Seagate was one of the first manufacturers to create NAS-specific hard disk drives (HDDs) and its IronWolf range has consistently delivered a superb range of features teamed up with ever increasing capacities. The family now gets a new member as Seagate’s IronWolf 110 is the world’s first SSD designed specifically for data-intensive NAS applications and in this review, we put them through a barrage of performance tests.
It’s a timely launch as we’ve seen NAS vendors getting very serious about integrating SSD support into their appliances. Synology has produced a wide range of all-Flash arrays (AFAs) while Qnap’s TS-983XU 1U rack appliance, for example, offers a clever design that allows up to five SSDs to be installed internally.
Aimed at the professional, SOHO and SME markets, the IronWolf 110 SSDs are designed for a wide range of storage roles. Along with AFA applications, they can be used as performance-enhancing caches while Qnap’s Qtier 2.0 feature can employ them as a high-speed tier for hot data.
Why an IronWolf SSD?
There’s no reason why you can’t use standard consumer SSDs in a NAS appliance but you’d be missing out on a lot of valuable features. The IronWolf 110 comes with a five-year hardware warranty and the price includes a two-year Rescue Data Recovery Services plan which provides access to Seagate’s technicians who will assist with data recovery in the event of a failure.
The IronWolf 110 is offered in a choice of five capacities ranging from 240GB to 3.8TB and on review, we have four 960GB models. The SSDs use 3D TLC (triple-layer cell) NAND flash which delivers the best price/performance ratio for the target markets.
Seagate weaves its own magic as their firmware incorporates its AgileArray and DuraWrite technologies. AgileArray enhances reliability in multi-drive NAS appliances, accelerates error recovery and controls power consumption while DuraWrite speeds up reads and writes and extends the life of the flash memory.
DuraWrite delivers on its promises as the 960GB models have a guaranteed TBW (TeraBytes Written) of 1,750. That’s the total amount of data that can be written on to the SSD before it’s likely to fail and this number goes up to a massive TBW of 7,000 for the 3.8TB model.
Lab test setup
The IronWolf 110 is designed for use in NAS appliances so there’s nothing to be gained by testing a single SSD in a PC as this isn’t an appropriate usage scenario. For testing, we used Qnap’s TS-983XU rack NAS appliance which is powered by a speedy 3.3GHz quad-core Intel Xeon E-2124 CPU teamed up with 8GB of DDR4 ECC memory.
We loaded up four 10TB Seagate IronWolf HDDs and four 960GB IronWolf 110 SSDs. To compare HDD against AFA performance for NAS and iSCSI services, we created separate RAID5 pools from each set of storage devices. After our general performance tests were completed, we reconfigured the SSDs as a high-performance RAID10 read/write cache assigned to all HDD shares and iSCSI targets.
NAS and iSCSI performance is going to be ultimately controlled by the network connection speed so all tests were run over the appliance’s 10GbE SFP+ fiber ports. Our test host was a Dell EMC PowerEdge T640 tower server equipped with dual 2.1GHz 22-core Xeon Scalable Gold 6152 CPUs, 384GB of DDR4, an Emulex dual-port 10GbE fiber adapter and Windows Server 2016.
In every performance test, the IronWolf 110 SSDs either equaled or surpassed the IronWolf HDDs and in many cases, by a very significant margin. Using Iometer configured with 8 disk workers and 256KB blocks, we saw sequential reads for a NAS share hold steady at 9.3Gbits/sec for both the HDD and SSD arrays.
The SSDs delivered a superior random read performance and trounced the HDD array for random write operations. For the latter, we noted that the Qnap QTS Resource Monitor was recording low CPU usage and high IO Wait times of up to 40% for the HDD array showing clearly that the CPU waiting for it to deliver data.
In the same tests on the SSD array, we recorded a much higher CPU utilization and lower IO Wait times. Moving to 4KB Iometer block sizes saw significant differences in NAS I/O throughput with the SSD array consistently delivering higher IOPS.
It was the same story for iSCSI operations with the SSD array delivering the best overall sequential and random performance. These differences became even more significant when we created a dual 10GbE MPIO link to the test targets with the SSD array disappearing into the distance for IOPS throughput.
Our real world tests highlighted huge differences in network file copy performance. We used a 25GB file and a 22.4GB folder with 10,500 small files and in all three tests, the SSD array delivered between a 75% and 100% speed improvement over the HDD array.
Our caching tests showed that the IronWolf 110 SSDs delivered a big performance boost to our HDD array. Improvements were seen in throughput and IOPS for NAS shares and iSCSI targets with the biggest gains made for random write performance.
As more and more SME NAS appliances move to 10GbE speeds, SSDs are fast becoming an essential requirement to get the best out of them. Our comprehensive tests show Seagate’s IronWolf 110 SSDs deliver undeniable performance improvements for both all-Flash and caching applications.
At the time of review, IHM (IronWolf Health Management) had yet to be implemented but Seagate’s AgileArray and DuraWrite technologies deliver smart NAS-specific features that make them stand out from the SSD crowd. Seagate’s generous 5-year warranty plus inclusive two-year Rescue Data Recovery Services plan add extra value making the IronWolf 110 SSDs the ideal choice for SMEs that want the best performance and reliability from their NAS appliances.
Seagate’s AgileArray and DuraWrite technologies deliver smart NAS-specific features that make them stand out from the SSD crowd. It’s generous 5-year warranty plus inclusive two-year Rescue Data Recovery Services plan add extra value making the IronWolf 110 SSDs the ideal choice for SMEs that want the best performance and reliability from their NAS appliances.
- Superb all-Flash performance
- Great choice as a NAS cache
- Range of capacities
- DuraWrite technology
- 5 year warranty
- 2 year data recovery service included
- IHM not yet implemented