6 and Nougat 7), users can see a big performance bump when loading and launching apps from the microSD card. SanDisk quotes speeds of 100MB/s and a capacity of 256GB, making the card ideal for 4K UHD and Full HD video.

Also for Android, is the SanDisk Ultra Dual USB Drive 3.0. This drive is designed for users with OTG enabled Android devices, carries up to 256GB of capacity, and has quoted read speeds of 150MB/s. The dual connectivity allows for easy sharing and offloading of content. The Ultra Dual is automatically detected when plugged into the device.

WD isn’t stopping with Android devices. For iPhone and iPad users WD has launched two new USB devices, the 256GB SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive and 256GB SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick. Both of the drives provide 256GB of extra space for iPhones and iPads. The iXpand has a lighting connector on one side and a USB 3.0 connection on the other. The iXpand works with most cases and allows users to easily offload content on their device to their PC or Mac. The iXpand comes with he iXpand Drive app that lets users automatically backup their camera roll, content from social networking sites including tagged photos from Facebook and Instagram, and watch popular video formats straight from the drive via the iXpand Drive app. Along with encryption software, the iXpand also allows users to cast content to their TVs via Chromecast and Amazon Fire devices.

The 256GB SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick also gives users additional capacity this time wirelessly. Users need to load media onto the device and then through the SanDisk Connect app they can stream the contents up to three devices at a time. The Connect Stick can stream music, videos, and HD videos and can stream media via Apple AirPlay.

Aside from all of the add-ons that WD introduced, they are improving their embedded flash drive (EFD) technology as well with the new iNAND 7350. The new iNAND 7350 goes up to 256GB in capacity and leverages WD’s 3D NAND (the first embedded storage to do so). The iNAND 7350 is designed to support the emerging needs of mobile devices such as 4K video and augmented reality. From a performance stand point, WD states that the iNAND 7350 can hit sequential write speed of 2Gb/s and random read performance of 22K IOPS.

Availability

  • The 256GB SanDisk Extreme microSD card with A1 is expected to be available by the end of March 2017 and to have a MSRP of $199.99
  • The 256GB SanDisk Ultra Dual USB Drive 3.0 is expected to be available March 6, 2017 and is available for preorder now.
  • The 256GB SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive and SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick are available now.
  • iNAND 7350 is currently sampling with select OEMs with a GA expected in the second quarter of 2017.

QNAP TS-453Bmini Vertical NAS Now Available

QNAP Systems has announced the availability TS-453Bmini, the company’s newest vertical NAS solution. Featuring a modern glossy build, the TS-453Bmini is equipped with the latest Intel 14nm J3455 quad-core 1.5GHz processor, AES-NI encryption, 4K UHD output and transcoding. QNAP calls their new NAS a high-performance NAS solution that provides users with security and intelligent services and designed as an ideal data storage, backup, sharing, and entertainment option for home and small office use.

With upwards of 8GB DDR3L dual-channel RAM, dual Gigabit LAN ports and SATA 6Gb/s, QNAP quotes the TS-453Bmini to reach read speeds of 225MB/s under AES-NI 256-bit hardware-accelerated encryption for both shared folders and the full NAS volume. The TS-453Bmini can also be expanded to 120TB via QNAP’s 8-bay UX-800P expansion unit; the device’s tool-less design also makes upgrades to the NAS itself (e.g. installing larger HDDS and more RAM) a seamless process.

The TS-453Bmini uses the latest version of QTS (4.3), which offers a plethora of updated and new applications designed to promote the efficiency of management tasks as well as everyday use. For example:

  • Container Station supports various container applications and provides support for QIoT Containers and IoT applications.
  • Virtualization Station allows users to run multiple Windows, Linux, UNIX, and Android-based virtual machines.
  • QmailAgent centralizes multiple email accounts and simplifies daily email management. Qcontactz centrally stores and manages contact information.

In addition, QNAP’s new vertical NAS uses advanced virtualization technologies to integrate QTS and Linux. Installing Linux Station and connecting a keyboard, mouse and display, allows the TS-453Bmini to be used as a makeshift Ubuntu PC. The NAS also supports 4K UHD output and real-time transcoding, which provides smooth and high-quality video across devices and where network bandwidth is limited.

Key specifications

  • TS-453Bmini-4G: 4GB DDR3L dual-channel RAM (2 x 2GB)
  • TS-453Bmini-8G: 8GB DDR3L dual-channel RAM (2 x 4GB)
  • Vertical and desktop design, 4-bay NAS supporting hot-swappable 3.5″/2.5” SATA HDD or SSD, Intel Celeron J3455 1.5 GHz Quad-core processor (burst to 2.3GHz), 4/8GB RAM (upgradable to 8GB), AES-NI hardware-accelerated encryption, 2 x Gigabit RJ45 LAN ports, 1 x HDMI 4K UHD @30Hz, 4 x USB 3.0 ports, 1 x USB 2.0 port, Remote Control (RM-IR002)
  • Additional features include: support for VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and Citrix to assist in flexibly deploying and managing virtualization environments; cross-platform file sharing for Windows and Mac and desktop/laptop backup; Windows AD, LDAP directory services and Windows ACL to improve the efficiency of permission settings. The TS-453Bmini also offers flexible backup solutions for Windows and Mac and disaster recovery solutions with RTRR, rsync and cloud storage backup.

Micron Sees Huge SSD Sales, XPoint Products Shipping This Year

Micron reported their 2Q 2017 results last night and the quarter was a monster. Much of that is due to great traction in Micron’s SSD business, thanks to 3D TLC NAND making Micron highly cost competitive. Micron also saw increases in their OEM, cloud and enterprise businesses, both in terms of capacity shipped and total sales. Micron is obviously benefitting from the shift away from HDDs as a capacity tier; perhaps in an outsized way as their strength right now is clearly in higher capacity SATA SSDs that are especially popular in software defined platforms like VMware vSAN.

3D NAND is the clear driver in Micron’s success in the SSD business; 32-layer 3D NAND is being driven throughout their business. Looking ahead Micron expects to see “meaningful output” of 64-layer 3D NAND by August. Engineering of their CMOS circuitry will mean Micron can ship the industry’s smallest die size.

Turning to 3D XPoint, Micron had very little to say other than they expect initial shipments this year. Micron makes XPoint in partnership with Intel, who has already announced and started shipping their first XPoint products dubbed Optane. Micron did demo some of their XPoint line, dubbed QuantX, last year where they showed QuantX outpacing NAND-based SSDs quite handily in both 2.5″ U.2 and HHHL add in card form factors. While QuantX-based SSDs will clearly be niche early on, from a thought leadership perspective, it’s important for Micron to prevent Intel from taking all of the early attention. Intel did well at their launch to get major partners like HPE and VMware to throw their weight behind Optane. More near term, Micron did indicate plans to offer new enterprise NVMe SSDs that leverage high-density NAND.

Western Digital Unveils WD My Passport SSD

Today Western Digital Corporation (WDC) introduced a new My Passport, though this time its storage will be an SSD, a first for WD portable drive. Expanding WD’s portfolio of My Passport devices, the new My Passport SSD will have much better performance that it typically seen when going from disk to flash. The new My Passport SSD is aimed at content creators and tech enthusiasts that need high performance in their portable media.

The new portable drive is stated to have speeds as high as 515MB/s, making it the faster My Passport drive to date. The drive uses a USB Type-C port and is USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gb/s) ready. It comes with both a USB Type-C to Type-C cable and a USB Type-C to Type-A for those that don’t yet have a USB-C port. The drive is compatible for both Mac and PC. Portability always comes with the risk of something physically happening to the drive. To assuage concerns, the My Passport SSD can withstand a 6.5-foot drop and up to 1500G of force. For protecting data on the inside of the drive, it comes with 256-bit AES hardware encryption and password protection.

Availability and Pricing

The WD My Passport SSD is available now at Bestbuy.com and is expected to be available at other select retailers this quarter. The drive comes in 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB capacity and is priced $99.99, $199.99, and $399.99, respectively.

Toshiba Launches 8TB NAS HDDs

Toshiba Launches 8TB NAS HDDs

Today Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. launched its latest consumer NAS 3.5” hard drive, the N300 Series. The drives come in capacities as high as 8TB. And the drives have been optimized to work in a NAS environment, which we go to some length about why this is important in our Pick The Right Drive For The Job article.

As stated above, the N300 Series comes in capacities as high as 8TB (there is also a 4TB and 6TB model) and the drives come with a 128MB data buffer. The drives support up to eight drive bays in a multi-RAID NAS design and use Toshiba’s Dynamic Cache Technology. The new drives also use advanced control and sensing technology to mitigate the effects of vibration, shock and heat.

Key specifications:

  • Capacity: 4TB, 6TB, 8TB
  • Form Factor: 3.5”
  • Interface: 6.0Gb/s SATA
  • Drive bays supported: 1 to 8
  • Performance
    • Rotational speed: 7,200RPM
    • Buffer size: 128MB
    • Average latency: 4.17ms
    • Data Transfer speeds: 200MB/s (4TB), 210MB/s (6TB), 240MB/s (8TB)
  • Reliability
    • Workloads: 180TB/year
    • MTTF: 1M hours
    • Unrecoverable error rate: 1 x 10^14 bits read
    • Warranty: 3-year
  • Power Management
    • Supply Voltage:  5VDC (±5%) / 12VDC (±10%)
    • Consumption (operating): 9.6W typ (4TB), 10.1W typ (6TB), 9.2W typ (8TB)
    • Consumption (active idle): 5.2W typ (4TB), 6.7W typ (6TB), 6.2W typ (8TB)
  • Environmental
    • Temperature (operating/non-operating): 0 to 60°C /-40 to 70°C
    • Vibration (operating): 0.75G (5 to 300 Hz) 0.25 G (300 to 500 Hz) or less
    • Vibration (non-operating): 5G (5 to 500Hz) or less
    • Shock (operating): 70G / 2ms duration
    • Shock (non-operating): 250G / 2ms duration
    • Acoustics (idle mode): 30 dB typ. (4 TB), 33 dB typ. (6 & 8 TB)
    • Acoustics (seek mode): 34 dB typ. (4 TB), 35 dB typ. (6 & 8 TB)
  • Physical
    • Dimensions: 147 (L) x 101.85 (W) x 26.1 (H) mm
    • Weight: 770 g max

Availability

The N300 Series is expected to be available this month and the drives will come with a 3-year warranty.

Seagate Release 3Q17 Financial Results

Seagate Technology announced its third quarter 2017 financial results. Though in recent quarters Seagate has been on the rise, this earnings report was a bit flat if not down some from the previous results. Seagate’s stock has shown a fairly strong performance over the quarter with a high of 50.51 before a sharp sell off after this quarter’s results were released.

Looking at the numbers, Seagate is reporting revenue of $2.7 billion, down from $2.9 billion last quarter, however, up slightly (3%) from the previous year’s $2.6 billion. Seagate is reporting a net income of $194 million GAAP, down nearly $100 million form last quarter. Non-GAAP net income is reported as $329 million also down nearly $100 million from last quarter. Looking at diluted earnings per share (EPS): GAAP diluted EPS was of $0.65/share and non-GAAP was $1.10/share. The company’s gross margin for this quarter was 30.5% GAAP and 31.4% non-GAAP, compared to 30.8% and 31.8%, respectively, from the previous quarter. Cash flow from operations was $426 million, down from $656 million last quarter. Seagate is also announcing a cash dividend of $0.63 per share.

Not only were the financial numbers down a bit this quarter, Seagate also shipped less (total capacity) this quarter than in the previous two, 65.5 Exabytes (averaging 1.8TB per drive) this quarter compared to 68.2EB the previous and 66.7EB the quarter before. Though it is a bit of a slump it is an improvement over the same time last year.

Though its numbers are down a bit, along with its stock price at the moment, Seagate is still poised to do well in the coming years. Data is growing almost too fast to keep up with, and the company announcing it is shipping 12TB HDDs in the last three months putting it in a good place to help others keep up with this growth. While it is true that several vendors are looking more and more into flash (somewhere Seagate is gaining ground, for example Seagate is supply Nexenta with SSDs for an upcoming review we’ll have), HDDs will still be the dominate technology for storing this data over the next few years.

Drobo 5N2 5-Bay NAS (Review)

he 5N2 is Drobo’s 7th new product after undergoing an organizational management overhaul in 2015, which has represented their shift to an emphasis on simplicity and streamlined consumer experience. These new objectives are aptly addressed in their new 5-bay NAS, which seems to have been designed with the user in mind. While the importance of a streamlined user experience can’t be understated, the market has come to expect strong performance numbers thanks to companies like Synology, QNAP, Netgear, Seagate and Western Digital. The 5N2 includes several novel features that are worth noting, including mixed drive size utilization and at-a-glance storage monitoring. Drobo also added a few of their business features to the 5N2, including SSD cache and dual Ethernet ports.

Drobo designed the 5N2 to be as user-friendly as possible, which is first enjoyed with its easy deployment process. Thanks to simple instructions and great drive compatibility, it’s reasonable to expect that almost any user could get their 5N2 up and running, regardless of prior technical experience. The 5N2 can accept any combination of drive volumes, which isn’t common in competing brands (although this will probably affect performance). Two or more 5N2 units can be unified under DroboDR, which backs up user data in the event of drive or system failure. The 5N2 also comes with an internal battery that kicks in during power outage and further protects against data loss by flushing the system RAM to the persistent storage.

Drobo also designed their browser interface (myDrobo) to be as simple and approachable as possible, even for entry-level users. Although many of Drobo’s apps are embedded in the functionality of the 5N2, some helpful apps remain available to the user, including DroboAccess (for remote access) and DroboPix (for management of mobile photos and videos). Overall, Drobo doesn’t offer a very extensive app library, especially when compared to other popular NAS platforms, but there are quite a few options.

The Drobo 5N2 carries an MSRP of $499 (driveless), and includes a 2-year warranty.

Specifications

  • Drive Bays
    • Up to five (5) 3.5″ SATA II/III HDD or SSD
    • One (1) mSATA SSD in the Drobo Accelerator Bay for increased performance
  • Compatible Drive Type
    • 3.5″ SATA III / SATA II HDD
    • 2.5″ SATA III / SATA II HDD
    • 2.5″ SATA III / SATA II SSD
  • External ports
    • 2x Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Dimensions: 150.3mm x 185.4mm x 262.3mm
  • Weight: 3.9kg
  • Power
    • AC Input: 100V to 240V AC
    • Power Frequency: 50/60Hz, Single Phase
  • Environmental
    • Operating Temperature: 10ºC to 35ºC (50ºF to 95ºF)
    • Storage Temperature: -10ºC to 60ºC (14ºF to 140ºF)
    • Relative Humidity: 5% to 80%
  • Operating System Support
    • Apple macOS X 10.10 and higher
    • Microsoft Windows 10
    • Microsoft Windows 8
    • Microsoft Windows 7
  • Box Contents
    • Drobo 5N2
    • 2x 6ft Ethernet cables
    • 6ft power cord with power supply
    • Quick Start Guide
  • Warranty: 2 years

Design and Build

The Drobo 5N2 probably uses the same chassis as its predecessor (the 5N) albeit with a few small changes. The NAS has a standard rectangular shape with a black finish and a very simple layout, although Drobo does include a limited edition GelaSkin magnet with purchase (at the time of this review’s publishing). There are five large LEDs oriented vertically along the right side of the device’s face, which correspond to each drive’s status. There is another line of small blue LEDs oriented horizontally along the bottom, which correspond to the system’s current data usage (in intervals of 10%). The system power LED is found at the bottom left-hand corner, and the LAN status LED is located at the bottom right-hand corner.

The back of the device is very simply laid out, with most of the surface area encompassing ventilation holes. The ports are oriented along the bottom, with two ethernet ports, one Kensington lock port, the power port, and the power button (from left to right).

On the bottom of the device is the small panel that pops off and enables users to install an mSATA drive for SSD cache.

Usability

Drobo’s management interface (Drobo Dashboard) is fairly intuitive overall, and first-time users could probably figure out how to deploy and troubleshoot their 5N2 without much trouble. The home screen gives a general overview of the 5N2, with navigation along the left side of the screen. Users can immediately see whether or not their 5N2 is functioning properly.

The status tab yields a more comprehensive assessment of the 5N2’s functionality and information, including the health of each installed drive, the serial number, firmware version, uptime, and hot data cache (SSD cache). Network information can also be accessed through the status tab.

The capacity tab shows the total capacity of the 5N2, as well as the used space and available space.

The status of each created share folder is accessible through the Shares tab. Users can also use this tab to create new shares, and adjust administrative settings.

Drobo’s disaster recovery feature can be activated and managed through the DroboDR tab. The 5N2 can be assigned as either a source or target for backups, and users can schedule routine backups at a specific time.

Users can deploy Drobo’s various applications through the Drobo Apps tab. Although Drobo includes several of their own apps (e.g., myDrobo, DroboAccess, DroboPix), users can also download various supported third-party apps through the same tab.

The Tools tab allows users to interact with the 5N2 remotely, with functions like system shutdown, restart, system rest (factory reset), and system update.

The Drobo settings tab has the dual disk redundancy setting (to protect against two simultaneous drive failures) as well as disk drive spindown (more or less a hibernation function). Users can also dim the LED lights of the 5N2 through this tab.

Testing Background and Comparables

The Drobo 5N2 will be compared two similar NAS units, including the Synology DS1515+ and the Synology DS1515. We also tested the Drobo 5N2 under two separate conditions; one with only HDDs installed, and one with an SSD installed (and SSD cache activated).

Performance

Our enterprise hard drive benchmark process preconditions each drive into steady-state with the same workload the device will be tested with under a heavy load of 16 threads with an outstanding queue of 16 per thread, and then tested in set intervals in multiple thread/queue depth profiles to show performance under light and heavy usage. Since hard drives reach their rated performance level very quickly, we only graph out the main sections of each test. Although we typically include several metrics for each of our performance profiles (i.e., throughput, average latency, max latency, and standard deviation), we will only be providing throughput results for this review.

Our Enterprise Synthetic Workload Analysis includes four profiles based on real-world tasks. These profiles have been developed to make it easier to compare to our past benchmarks as well as widely-published values such as max 4k read and write speed and 8k 70/30, which is commonly used for enterprise drives.

  • 4k
    • 100% Read or 100% Write
    • 100% 4k
  • 8k (Sequential)
    • 100% Read or 100% Write
    • 100% 8k
  • 128k (Sequential)
    • 100% Read or 100% Write
    • 100% 128k

In the first of our enterprise workloads, we measured a long sample of random 4k performance with 100% write and 100% read activity. When configured without SSD cache, the Drobo 5N2 posted 75 IOPS read and 445 IOPS write. With mSATA cache, we saw improvement in read performance (665 IOPS), but also surprisingly saw a reduction in write performance (336 IOPS). These values were in the ballpark of the other NAS units; the Synology DS1515+ posted 365 IOPS and 546 IOPS (read and write, respectively), and the Synology DS1515 posted 353 IOPS and 255 IOPS (read and write, respectively).

Our next benchmark measures 100% 8k sequential throughput with a 16T/16Q load in 100% read and 100% write operations. The 5N2 really suffered under these conditions, yielding only 9,731 IOPS read and 8,794 IOPS write. Once again, configuring the 5N2 with SSD cache, which should enhance performance, reduced its numbers in both read and write (9,161 IOPS and 7,605 IOPS, respectively). These numbers are really put into perspective by the Synology DS1515+ (51,982 IOPS and 43,948 IOPS in read and write, respectively) and DS1515 (40,676 IOPS and 30,617 IOPS in read and write, respectively).

The last test in our small NAS Synthetic Workload testing is the 128k test, which is a large block sequential test that shows the highest sequential transfer speed. Under these conditions, the 5N2 posted 231MB/s read and 227MB/s write without SSD cache, and 226MB/s read and 227MB/s write with SSD cache. The Synology NAS units doubled this performance; the DS1515+ posted 462MB/s and 446MB/s (read and write, respectively), and the DS1515 posted 454MB/s and 434MB/s (read and write, respectively).

Conclusion

Although Drobo’s new 5N2 includes several features that would appeal to entry-level users, it doesn’t stand up to modern performance standards. In most of our performance benchmarks, the 5N2 was completely outclassed by our selected comparable NAS units (Synology DS1515+ and Synology DS1515). In our 8k sequential benchmark, the 5N2 was outperformed by its competitors by a factor of five, the Drobo saw read performance of 9,731 IOPS and write performance of 8,794 IOPS compared to the slower Synology’s 40,676 IOPS read and 30,617 IOPS write. In our 128k benchmark, the Synology units with four 1G network ports available doubled the 5N2’s performance, 454MB/s read and 434MB/s write for the slower Synology versus the Drobo’s 231MB/s read and 227MB/s write. To make matters worse, Drobo’s SSD cache feature, which is designed to utilize the benefit of faster SSD transfer speeds, slowed down the 5N2 more often than not.

That said, if Drobo can improve their substantial performance and quality control issues, their products could be appealing to some users; one thing that the 5N2 has going for it is its extreme simplicity and ease of use. As private cloud computing continues to creep its way into the mainstream consumer storage market, the need for an ultra user-friendly option is becoming much more relevant.

Pros

  • User-friendly interface
  • Intuitive drive installation

Cons

  • Poor overall performance
  • Drobo’s SSD cache isn’t worth the cost of buying an SSD to load in the slot

The Bottom Line

Although Drobo still has much to address in terms of performance and feature content, their experience-oriented approach to cloud computing could help hoist them onto the playing field in the future.

Enterprise Read Intensive SATA SSD Roundup

When it comes to enterprise SSD marketing currently, NVMe and high-capacity SAS drives garner most of the headlines. But behind their more showy cousins sit an entire stable of SATA SSDs that are taking the lion’s share of overall SSD units shipped. Enterprise SATA SSDs are commonly segmented further into read intensive and write intensive categories. In a few outlier cases a vendor may also ship a mixed-use drive just to cover all the bases. In reality, these drives are all the same at the core, with the key difference simply being overprovisioning and firmware. Overprovisioning generally determines the usable capacity and endurance attributes of a drive. In this roundup we’re taking a non-standard approach. Our SSD reviews are generally a deep dive into a single drive. In this case we’ve lined up five of the leading read intensive SSD offerings from Intel, Toshiba, Samsung, Micron and SanDisk to see how they stack up in this lucrative market segment.

Testing Background and Comparables

The StorageReview Enterprise Test Lab provides a flexible architecture for conducting benchmarks of enterprise storage devices in an environment comparable to what administrators encounter in real deployments. The Enterprise Test Lab incorporates a variety of servers, networking, power conditioning, and other network infrastructure that allows our staff to establish real-world conditions to accurately gauge performance during our reviews.

We incorporate these details about the lab environment and protocols into reviews so that IT professionals and those responsible for storage acquisition can understand the conditions under which we have achieved the following results. None of our reviews are paid for or overseen by the manufacturer of equipment we are testing. Additional details about the StorageReview Enterprise Test Lab and an overview of its networking capabilities are available on those respective pages.

Comparables for this review

  • Intel 3520 1.6TB
  • Micron 5100 ECO 1.92TB
  • Samsung PM863a 1.92TB
  • SanDisk CloudSpeed Eco Gen2 1.92TB
  • Toshiba HK4R 1.92TB

Application Workload Analysis

In order to understand the performance characteristics of enterprise storage devices, it is essential to model the infrastructure and the application workloads found in live production environments. Our first benchmarks for the RI SSD group are therefore the MySQL OLTP performance via SysBench and Microsoft SQL Server OLTP performance with a simulated TCP-C workload. For our application workloads, each drive will be running 2-4 identically configured VMs.

SQL Server Performance

Each SQL Server VM is configured with two vDisks: 100GB volume for boot and a 500GB volume for the database and log files. From a system resource perspective, we configured each VM with 16 vCPUs, 64GB of DRAM and leveraged the LSI Logic SAS SCSI controller. While our Sysbench workloads tested previously saturated the platform in both storage I/O and capacity, the SQL test is looking for latency performance.

This test uses SQL Server 2014 running on Windows Server 2012 R2 guest VMs, being stressed by Dell’s Benchmark Factory for Databases. StorageReview’s Microsoft SQL Server OLTP testing protocol employs the current draft of the Transaction Processing Performance Council’s Benchmark C (TPC-C), an online transaction-processing benchmark that simulates the activities found in complex application environments. The TPC-C benchmark comes closer than synthetic performance benchmarks to gauging the performance strengths and bottlenecks of storage infrastructure in database environments. Each instance of our SQL Server VM for this review uses a 333GB (1,500 scale) SQL Server database and measures the transactional performance and latency under a load of 15,000 virtual users.

SQL Server Testing Configuration (per VM)

  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Storage Footprint: 600GB allocated, 500GB used
  • SQL Server 2014
    • Database Size: 1,500 scale
    • Virtual Client Load: 15,000
    • RAM Buffer: 48GB
  • Test Length: 3 hours
    • 2.5 hours preconditioning
    • 30 minutes sample period

SQL Server OLTP Benchmark Factory Host

  • Supermicro SuperServer 2028U-TNR4T+
    • Dual Intel E5-2699 v3 CPUs (2.3GHz, 18-cores, 45MB Cache)
    • 768GB RAM (32GB x 24 DDR4, 384GB per CPU)
    • CentOS 7.2
    • Supermicro AOC-S3008L-L8i HBA

In our SQL Server TPC-C workload, looking at transaction performance we see a huge spread in performance, ranging from the Toshiba HK4R and Samsung PM863a in the lead with 6,245.7 and 6,224TPS respectively to the Intel 3520 trailing behind with 3,796.7TPS.

Drilling into the average latency in SQL Server, the differences between the drives becomes even more dramatic. Again the Toshiba HK4R and Samsung PM863a lead the pack with 61ms and 78ms, with the Micron 5100 ECO jumping to 973ms, the SanDisk CloudSpeed Eco Gen2 measuring 1,151 and lastly the Intel 3520 peaking at 3,161ms.

 

Sysbench Performance

The next application benchmark consists of a Percona MySQL OLTP database measured via SysBench. This test measures average TPS (Transactions Per Second), average latency, and average 99th percentile latency as well.

Each Sysbench VM is configured with three vDisks: one for boot (~92GB), one with the pre-built database (~447GB), and the third for the database under test (270GB). From a system resource perspective, we configured each VM with 16 vCPUs, 60GB of DRAM and leveraged the LSI Logic SAS SCSI controller.

Sysbench Testing Configuration (per VM)

  • CentOS 6.3 64-bit
  • Percona XtraDB 5.5.30-rel30.1
    • Database Tables: 100
    • Database Size: 10,000,000
    • Database Threads: 32
    • RAM Buffer: 24GB
  • Test Length: 3 hours
    • 2 hours preconditioning 32 threads
    • 1 hour 32 threads

Sysbench OLTP Host

  • Supermicro SuperServer 2028U-TNR4T+
    • Dual Intel E5-2699 v3 CPUs (2.3GHz, 18-cores, 45MB Cache)
    • 768GB RAM (32GB x 24 DDR4, 384GB per CPU)
    • CentOS 7.2
    • Supermicro AOC-S3008L-L8i HBA

In the average transactions-per-second metric, we see another large spread between the drives in the read-intensive group, with the Toshiba HK4R leading the pack at 1,787.4TPS aggregate and the Micron 5100 ECO trailing the group at 1,092.7TPS. Again the Samsung was close in the #2 position, with a large spread in performance following it.

Comparing average latency between the differen read-intensive SATA SSDs, we measured an average starting at 71.7ms with the Toshiba HK4R, 72.3ms from the Samsung PM863a, 78ms from the SanDisk CloudSpeed Eco Gen2, 109.9ms from the Intel 3520 and 117ms from the Micron 5100 ECO.

There was a subtle change looking at 99th percentile, with the Samsung PM863a taking the lead with the most consistent latency spread at 134ms whereas the Intel 3520 trailed the group with a measurement of 233.4ms.

Enterprise Synthetic Workload Analysis

Flash performance varies as the drive becomes conditioned to its workload, meaning that flash storage must be preconditioned before each of the fio synthetic benchmarks in order to ensure that the benchmarks are accurate. Each of the comparable drives are preconditioned into steady-state with a heavy load of 16 threads and an outstanding queue of 16 per thread.

Preconditioning and Primary Steady-State Tests:

  • Throughput (Read+Write IOPS Aggregate)
  • Average Latency (Read+Write Latency Averaged Together)
  • Max Latency (Peak Read or Write Latency)
  • Latency Standard Deviation (Read+Write Standard Deviation Averaged Together)

Once preconditioning is complete, each device is then tested in intervals across multiple thread/queue depth profiles to show performance under light and heavy usage. Our synthetic workload analysis for the RI SATA SSDs focuses on one profile, our 8K 70/30 mixed random workload It is important to take into consideration that synthetic workloads will never 100% represent the activity seen in production workloads, and in some ways inaccurately portray a drive in scenarios that wouldn’t occur in the real world.

  • 8k
    • 70% Read/30% Write

FIO Host

  • Supermicro SuperServer 2028U-TNR4T+
    • Dual Intel E5-2699 v3 CPUs (2.3GHz, 18-cores, 45MB Cache)
    • 768GB RAM (32GB x 24 DDR4, 384GB per CPU)
    • CentOS 7.2
    • Supermicro AOC-S3008L-L8i HBA

​Our 8k benchmark uses a ratio of 70% read operations and 30% write operations. In our throughput test the Micron 5100 Eco starts off in the lead and was able to maintain this lead throughout the testing. The Micron 5100 Eco peaked at 46,137 IOPS and had the Samsung PM863 not too far behind throughout.

Looking at average latency, the Micron 5100 Eco had the lowest latency barely squeaking by the Samsung PM863 that ran neck and neck throughout the entire benchmark.

Max latency had the Samsung PM863 take the top spot with the lowest latency of all the drives, though it traded back and forth with the SanDisk.

With standard deviation, once again the Samsung and the Micron battled it out for top spot. Though it is difficult to see on the chart, the Samsung had the lowest latency throughout most of the test before slipping slightly behind the Micron near the end.

Conclusion

The market for SATA enterprise SSDs is thriving, in good part thanks to software defined storage and HCI deployments that can effectively manage SATA drives and still provide the storage services organizations expect. VMware vSAN for instance takes a cache-based approach where the majority of the SSDs in a deployment will be SATA drives. Thanks to data reduction technologies (compression, dedupe) a 1.92TB SATA SSD (or 1.6TB if you’re Intel) can offer an effective capacity of 2-5 times that amount while maintaining a lower-cost profile. The explosion of these more flexible storage systems certainly bodes well for the entire SATA SSD category.

Market trends make this a perfect time to look at the most attainable category of enterprise SSD storage, read-intensive SATA drives. Interestingly a few of these drives are a bit long in the tooth, some have taken different capacity point strategies, but all are in the market today and the best offering from each vendor in this category. In our testing, the results are pretty clear, Toshiba and Samsung lead the pack in terms of application performance, with Toshiba taking the top spots. In our synthetic workload, the Micron 5100 ECO took the top spot, in front of both the Samsung PM863a and Toshiba HK4R, although those results didn’t translate over into our application tests.

In the end Toshiba is the leader, with Samsung very hot on their heels; the real question for customers is going to be around pricing. It’s hard to find a way to recommend the other three drives, especially the Intel, which in addition to poor performance, doesn’t refund the 320GB of capacity the other vendors do.

WDC Announces HGST Ultrastar SAS SS300 SSD

Today Western Digital Corp. (WDC) announced its highest-performing SAS SSD to date, the HGST-branded Ultrastar SS300. This new addition to the Ultrastar 12Gb/s SAS SSD family is designed, like the rest of the family, to meet the rigorous data demands of many of the world’s largest companies. The drive was designed in partnership with Intel and has random performances of 400K IOPS read and 200K IOPS write.

The main use cases for the new Ultrastar SS300 drives are virtualized storage systems, databases, and private and hybrid cloud environments. The drive come in capacities up to 7.68TB, enabling customer to consolidate their data centers a bit and get the same data in a smaller footprint. Not only does the new drive have high random performance and high capacity, it is also offered in several endurance classes and power settings (high power consumption for more performance and lower for energy savings). The levels of variety give OEMs lots of flexibility as they create data center gear.

Ultrastar SS300 specifications:

  • Form Factor: 2.5” SFF
  • Interface: SAS 6/12Gb/s supports Wide port @ 12Gb/s
  • NAND: MLC and TLC
  • Capacity
    • MLC: 3.2TB/1.6TB/800GB/400GB
    • TLC: 7.68TB/3.84TB/1.9TB/960GB/480GB
  • Endurance
    • DWPD
      • MLC: 3-10
      • TLC: ~0.5-1
    • MAX PB Written
      • MLC: 2-59
      • TLC: 0.9-14
  • Performance
    • Read Throughput
      • MLC: 2,100MB/s
      • TLC: 2,100MB/s
    • Write Throughput
      • MLC: 2,050MB/s
      • TLC: 1,200-1,250MB/s
    • Read IOPS
      • MLC: 400K
      • TLC: 400K
    • Write IOPS
      • MLC: 170-200K
      • TLC: 80-120K
    • Mixed IOPS
      • MLC: 265-285K
      • TLC: 115-130K
    • Max Latency: 85μs
  • Reliability
    • Error Rate (non-recoverable, bits read): 1 in 10^17
    • MTBF5 (M hours): 2.5
    • Annualized Failure Rate: 0.35%
    • Availability (hrs/day x days/week): 24×7
    • Limited Warranty 5-year
  • Power
    • Requirement (+/- 5%): +5 VDC, +12VDC
    • Operating Modes (W, typical): 9, 11, 14
    • Idle (W, max): <3.2TB: 3.7, ≥ 3.2TB: 4.7
  • Physical
    • z-height (mm): 15
    • Dimensions (width x depth, mm): 70.1 x 100.6
    • Weight (max, g): 140
  • Environmental
    • Operating Temperature: 0° to 60°C
    • Non-operating Temperature: -55° to 85°C
    • Shock (half-sine wave, G): 1000G (0.5ms), 500G (2ms)
    • Vibration, random (G RMS, 5 to 700Hz): 2.16 (XYZ)

Availability

The Ultrastar SS300 SSD is currently shipping to OEM partners.

Backblaze Releases Its Q1 2017 HDD Reliability Results

Backblaze has released its latest HDD reliability results, withthe results are for the first quarter of 2017. This time Backblaze is looking at over 80,000 HDDs, increasing it from the previous 70,000. And a new addition to the testing is enterprise HDDs, (we covered the importance of the different drive types here).

The setup/testing environment is still the same as we mentioned last time: Since 2007 Backblaze has been offering an online backup service. For the backup service Backblaze uses storage pods that holds at least 45 HDDs (the newer pods hold 60 HDDs). They put 20 storage pods together to make a storage vault that can hold up to 1,200 HDDs. Backblaze uses hard drives from primarily four main vendors: Seagate, WD, HGST, and Toshiba. The reason for choosing these companies comes from being able to buy the quantity needed for the price that enables Backblaze to offer customers the best deal. Backblaze also states that the reason most of the drives they use are Seagate and HGST is due to the availability of purchasing the quantity needed at the right price.

As with the last time we looked at it, the annualized failure rate (annualized failure rate is computed by ((Failures)/(Drive Days/365)) * 100) has crept up slightly again, this time to 2.07%, or just over 1,700 drive failures out of over 82,000. Again Seagate has the highest annualized failure rate of a single drive, ST4000DX000, though it was 7.51% this go round versus the nearly 20% we saw in the same model number last time we looked at the results. The drive with the least amount of annualized failure was the HGST HMS5C4040ALE640 with just 0.64%. Failure in this study is defined as 1) The drive will not spin up or connect to the OS. 2) The drive will not sync, or stay synced, in a RAID Array. 3) The Smart Stats used show values above Backblaze’s thresholds.

Backblaze has introduced enterprise drives into the study in the way of 2,459 Seagate 8 TB drives, model: ST8000NM055. As stated above, the drives purchased need to fall within Backblaze’s budget. As Seagate introduced new models of their enterprise drives, the older ones dropped in price and Backblaze seized this opportunity. Of the enterprise drives only two failed but due to the lower number to begin with they do have a higher failure rate percentage (2.38% compared to the non-enterprise 8TB drives with 1.6%). Backblaze also found that the enterprise drives load data faster though they use more power (there is an option to save power on the Seagate drives, PowerChoice, that even while on, the drive stored 40% more data then their client counterparts).

The entire study is available at Backblaze’s site for more insights on which drives performed well as well as the amount of time the drives ran in their data centers.