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Seagate 18TB IronWolf Pro Review

Simply.reviews is pleased to publish a world exclusive review for the Seagate 18TB Ironwolf PRO ST18000NE000

Competition across hard disk manufacturers in the network attached storage (NAS) space has never been more intense and Seagate takes a commanding lead by delivering the first high-capacity 18TB drive to market. In this review, we look at the new 18TB IronWolf Pro and put it through its paces in the lab.

This 18TB model expands Seagate’s already extensive portfolio of NAS-specific storage products and is aimed at enterprises that want maximum capacity at an affordable price. Designed for use in business-class NAS appliances with up to 24 bays, it incorporates all the same technologies employed by its smaller capacity brethren to ensure reliable 24/7 operations.

18TB IronWolf Pro Hard disk features

ST18000NE000 18TB IronWolf Pro internal view

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Bulk manufacturing won’t be a problem for Seagate as the 18TB drive mechanics are based on the same 9-platter design used by all current helium-filled 16TB IronWolf and Exos X16 enterprise products. It also uses the same conventional magnetic recording (CMR) technology although this will probably be the last in the IronWolf family to do so as Seagate is expected to switch production to higher density shingled magnetic recording (SMR) for the next 20TB drive due out later this year.

The 18TB IronWolf Pro retains the same 7.2K spindle speed and 256MB of DRAM cache as its stablemates and also offers a 1.2M hour MTBF rating. Present in all of Seagate’s HDDs, its multi-user technology is the drive’s workload rating and for this model, it is also quoted at 300TB/year. Performance sees a small improvement with the maximum sustained transfer rate tweaked from 255MB/sec to 260MB/sec bringing it within a whisker of the Exos X16 and making it the fastest IronWolf drive currently available.

The drive benefits from a wide range of features that aim to deliver reliable operations in rack-dense environments. Seagate’s AgileArray technology is implemented as a combination of firmware, hardware plus software features and is designed to improve reliability in multi-drive NAS appliances.

AgileArray reduces vibrations, accelerates error recovery and controls power consumption. Error recovery can be a major issue in RAID arrays as unrecoverable errors can take minutes to resolve and AgileArray speeds up this process with a shorter default recovery timer that can also be adjusted.

Vibration in multi-drive NAS appliances running 24/7 operations can be a cause for concern as hard disks in close proximity to each other can accelerate hardware failures and errors. The 18TB IronWolf Pro features Seagate’s RV (rotational vibration) sensors that detects excessive vibrations and protects the drive and heads against any potential long-term damage.

NAS monitoring and recovery services

ST18000NE000 18TB IronWolf Pro Hard Drive

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The IronWolf Pro drives are the best choice for businesses running mission-critical apps as they come with a generous 5-year warranty as standard and include a 3-year subscription to Seagate’s Rescue Data Recovery Plan. Once registered, this enables immediate access to Seagate’s specialists who will assist with data restoration in the event of a failure and claim a 90% success rate for in-house data recovery. Note that the standard IronWolf models do not include a subscription to this service in the price.

A feature business NAS users will approve of is Seagate’s IHM (IronWolf Health Management). This is an advanced feature that can be used 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.

You will need a NAS appliance that supports IHM as this is accessible from the respective vendor’s storage management application. All the main NAS vendors support IHM and include Qnap, Synology, Asustor and Qsan.

Early adopters of these 18TB drives may have to be patient as NAS vendors usually take a while to add support in their software. The 18TB test drives were accepted without any problems in our Qnap test appliance but QTS had yet to be updated to recognize them as IronWolf Pro models and make IHM available.

Lab test setup

The 18TB IronWolf Pro is designed for use in large storage appliances and in multi-drive RAID arrays so for real-world testing, we called up the lab’s Qnap’s 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.

Prior to testing, we installed the QTS system software on a dedicated mirror comprising two enterprise-class 1.92TB Micron 5200 Max SATA SSDs. For performance testing, we fitted four 18TB Seagate IronWolf Pro drives and created a 49TB RAID5 storage pool.

ST18000NE000 18TB IronWolf Pro lab test setup

As Qnap has implemented Fibre Channel support in QTS, 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.

18TB IronWolf Pro Performance analysis

Testing the drives in a RAID array and over high-performance fibre channel connections to the host system gave us the opportunity to show how they behave in a real world business environment. Furthermore, as the rig was exactly the same as the one used to test Toshiba’s 16TB MG08 and Seagate’s 16TB IronWolf Pro drives, we could directly compare performance results.

Overall, we found the 18TB IronWolf Pro drives performed extremely well. In our Iometer sequential read tests, the 18TB IronWolf Pro array delivered read and write speeds of 3,150MB/sec and 3,135MB/sec which are very similar to Toshiba’s MG08 and slightly faster than the 16TB IronWolf Pro.

Random read speeds were nearly identical across the board with all three arrays delivering between 3,148MB/sec and 3,150MB/sec. Our 100% random write test is a worst-case scenario as few businesses will have these kinds of workloads but we saw noticeable differences with Toshiba scoring 77MB/sec and Seagate delivering a higher 92MB/sec.

ST18000NE000 performance tests

Our IOPS throughput tests showed the 18TB IronWolf Pro to be the match of Toshiba’s MG08. Seagate returned 293,000 and 201,400 IOPS for sequential reads and writes while Toshiba mustered 291,500 and 204,500 IOPS.

Swapping to random read and write operations saw Seagate return 291,500 and 3,100 IOPS for the 18TB drive. Toshiba was measured at 291,100 and 3,150 IOPS while the 16TB IronWolf Pro array delivered 284,000 and 3,450 IOPS.

ST18000NE000 performance tests

Conclusion

Seagate likes breaking records and it does again as the ST18000NE000 18TB IronWolf Pro is currently the highest single-drive capacity available for NAS-specific workloads. Storage hungry businesses will find these drives are the perfect choice as along with their high capacity, they deliver an excellent performance and with unit price of $609, are very competitively priced.

9.3 Total Score
World Wide Exclusive Review

Seagate likes breaking records and it does again as the 18TB IronWolf Pro is currently the highest single-drive capacity available for NAS-specific workloads. Storage hungry businesses will find these drives are the perfect choice as along with their high capacity, they deliver an excellent performance and with unit price of $609, are very competitively priced.

Performance
9.5
Features
9
Build quality
9.5
Usability
9.5
Value
9
User Rating: 4.5 (2 votes)