HGST led the market to helium and media caching techniques, and its innovator status has given it more experience with the platform, which bled through during our testing. The HGST Ultrastar He10 offered the best mix of performance and power consumption, especially in light of its SAS connection, in comparison to the competing HDDs. To the untrained eye, the lower performance under the heaviest of workloads will appear to be a disadvantage, but HGST obviously tuned its He10 to offer the best performance under light workloads, which is going to be the prevalent use-case (particularly in RAID and other distributed architectures, such as object storage environments).
HGST Ultrastar He10
The He10 provided a solid performance profile during mixed random workloads, though it ceded a bit of the read-centric workload performance during the 8K mixed random test. The drive and its WD Gold 8TB cousin experienced some variability in the write-centric random workloads, but these would be rare in a performance-optimized application, and almost non-existent in the modern definition of a nearline HDD workload. During mixed sequential testing, the He10 offered a tangible performance increase across the board. The drive also has a proclivity for light sequential workloads, which makes it well suited for its intended environment.
Seagate Enterprise Capacity 10TB
The Seagate Enterprise Capacity 10TB offered a solid mix of performance and power consumption that easily outstripped the WD Gold 8TB, but lagged slightly behind the HGST He10, in particular during the important mixed sequential workloads. The Seagate 10TB held the lead during random read workloads, particularly during lighter sections of the test, and it also provided a better performance profile during the 8K mixed random workloads. The role of the nearline HDD in the data center is migrating more towards bulk storage, or as large storage pools that SSDs accelerate with caching or tiering. Random performance is important in some workloads, but the real litmus test for the broader audience is with the sequential performance. The Seagate 10TB trailed the HGST 10TB HDD for many of the sequential tests; though it did weather the heavier sequential write workloads better.
The SATA Seagate 10TB also offered the lowest power consumption of the test pool, but that can be somewhat misleading due to the 12Gb/s SAS interface on the He10. The Seagate 10TB offers a huge reduction in power consumption over the previous generation air-based Seagate model and packs 2TB of extra storage, which is an impressive accomplishment in its own right. The SATA version of the He10 will likely match or beat the Seagate 10TB in power consumption metrics, but they should be comparable enough to push the conversation to other factors, such as which drive either fits the intended use case better or the price of the respective solutions.
WD Gold 8TB
The WD Gold 8TB is clearly a near copy of the HGST He8, but it does have its unique characteristics, some of which result in lower performance during server workloads at lighter queue depths. The WD Gold was able to write the full span of its platters slightly faster than the He8, and it features very similar power consumption and performance metrics compared with the HGST He8. However, I can see no reason to purchase the WD Gold 8TB above the HGST He8, and the Seagate 8TB clearly outclasses them both in almost every aspect of performance, though it certainly requires more power to do so.
WD indicated that it is employing similar technologies across both WD and HGST products, which includes mechanical components, electronics and firmware, which was clear during our testing. WD is mass-producing its 8TB drives now, but the company will release 10TB HDDs based upon the HGST He10 design shortly. The MOFCOM regulations will not allow the two companies to merge their product lines for another 15 months, but it’s a safe bet that when the time comes, the two companies will already have nearly identical products.
|Seagate Enterprise Capacity 10TB||$588||$615||$662|
|HGST Ultrastar He10 10TB||$500||$686||$809|
|WD Gold 8TB||$545||$592||$642|
|HGST He8 8TB||$368||$472||$549|
We base our pricing comparisons upon retail pricing, and it is valid only at the time of publishing. Multiple vendors carry the drives, and pricing varies based on supply and demand, so there can be significant price swings over time. Retail prices are also a far cry from the volume discounts offered to Tier 1 OEMs and hyperscale data centers. In many cases, the decision will come down to either the cost of the drive or which drive the OEM supports.
The Seagate Enterprise Capacity 10TB surprisingly features a much lower average price than the He10, but this may be due to heavy demand for the HGST drive, which retails for $800 at several e-tailers. The HGST He10 is more power miserly and faster than the Seagate Enterprise Capacity 10TB in the metrics that matter, but if Seagate continues to leverage a low price structure it will certainly find plenty of success as well.
The low average price and the stellar performance of the Seagate 8TB explain why it is such a popular drive, and though the competing WD Gold and HGST He8 are more power efficient, it would likely take time to recoup the big gulf in pricing between the products. The higher price of the WD Gold will certainly price it out of the majority of contests, but jumping the pricing hurdle requires high-volume sales, so as WD sells more drives we expect prices to decline.
The promise of helium boils down to reduced power consumption and cost, along with increased performance and efficiency. In some cases, there are small differences between the helium-based drives, but all of them easily outclass their air-based predecessors in several key metrics. The industry is embracing helium, so it is the clear path forward to increasing density with standard PMR, and the architecture will become even more exciting when vendors pair it with future recording techniques.
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