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Seagate IronWolf NAS and NAS Pro 10TB Review

A voracious demand for network storage means businesses just can’t get enough of it. NAS appliances are the perfect choice as a central data store but they are now being expected to handle a data explosion of epic proportions.

Capacity is king in the NAS world and Seagate’s latest IronWolf series of hard disks deliver it by the bucketful. Built specifically for NAS applications, they provide a range of key features allowing them to work happily with increased workloads and deliver enhanced reliability and longevity.

The IronWolf’s are offered in capacities starting from 1TB and in this review we put the mighty 10TB version through its paces in the lab in a high-performance NAS environment. The standard IronWolf is suitable for NAS appliances up to 8 bays while the new IronWolf Pro models offer even greater reliability and are suitable for 16-bay appliances.

List of basic specifications for the IronWolf and IronWolf Pro NAS hard disks

List of basic specifications for the IronWolf and IronWolf Pro NAS hard disks

IronWolf features

The 10TB flagship model has a 7.2K spindle speed and comes with a 256MB cache – the same as the 8TB model. The 6TB model has the same spin speed but cache is halved to 128MB while the 4TB-1TB models have a slower 5.9K spin speed and a 64MB cache.

Of more interest is Seagate’s multi-user technology which is essentially the drive’s workload rating. Busy SMEs shifting large amounts of data between their users and the appliance on a regular basis will approve of the 180TB/year rating.

The IronWolf comes with a three-year warranty while the IronWolf Pro extends this to five years. The Pro model also has a much higher workload rating of 300TB/year and an increased MTBF of 1.25M hours (the IronWolf has an MTBF of 1M hours).

SMEs with mission-critical apps should consider the Pro version as the price includes a two-year subscription to Seagate’s Rescue Data Recovery Service on registration. This provide immediate access to Seagate’s data recovery gurus who will assist with data restoration in the event of a failure.

AgileArray technology

All IronWolf drives feature Seagate’s AgileArray technology which is designed to enhance reliability in multi-drive NAS appliances. Building on Seagate’s ‘NASWorks’, it’s a combination of firmware, hardware and software features that aim to reduce vibration, accelerate error recovery and control power consumption.

Error recovery can be a big issue in RAID arrays as unrecoverable errors can take minutes to resolve as the controller tries to read the data from each drive in turn. AgileArray speeds up this process with a shorter default recovery timer that’s also adjustable.

Vibration is a major issue for storage arrays running 24/7 operations as multiple hard disks in close proximity to each other can accelerate hardware failures and errors. The IronWolf’s feature Seagate’s RV (rotational vibration) sensors that detect excessive vibrations and protect the drive and heads against any potential long-term damage. However, note that the lower capacity 3TB, 2TB or 1TB IronWolf models don’t have the RV sensors.

There’s much more as the dual-plane design further reduces vibration and noise from the drive’s motor while the firmware and caching algorithms are optimized for RAID operations. And then there’s Seagate’s AccuTrac which comprises improved servo and actuator that react quicker to extreme vibration.

Lab test setup

Comparison of RAID5 throughput speeds over 10GbE using 256KB transfer requests

Comparison of RAID5 throughput speeds over 10GbE using 256KB transfer requests

The IronWolf’s are designed for use in NAS appliances so there’s nothing to be gained by testing a single drive in a PC as this isn’t an appropriate usage scenario. If you want high capacity, reliable drives for your PC we suggest Seagate’s Barracuda Pro 10TB while for mission-critical servers there are the Enterprise models with capacities now going up to a massive 12TB

For testing, we used Qnap’s TS-1685 16-bay desktop appliance equipped with a 2.2GHz D-1531 Xeon and 64GB of DDR4 memory. A fully populated TS-1685 would require the IronWolf Pro drives but as we were using only four standard IronWolf drives, this wasn’t an issue.

We fitted the drives into the appliance’s tool-free carriers and created a big 27.3TB RAID5 Storage Space. For comparison, we installed four older 5.4K 4TB WD Red NAS drives and created a separate RAID5 pool with them.

NAS performance is going to be ultimately controlled by the network connection speed. All NAS tests were conducted using an HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen9 Windows server directly connected to the appliance over 10GbE.

NAS 10GbE performance

Comparison of RAID5 IOPS throughput over 10GbE using 4KB transfer requests

Comparison of RAID5 IOPS throughput over 10GbE using 4KB transfer requests

With a share mapped to the server, the IronWolf array delivered top sequential read and write rates of 1,181MB/sec and 1,130MB/sec. Random operations were also handled well with Iometer reporting steady read and write speeds of 1,181MB/sec and 1,071MB/sec

Sequential read and write I/O throughput using 4KB blocks settled at 95,000 IOPS and 63,000 IOPS. Random operations also held up well with read and write rates of 86,000 IOPS and 46,000 IOPS.

Turning to a share on the WD Red NAS array saw very similar sequential and random read rates. However, we noticed write rates were lower with the WD array returning 1,080MB/sec and 1,050MB/sec respectively.

This was also apparent in our I/O tests. Sequential and random reads for the WD array were only slightly down but writes rates of 52,500 IOPS and 27,000 IOPS were significantly lower.

Conclusion

The IronWolf drives are competitively priced and they’re packed with NAS-friendly features. Synology users also get the benefit of enhanced health tests and reporting with support for IHM (IronWolf Health Management).

We’ve been using the IronWolf 10TB drives in the lab for NAS appliance testing and have had no problems with them. They’ve worked fine with a wide range of vendors including Qnap, Synology, Thecus and Asustor.

The IronWolfs performed exceedingly well in our 10GbE NAS environment delivering good write speeds along with a high I/O throughput. Teaming these up with their high capacity and reliability make Seagate’s 10TB IronWolf and IronWolf Pro drives the perfect partners for your business NAS appliance.

 

9.6 Total Score
Seagate IronWolf 10TB

The IronWolfs performed exceedingly well in our 10GbE NAS environment delivering good write speeds along with a high I/O throughput. Teaming these up with their high capacity and reliability make Seagate’s 10TB IronWolf and IronWolf Pro drives the perfect partners for your business NAS appliance.

Performance
9.5
Features
10
Build Quality
10
Usability
9.5
Value
9
PROS
  • Competitive price
  • Massive capacity
  • Top NAS performance
  • AgileArray technology
  • 3 and 5 year warranties
CONS
  • No complaints here
User Rating: 4.72 (5 votes)
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