Performance

Seagate Exos X16 Review

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.

In this review, we test Seagate’s flagship 16TB 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.

Enterprise features

We used Qnap’s TVS-882BR high-end SMB appliance to test the Exos X16 16TB drives

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 on review here 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 uses 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.

Lab test setup

ATTO’s Celerity quad-port 16Gbps Fibre Channel HBAs were used in the appliance and host server for our high-performance tests

The Exos X16 is designed for use 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. We then added four 16TB Exos X16 hard disks and created a dedicated 44TB RAID5 storage pool.

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 the Exos X16 performed very well with it delivering some impressive results.

In our Iometer sequential read tests, the Exos X16 delivered impressive speeds of 3,149MB/sec, or 24.6Gbits/sec. Sequential write performance was also very good with the array returning steady speeds of 3,135MB/sec equating to 24.5Gbits/sec.

For random read performance, the Exos X16 delivered identical results to the sequential read tests. Our 100% random write test is worst-case scenario as few businesses will have these kinds of workloads but we found the Exos X16 offered comparatively good results.

The Exos X16 array also returned excellent results in our throughput tests. Sequential read and write rates held steady at 288,800 IOPS and 209,700 IOPS while random read and write tests returned 290,500 IOPS and 3,950 IOPS.

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. As its flagship product, the 16TB Exos X16 will be hard to beat as our real world tests show it is capable of delivering a great performance

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.

Their high workload and MTBF ratings, 5-year warranty and great price also make them an excellent investment. The 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.

9.7 Total Score

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. As its flagship product, the 16TB Exos X16 will be hard to beat as our real world tests show it is capable of delivering a great performance

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
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