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3.5” Enterprise Hard Drive Development Analyzed

3.5” Enterprise Hard Drive Development Analyzed
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“Never change a running system” is the IT world’s version of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This sentiment is probably most closely heeded in the enterprise space, where server and client configurations are required to stay constant for a set amount of time. Each component typically gets validated for a specific configuration. If a replacement is needed, identical parts are used, despite the availability of potentially more powerful hardware. One of the few components that can be replaced with a different model is the hard drive. Many of the latest drives can be used as so-called drop-in replacements.

This article will not discuss the differences between hard disk drives and solid state drives. SSDs will eventually replace all sorts of mechanical drives in the performance segment because of their unbeatable I/O numbers and power efficiency. Reliability remains an unknown, as SSDs are still comparatively young and their track record is limited, but this will improve over time. However, hard drives will not be replaced in the foreseeable future, provided that their capacities remain unrivaled by SSDs.

Currently, consumer SSDs are limited to 256GB. Drives such as Intel’s X25-M will move capacities up to 320GB in a few months. In the enterprise space, SSDs are still clearly more expensive, and capacities are limited to smaller sizes because only SLC flash memory can satisfy the highest performance demands.

But enough talking about SSD. This article is about 3.5” enterprise hard drives. Although the trend is clearly shifting from the 3.5” to 2.5” form factor, 3.5” HDDs still represent the backbone of performance storage in the enterprise space. We took the last four drive generations between 147GB and 600GB and compared performance and power efficiency.

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  • 0 Hide
    nihility , March 6, 2010 6:49 AM
    What's the price range on the newest drive? Any changes in affordability over the years? How does the price/performance compare to SSDs. We know an SSD is more expensive per unit, but how about price/performance?
  • 0 Hide
    Lutfij , March 6, 2010 7:17 AM
    @nihility - The change in affordability will come about in a few more years...as for price/performance ratio its bad when u compare them to the HDD mentioned above...they are good in data retention. But these are more for servers, SSD's on the other hand are for gamers and enthusiasts.

    lol, i thought the days of seein an wierd numbered HDD was over - 147GB wats with that?
  • 1 Hide
    candide08 , March 7, 2010 2:26 PM
    "Never change a running system” is the IT world’s version of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."

    This also is NOT the philosophy of many IT shops.

    Many, especially larger shops, have replacement policies based on usable lifetime (3 years mostly) and even more so based on the availability of support. Once an item goes EOL at the vendor the risks of failure and inability to replace demand that the system be upgraded and replaced - running or not.
  • 1 Hide
    jcurryaz , March 10, 2010 2:10 PM
    Why isn't the SAS HBA or RAID card identified? Could drivers or HBA settings impact the performance of these drives?

    Are the results reported as single runs of each test or averages of multiple runs with some standard deviation?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 12, 2010 1:55 AM
    I would be very interested to see how the figures compare with 2.5" SAS disks.

    In our enviroment, we have only purchased two servers in the past 2 years with 3.5" SAS disks, the others using 2.5" HS 15K SAS disks.

    Disk storage systems still use 3.5" disks, and will do for the foreseable future and most disk storage systems use SAS disks primarily, and then fibre attached for high speed.

    As for upgading disks, in the enterprise enviroment, the disks are normally swapped for like disks- the same if possible, or very similar models if necessary- the reason is compatability. The disk's firmwares are kept at the same level to ensure that they respond in exactly the same way and run at the same way.
    When you are talking about RAID 1 or RAID 5 disk sets on a business critical system, performance takes second place to reliability- every minute of downtime costs money, every byte of lost data costs money.

    My 2 penny's worth.
  • 0 Hide
    shreeharsha , March 13, 2010 2:34 AM
    Looking forward to see Ultrastar 15K600 storage boxes. 16bay box can give upto 9.6 TB of raw storage capacity :) 
  • 0 Hide
    tj_the_first , March 14, 2010 10:17 PM
    nihility - SSDs wouldn't last in a server. Rewrite limits would come into play and we don't know what reliable lifetime numbers would be. Value is already bad so imagine replacing them every 3 or 6 months. Most SSD v HDD reviews include server workload comparisons.
  • 0 Hide
    ossie , March 20, 2010 8:31 AM
    Wondering a bit about those extreme surface temps...
    Can only hope the dynamic duo didn't let those fine drives cook themselves without forced cooling... That wouldn't be only incompetent, but right out criminal.
    About the selection of "benchmarks" and "o$", it isn't even worth to comment any further. Vantage "less interesting", right? Completely useless...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 21, 2010 7:15 PM
    how can anyone seriously believe the hard drive companies haven't done rundown tests on their SSDs.

    If the new SSDs could outlast and normal hard drive, the marketing dropkicks would be chatting our ears off about it. Marketing is one place where absence of evidence is usually evidence of absence.
  • 0 Hide
    atmi , March 22, 2010 8:35 AM
    TJ_the_first - Have you read this article "Storage Trends In 2010: An Interview With Hitachi" in here tomshardware.

    It says that "Hitachi is now going to bring to market is a complete enterprise products portfolio all the way from very large capacity drives (2TB, I spoke about this earlier) through to SSD for the very high-end."

    And from the last paragraph " Solid state drives fill the gap for transactional applications. Banks, insurance companies, airlines, or any application responsible for tackling millions of transactions very, very quickly will value the performance of SSDs. That’s the key strength."

    So that's some fact. I personally don't think that there will be any major issues with SSD's in server use. Where's fast drive needed then it will be the SSD.