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Seagate 16TB IronWolf Pro and IronWolf Review

Introduction

Consistently at the forefront of hard disk development, Seagate beats the competition by delivering the first 16TB drives to market. Aimed at NAS applications across a wide range of SME use case scenarios, its latest IronWolfs offer an impressive range of features teamed up with good value and in this review we test both the 16TB IronWolf Pro and IronWolf models.

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.

8.3Expert Score
Seagate IronWolf Pro 16TB

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 Seagate’s Exos X16

The 16TB IronWolf Pro has the same 7.2K spindle speed and 256MB of DRAM cache as Seagate’s enterprise-class 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 300TB/year.

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.

7.5Expert Score
Seagate IronWolf 16TB

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

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 brother, 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.

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

Lab test setup

The IronWolf Pro and IronWolf 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 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 both 16TB IronWolf models performed very well with them delivering some impressive results.

In the Iometer sequential read tests, both models delivered identical speeds of 3,149MB/sec, or 24.6Gbits/sec. There were minor differences in the sequential write tests with the IronWolf Pro proving to be marginally faster than the IronWolf.

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 in this test, the IronWolf Pro was slightly faster.

Our IOPS tests were more revealing as the IronWolf Pro was consistently faster than the IronWolf. Clearly, the IronWolf Pro is the better choice where the drives are expected to handle very high workloads.

Seagate IronWolf Drives
IronWolf and IronWolf Pro Models available
from $79
Seagate 16TB IronWolf Pro and IronWolf Review

Conclusion

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

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

The IronWolf Pro is best for businesses deploying NAS appliances with up to 24 bays and expecting 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.

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