Last week, news broke that Western Digital, Samsung, and Toshiba were all shipping hard drives that used Shingled Magnetic Recording SMR technology in certain product lines without informing customers they were doing so. Readers have reported similar issues since we published our last article. This does not impact read speed, but it has a significant impact on write. When Western Digital created its initial color-based branding, WD Black hard drives were supposed to sit at the top of the stack, surpassed only by the Velociraptor family.
They boost capacity, can reduce power consumption, and offer a larger capacity in the same number of platters. The performance tradeoff is worth it in certain markets and irrelevant in others.
WD Sets the Record Straight: Lists All Drives That Use Slower SMR Tech
No argument. A decision was made to swap one technology for another, and a decision was made not to tell consumers about the change. We are glad to see Western Digital has chosen to be honest about its product shipments.
You may unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time.Western Digital has been receiving a storm of bad press—and even lawsuits —concerning their attempt to sneak SMR disk technology into their "Red" line of NAS disks. The disk performed adequately—if underwhelmingly—in generic performance tests. But when Servethehome used it to replace a disk in a degraded RAIDz1 vdev, it required more than nine days to complete the operation—when all competing NAS drives performed the same task in around sixteen hours.
This has rightfully raised questions as to what Western Digital was thinking when it tried to use SMR technology in NAS drives at all, let alone trying to sneak it into the market. Had Western Digital even tested the disks at all? Our eight Ironwolf disks are 12T a piece, so we partitioned them down to GiB a piece—this made the array small enough that our new WD Red disk could "fit" as a replacement when we failed an Ironwolf out.
When we created the RAID6 array, we used the argument -b noneto keep it from attempting to perform a bitmap scan to do faster rebuilds when using a disk that had previously been in the array.
This brought the array to a little more than 75 percent used. This was our baseline. Once the Ironwolf had successfully rebuilt into the array, we failed it out again—and this time, we removed it from the system entirely and replaced it with our 4TB Red SMR guinea-pig. First, we fed the entire 4TB Red to the degraded array as a replacement for the missing, partitioned Ironwolf.
Then once it had finished rebuilding, we failed it out again, wipefs -a 'd the RAID header from it, and added it back in to rebuild a second time. We felt it was important to test both ways, since each case is a common use of NAS disks in the real world. It also seemed likely that an SMR disk full of data might perform worse than a brand-new one, which wouldn't need to read-modify-write as it dealt with already-used zones. We weren't surprised that the SMR disk performed adequately in the first test—consumer ire aside, it seemed unlikely Western Digital had sent these disks out the door with no testing whatsoever.
We were more surprised that it performed the same way in a used condition as it had when new—the drive's firmware was able to shuffle data around well enough that it didn't take a single additional minute to rebuild from a "used" condition as it had when new. Clearly, the WD Red's firmware was up to the challenge of handling a conventional RAID rebuild, which amounts to an enormous, very large block sequential write test.
The next thing to check on was whether the EFAX would handle a heavy version of the typical day-to-day use case of a consumer NAS well—that is, storing large files. Once again, at first glance, the WD Red passes muster.
In terms of throughput, the Red is only Even retesting it a second time, when the firmware has a harder job dealing with already-full zones, doesn't change the picture significantly. When we drill down a little farther and look at fio 's latency numbers, things look noticeably worse.This post has been updated accordingly with these new details. As a team, it was important that we listened carefully and understood your feedback about our WD Red NAS drives, specifically how we communicated which recording technologies are used.
Your concerns were heard loud and clear. Thank you for letting us know how we can do better. We will update our marketing materials, as well as provide more information about SMR technology, including benchmarks and ideal use cases.
We will have options for you. We are here to help. We regret any misunderstanding and want to take a few minutes to discuss the drives and provide some additional information. They are great for sharing and backing up files using one to eight drive bays and for a workload rate of TB a year.
SMR is tested and proven technology that enables us to keep up with the growing volume of data for personal and business use.
We are continuously innovating to advance it. Each implementation serves a different use case, ranging from personal computing to some of the largest data centers in the world.
DMSMR is designed to manage intelligent data placement within the drive, rather than relying on the host, thus enabling a seamless integration for end users. Having built this reputation, we understand that, at times, our drives may be used in system workloads far exceeding their intended uses.
Over the last few days, a story has been circulating that revolves around WD Red NAS Hard Drives and their potential use of shingled magnetic recording SMR and a statement has been shared by the brand highlighting that this is indeed the case, namely, drive managed shingled magnetic recording DM-SMR.
Now, it turns out this is something that many platforms and solo users online had reached the conclusion of as early as July and when reaching out to WD, and was met with less than immediate responses.
There are both device-managed and host-managed types, each for different use cases. WD Red drives are designed and tested for an annualized workload rate up to TB. Western Digital has seen reports of WD Red use in workloads far exceeding our specs and recommendations.
Western Digital works extensively with customers and the NAS vendor and partner communities to continually optimize our technology and products for common uses cases. We will continue listening to and collaborating with the broad customer and partner communities to innovate technologies that enable better experiences with, more efficient management of and faster decisions from data.
When asked why has Western Digital excluded a recording type specification in the datasheet specifications, Yemi stated:. Most of our customers choose our drives based on specific performance attributes of their use cases, such as transfer and workload rates, and it is our goal to make that information very clear on all of our materials.
There are key differences between them and this should be considered by the host software requirements and drive performance characteristics that are needed at the end-user level. Drive-managed SMR, where the drive manages all write commands from the host, allows a plug-and-play implementation, compatible with any hardware and software.
Host-managed SMR requires host-software modification so that the host system has knowledge of the underlying media and can micro-control all elements by employing a new set of commands. Depending on the system architecture, implementing these modifications may seem like an onerous task, yet once developers gain SMR familiarity and optimize their applications for sequential writing, they can take advantage of unsurpassed levels of reliability and quality.
With the ability to deliver predictable, consistent performance comparable to what users expect from traditional PMR drives, host-managed SMR is emerging as the preferred option for implementing shingled magnetic recording. Host-aware SMR is like a superset of the aforementioned options. On the surface, this may seem like the best of both worlds.Western Digital has heralded a positive shift in its approach to users of shingled WD Red NAS drives, via a short statement on the company blog.
The past week has been eventful, to say the least. As a team, it was important that we listened carefully and understood your feedback about our WD Red NAS drives, specifically how we communicated which recording technologies are used. Your concerns were heard loud and clear.
Here is that list of our client internal HDDs available through the channel:. The final paragraphs affirm that WD recognises some customers are experiencing problems and is doing something about it:. If you have purchased a drive, please call our customer care if you are experiencing performance or any other technical issues. We will have options for you.
We are here to help. Blocks and Files. Disk File. WD wrote in the un-bylined blog, dated April Druva adds NAS filer backup and archive to the cloud. Komprise identifies cold Azure data and sends it to Blobs.
Nearline drives are bright spot in Gartner HDD forecast. Chris Mellor - October 9, 0.Both Seagate and Western Digital sell a variety of drives to fill this market space — and both companies stand accused of pulling a bait and switch on customers by pushing SMR shingled magnetic recording products without informing users of that fact. Standard hard drives are built using PMR, or perpendicular recording.
In an SMR drive, each track is partly laid over the next, forming a structure that looks like the shingles of a roof. The advantage of this method is that it allows for significantly higher data densities in the same physical platter. The disadvantage is, well, everything else. The image below shows the difference between them:. Seagate conventional hard drive writing, vs.
Writing data to an SMR drive requires that the drive scan multiple tracks at once and then rewrite them.
Western Digital disagrees. Customers have already been burned by the swap. While SMR drives are cheaper to manufacture than PMR drives, none of the savings is being passed on to customers as far as we can tell. Furthermore, both Seagate and Western Digital do disclose whether a drive uses SMR or PMR in other products on their websites, which makes it more likely that both companies are trying to sneak substandard hardware out the door as far as the consumer market is concerned without having to acknowledge it.
Western Digital and Seagate both need to make it clear when their products use SMR and to communicate to customers that these products may not meet their performance or compatibility needs.
The two drive technologies are not equivalent, either in terms of compatibility or performance. Generally speaking, ExtremeTech does not recommend buying an SMR drive for any ordinary consumer use unless you are familiar with the performance penalties that come with using these drives and are willing to live with them. Hard drives are slow enough already.
Companies that fail to accurately disclose important specifications that relate to the performance of their products do not deserve your business. Toshiba has been caught doing it as well, except Toshiba is selling these drives in the consumer P desktop line, where they are completely unsuited. Seagate is also selling these drives in consumer products, with both updates provided by Blocks and Files. If you needed a reason to dump hard drives for SSDs, this would be it, right here.
The backlash has been swift, and now WD is striking a conciliatory tone with its customers in an update to its blog. The new disclosure comes on the heels of WD's blog post yesterday that outlined its stance on using SMR drives. The company contends that SMR technology is adequate for the applications the drives are designed for, but that is certainly an open matter of debate with many users claiming the drives cause problems in RAID arrays.
The issues purportedly stem from the slow random write speeds, which do cause a measurable reduction in performance, and background activities that are purportedly responsible for the drives dropping from RAID arrays.
Quick explainer at the bottom of the article here.What is SD-WAN? And Why Should You Care?
In either case, The WD blog advised users they should step up to more expensive models designed for heavier workloads if they have more demanding needs. Today the company updated its blog with a more conciliatory tone, and also disclosed all of its drive models that are shipping with SMR tech. Both models are designed for desktop PCs and laptops, with the former coming as a value drive while the latter is designed for high-performance users.
WD acknowledged the recent brouhaha surrounding the fact it was shipping drives without disclosing they use the slower recording technology, stating:. As a team, it was important that we listened carefully and understood your feedback about our WD Red NAS drives, specifically how we communicated which recording technologies are used. Your concerns were heard loud and clear.
Here is that list of our client internal HDDs available through the channel:". Importantly, the blog states, " Thank you for letting us know how we can do better. We will update our marketing materials, as well as provide more information about SMR technology, including benchmarks and ideal use cases.
That's a welcome announcement for users who want to make the decision of when, and where, to use SMR drives in their systems and NAS arrays. SMR does result in lower performance, but it enables cost savings that are attractive to some users, and if used in the correct types of workloads, those savings are worth the exchange of gaining access to deeper capacity.
However, using SMR tech for desktop and laptop boot drives will likely remain a topic open for debate, as their underwhelming performance in sustained random write workloads could hamper performance in standard operating systems. WD's blog also says the company will share further data in the future, including benchmarks that might prove otherwise, so we'll have to wait to see what the company shares.
As usual, the proof will be in independent third-party benchmarks, but it is encouraging to see WD confront the recent issues head on and promise to be more forthcoming in the future. We hope the other remaining HDD vendors follow suit. Image credit: WD News emerged last week that WDSeagate and Toshiba are all shipping hard drives using Shingled Magnetic Recording SMRa slower form of HDD technology that can result in reduced performance in some types of workloads, but without disclosing that critical bit of information in marketing materials or specification sheets.
WD publishes complete list of SMR drives following user backlash
WD acknowledged the recent brouhaha surrounding the fact it was shipping drives without disclosing they use the slower recording technology, stating: "The past week has been eventful, to say the least. Topics Storage. See all comments I guess I can pull them and return them but I have to order two new drives to replace them and that will be a mess. Or I'll have to buy a new Parity drive just to be on the safe side.
Sure as hell won't be WD. I've been reading on reddit how people are having all kinds of problems with the ZFS Raid.
This mess has drained them of my good will. The OS would have to trim, wait and retry after a couple minutes. That might work if you are rebuilding an array. But if you are dumping in new data from an outside source, that doesn't work so well. Try telling windows backup to wait 3 minutes before it can write another file. Yea think I'll be buying Seagate now.SMR is a technology that allows vendors to eke out higher storage densities, netting more TB capacity on the same number of platters—or fewer platters, for the same amount of TB.
Until recently, the technology has only been seen in very large disks, which were typically clearly marked as "archival". Storage vendors appear to be getting much bolder about deploying the new technology into ever-smaller formats, presumably to save a bit on manufacturing costs. A few weeks ago, a message popped up on the zfs-discuss mailing list:. There has been speculation that the drives got kicked out of the arrays due to long timeouts—SMR disks need to perform garbage-collection routines in the background and store incoming writes in a small CMR-encoded write-cache area of the disk, before moving them to the main SMR encoded storage.
It's possible that long periods of time with no new writes accepted triggered failure-detection routines that marked the disk as bad. In the weeks since this issue first began cropping up on mailing lists, Western Digital has responded differently in different venues. The same user who reported difficulties in the zfs-discuss list opened a smartmontools ticket and reported an emailed response from Yemi Elegunde, an enterprise and channel sales manager for Western Digital UK:.
We put Western Digital’s dreaded SMR Red drive to the test
Just a quick note. The only SMR drive that Western Digital will have in production is our 20TB hard enterprise hard drives and even these will not be rolled out into the channel. With SMR Western Digital would make it very clear as that format of hard drive requires a lot of technological tweaks in customer systems. This morning, Elegunde replied with a correction in the form of an official statement from Western Digital. Emphasis below is ours, not Western Digital's:. Shingled magnetic recording SMR is a hard drive technology that efficiently increases areal density and capacity for users managing increasing amounts of data, thus lowering users' TCO.
There are both device-managed and host-managed types, each for different use cases. Our customers' experience is important to us. We will continue listening to and collaborating with the broad customer and partner communities to innovate technologies that enable better experiences with, more efficient management of and faster decisions from data.
We would be happy to work with customers on experiences they may have, but would need further, detailed information for each individual situation. The writing on the wall here seems clear. Yes, Western Digital slid SMR drives into traditional, non-enterprise channels—and no, the company doesn't feel bad about it, and you shouldn't expect it to stop. What really grinds our gears about this is that the only conceivable reason to shift to SMR technology in such small disks—lowered manufacturing costs due to fewer platters required—doesn't seem to be being passed down to the consumer.