Performance

Seagate 16TB Exos, IronWolf Pro and IronWolf Hard Drive Reviews

Introduction

As storage demands grow exponentially across the enterprise and SME markets, hard disk drive (HDD) manufacturers are under extreme pressure to deliver ever greater capacities. The big three – Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba – have all announced 16TB models, but Seagate is the first to deliver a complete family of 16TB HDDs covering the entire spectrum of business usage scenarios and have them all available to purchase today.

At the top of the tree is Seagate’s flagship Exos X16 which has a laser-sharp focus on enterprises, cloud providers and data centers deploying high-density, high-capacity rack storage infrastructures. Available with SATA III or SAS3 interfaces, the Exos X16 incorporates a range of innovative technologies designed to deliver high reliability, top performance, low latency and reduced power consumption.

Designed for demanding business NAS applications, the 16TB IronWolf Pro can be deployed in appliances of up to 24-bays – that’s a 50% increase over earlier generations. The IronWolf Pro blends technologies such as AgileArray and RV (rotational vibration) sensors for improved reliability in high-end NAS applications.

The standard 16TB IronWolf HDDs are aimed at budget-conscious small businesses and are suitable for NAS appliances of up to 8 bays. They also incorporate many of the technologies found in the IronWolf Pro series but have lower MTBF (mean time before failure) and workload ratings.


Product Specific Review


Product: Seagate Exos X16 ST16000NM001G

The Seagate Exos X16 16TB Enterprise drive was awarded our Top Ten Award for it’s performance, reliability and value for money.

Let’s be clear – if you want to pack your racks with storage goodness, the Exos X16 is the one to go for. This helium-filled, 9 platter hard disk has none of the drive bay limitations enforced on the IronWolf Pro and IronWolf models so you can safely use it to build massive arrays.

It delivers a 33% petabyte capacity increase in a 42U rack cabinet compared to the 12TB models so data centers can reduce TCO by retaining their current hardware infrastructure. Further savings can be made in power costs as the SATA model consumes a maximum of 10W and 6.5W for random read and write operations and only an average of 5W in idle.

These figures matter a lot to data centers with 1000s of drives and already running close to the edge of their power envelope as they can increase capacity while reducing consumption and operating costs. However, Seagate goes much further as the Exos X16 features its PowerChoice and PowerBalance technologies.

PowerChoice expands on Seagate’s original PowerTrim feature and offers significant power savings during prolonged periods of inactivity. It offers a set of idle and standby modes that gradually reduce consumption the longer the drive remains in an idle state.

Initially, most of the servo system is disabled while the platters remain spinning at full speed and the heads stay loaded. The next steps are to unload the heads, then reduce spin speed (SAS models only) and finally stop the motor.

These modes are activated with SATA Feature Set or SAS Mode Page commands allowing host systems to take full control and manage transitions to the desired modes. PowerBalance is aimed at environments with heavy high random read/write operations and can be used to balance seek performance with lower power consumption.

Along with its very competitive pricing, other features that make the Exos X16 perfect for enterprises are its 2.5M hour MTBF rating, 550TB yearly workload and enhanced caching. Seagate also offers SED (self-encrypting drive) versions and all models comes with a 5-year warranty.

9.7Total Score
Seagate Exos X16

Let’s be clear – if you want to pack your racks with storage goodness, the Exos X16 is the one to go for. This helium-filled, 9 platter hard disk has none of the drive bay limitations enforced on the IronWolf Pro and IronWolf models so you can safely use it to build massive arrays.

Performance
9.5
Features
10
Build quality
10
Usability
9.5
Value
9.5
PROS
  • Excellent value
  • High capacity
  • Enterprise-class features
  • Great performance
  • PowerChoice technology
  • High reliability ratings
  • 5 year warranty
CONS
  • None

Product: Seagate IronWolf Pro 16TB ST16000NE000

The Seagate IronWolf Pro 16TB drive has received our Recommended Award for it’s performance in a NAS environment.

The 16TB IronWolf Pro has the same 7.2K spindle speed and 256MB of DRAM cache as the Exos X16 but a substantially lower 1.2M hour MTBF rating. Present in all of Seagate’s HDDs, its multi-user technology is essentially the drive’s workload rating and for the IronWolf Pro this this is 330TB/year – the Exos X16 has a 550TB/year rating.

All IronWolf drives feature Seagate’s AgileArray technology which enhances reliability in multi-drive NAS appliances. This is a combination of firmware, hardware and software features designed 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 in multi-drive NAS appliances running 24/7 operations can be a major issue as hard disks in close proximity to each other can accelerate hardware failures and errors. The IronWolf Pro 16TB features Seagate’s RV (rotational vibration) sensors that although not as sophisticated as those in the Exos X16, can detect excessive vibrations and protect the drive and heads against any potential long-term damage.

A feature only present in the IronWolf family of drives is Seagate’s IHM (IronWolf Health Management). This is an advanced feature that allows you to test IronWolf drives regularly, view logs of the results, run daily read/write statistics analysis tasks and load historical graphs of drive usage over time.

To access IHM, you need a NAS appliance that supports this feature in software and is usually accessed from the vendor’s storage management app. All the big NAS vendors support IHM and include Qnap, Synology, Thecus, Asustor and Qsan.

However, early adopters of 16TB IronWolf drives may have to wait a while for them to update their software to support them. During testing, we found that Qnap had yet to provide an update – IHM was available for our 14TB IronWolf system drives but not for the 16TB models under test.

SMEs with mission-critical apps should consider the IronWolf Pro as along with a 5-year warranty, the price includes a two-year subscription to Seagate’s Rescue Data Recovery Service on registration. This provides immediate access to Seagate’s data recovery specialists who will assist with data restoration in the event of a failure.

8.3Total Score
Seagate IronWolf Pro 16TB

The 16TB IronWolf Pro has the same 7.2K spindle speed and 256MB of DRAM cache as the Exos X16 but a substantially lower 1.2M hour MTBF rating. Present in all of Seagate’s HDDs, its multi-user technology is essentially the drive’s workload rating and for the IronWolf Pro this this is 330TB/year – the Exos X16 has a 550TB/year rating.

Performance
8.5
Features
8
Build quality
9
Usability
8.5
Value
7.5
PROS
  • Ideal for large SME appliances
  • Very good performance
  • IHM support
  • 5 year warranty
  • 2-year subscription to Seagate RDRS
CONS
  • Not as good value as the Exos X16

Product: Seagate IronWolf 16TB ST16000VN001

The standard 16TB IronWolf drive represents the entry point of this family and is designed to be used in consumer and small business NAS appliances with up 8 bays. It still keeps the same 256MB cache as its bigger brothers, but its MTBF drops to 1M hours while its multi-user rating is quoted at 180TB/year – that’s 120TB/year less than the IronWolf Pro.

The target markets are unlikely to notice, but the IronWolf 16TB has the lowest maximum sustained transfer rate of 210MB/sec. The IronWolf Pro offers 250MB/sec while the Exos X16 pushes this to 261MB/sec for both the SAS and SATA versions.

The IronWolf 16TB benefits from many of the same technologies and features present in the Pro version which include Seagate’s AgileArray and RV sensors. The drive employs the same dual-plane design which reduces vibration and noise from the drive’s motor while the firmware and caching algorithms are optimized for RAID operations.

In the drive to reduce costs for the standard IronWolf 16TB drives, you’ll find the standard warranty is reduced to 3 years. The price also doesn’t include a subscription to Seagate’s Rescue Data Recovery Service.

7.5Total Score
Seagate IronWolf 16TB

The standard 16TB IronWolf drive represents the entry point of this family and is designed to be used in consumer and small business NAS appliances with up 8 bays. It still keeps the same 256MB cache as its bigger brothers, but its MTBF drops to 1M hours while its multi-user rating is quoted at 180TB/year – that’s 120TB/year less than the IronWolf Pro.

Performance
7.5
Features
7
Build quality
9
Usability
7
Value
7
PROS
  • Reasonable value
  • Perfect for SMBs and consumers
  • Good performance
  • IHM support
CONS
  • Limited to 8-bay appliances
  • Lower 3-year warranty

Group Testing


Lab test setup

The Exos and IronWolf drives are designed for use in storage appliances and in multi-drive RAID arrays so, for real-world performance testing, we used Qnap’s mighty TVS-882BR. As one of Qnap’s high-end SMB models, this 8-bay desktop appliance is equipped with a 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-7700 CPU and 32GB of DDR4 memory.

The QTS system software and apps were all loaded on a dedicated RAID5 array comprising three 14TB IronWolf drives. In turn, we then added groups of four Exos X16, IronWolf Pro and IronWolf drives and created dedicated 44TB RAID5 storage pools.

Qnap has implemented Fibre Channel support in QTS so we took advantage of this high-performance feature and installed an ATTO Celerity FC-164P HBA with quad 16Gbps FC ports in the appliance. Our test host was a Dell PowerEdge T640 tower server with dual 2.1GHz 22-core Xeon Scalable Gold 6152 CPUs, 384GB of DDR4 plus an ATTO Celerity FC-164P HBA and running Windows Server 2019.

We created a dedicated 1TB FC LUN on the test drive array and mapped it to the server over a dual-port 32Gbps MPIO FC connection. Tests were conducted using Iometer configured with 256KB transfer request sizes for testing maximum sequential and random read/write rates and 4KB request sizes to measure IOPS throughput.

Performance analysis

Testing the drives in RAID arrays and over high-performance fibre channel connections to a host system gives us the opportunity to show how they behave in a real world business environment. Overall, we found all of Seagate’s 16TB model performed very well with them delivering some impressive results.

In the Iometer sequential read tests, all models delivered identical speeds of 3,149Mbits/sec, or 24.6Gbits/sec. There were minor differences in the sequential write tests with the Exos X16 array proving to be marginally faster than the IronWolf Pro and IronWolf arrays.

Again, for random write performance, there were no noticeable differences between them. Our 100% random write test is worst-case scenario as few businesses will have these kinds of workloads but once again, the Exos X16 delivered the best results.

Our IOPS tests were more revealing as the Exos X16 array was consistently the fastest. Unsurprisingly, the IronWolf Pro array held the middle ground with the IronWolf array bringing up the rear.

Conclusion

Seagate has laid down a big gauntlet to the competition as not only is it the first to launch an entire range of 16TB hard disks, but is also the first to deliver them all to market. Toshiba may have announced enterprise 16TB SATA and SAS drives in January of this year but you’ll be hard-pushed to find anyone selling them at the moment.

Our real world tests show that Seagate’s 16TB Exos X16, IronWolf Pro and IronWolf drives are all capable of delivering great performance so you’re buying decisions should be based on your usage scenarios, long term plans and budgets.


ST16000VN001 – Small businesses and consumers with NAS appliances supporting up to eight drives will find the standard 16TB IronWolf to be the perfect choice. They are competitively priced, packed with NAS-friendly features and well-suited to light and medium workloads.


ST16000NE000 – The IronWolf Pro is best for businesses with rack NAS appliances and storage systems with up to 24 bays and much heavier workloads. They only cost slightly more but this extra outlay gets you a higher MTBF rating, better performance, a 5-year warranty and a 2-year subscription to Seagate’s Rescue Data Recovery Service.


ST16000NM001G – Seagate has aimed the Exos X16 firmly at mid-range businesses, enterprises and data centers running mission-critical apps that want the best combination of performance and reliability. With a price tag that’s only a few dollars more than the IronWolf Pro, the Exos X16 represents excellent value and it offers a range of power-saving features that will pay back businesses handsomely in years to come.


Clearly, they are the best performers in Seagate’s 16TB family while their high workload and MTBF ratings, 5-year warranty and great price make them an excellent investment. Their PowerChoice and PowerBalance modes should also be factored in to your buying decision as they can have a positive impact on power consumption and running costs that will become more apparent in very large installations.

Seagate 16TB family of drives

Get the best deals on the Exos ST16000NM001G, IronWolf Pro ST16000NE000 and the IronWolf ST16000VN001 from SimplyNAS

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