Seagate's multi-actuator technology is a simple concept that doubles the performance of a hard drive by using two actuators, and the idea certainly isn't new. In fact, the company has already developed drives with multiple actuators in the past, but they weren't economically viable due to higher component costs.
Now the company has perfected the method to effectively double HDD performance, which you can read about here, and devices are in the wild.
In every cloud data center, floor space is at a premium, and for many applications, cloud providers are trying to get more IOPS out of the same slot. The 14TB Exos 2X14 connects over SAS and presents itself to a server as two 7TB volumes rather than as a single drive. With two actuators, IOs can transfer independently of each other within a single HDD. One actuator addresses the top half of the drive, while the other actuator services the bottom half.
At lower costs per GB and high capacities, HDDs are a good choice for applications such as content delivery networks (CDNs), video streaming, mail servers, backup/shuttle services, Hadoop, and other cloud applications.
But, as capacity increases, performance needs to scale as well. Traditional single actuator HDDs just aren’t cutting it. That’s why Seagate’s Exos 2X14 enterprise hard drive features the company’s MACH.2 dual-actuator technology, and Microsoft has jumped in as an early adopter.
Seagate partnered with Microsoft architect Aaron Ogus deployed the technology in the Microsoft Cloud space and worked on Exos 2X14’s development directly from its infancy.
Seagate’s 14TB Exos 2X14 enterprise hard drive is the first to feature the company’s MACH.2 multi-actuator technology, and Microsoft has just finished initial testing.
To support all of Microsoft’s CSP services including Azure and Exchange, the company will deploy Seagate’s new Exos MACH.2 drives. The company took a look at interoperability and compatibility with the data center infrastructure as well as robustness, reliability, and ease of integration with its Project Olympus system architecture. Of course, performance factored in.
To evaluate sequential performance, Microsoft simulated backup and streaming operations. The company also simulated hyperscale and CDN workloads for testing random read IOPS and used Microsoft Exchange Server Jetstress tool to simulate Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2016 disk I/O loads.
“Based upon that analysis, we’ve found we are getting close to twice the throughput and IOPS, which are the improvements we expected to achieve with the MACH.2 technology,” says Ogus.
Seagate cloud product manager, James Borden, explains that “to maintain the expected quality of service, a 16TB drive requires twice the maximum throughput capability of an 8TB drive. As your application starts to exceed the maximum IOPS capability of a storage device, the only way to solve that is to put less data on the device — and that equates to stranded capacity.”
Borden explains that, when short stroking, “You put a subset of your data on the outer diameter of a drive and use the internal diameter to store less important data that doesn't need to be delivered with the same quality-of-service metric. In that way, at least you won't have a hard drive that's only two-thirds full. But short stroking still makes data management more complex, and you can’t be certain you’ll always have full utilization of your installed capacity.”
Seagate’s MACH.2 technology boosts the performance Microsoft needs to support their exchange servers at higher capacities to prevent this from happening. It also removes the need to short stroke your storage to improve performance, too.
The Exos MACH.2 HDDs will be available in multiple SKUs to accommodate applicable enterprise use cases as collaboration and development continue, but Seagate hasn't given specifics about when it will open the drives up to the broader market.