Top Ten

Seagate IronWolf NAS Pro 12TB Review

In May 2017, we published a review of the IronWolf and IronWolf pro 10TB hard disk drives, they were impressive and ended up with our TOP 10 awards, which is no small feat. The agility, features and data recovery services along with performance made them stand out.

Cometh the hour, cometh drive – Seagate IRONWOLF 12TB NAS PRO – ST12000NE0007

For this review, we have the 12TB IronWolf PRO ST12000NE0007 model, unfortunately we were not able to get the standard IronWolf drives to compare but the PRO version is ideal for NAS servers 8-bay and above. With an voracious demand for network storage, businesses just can’t seem to get enough, the increases in capacity is always followed by a demand in individual capacity sizes. The 12TB is not an exception to the rule.

Adding perspective to the capacity race, in 2015 the 12TB was seemingly years away when the 6TB was launched and any thought of 8TB was an ill gotten luxury, the subsequent progression of doubling capacity within two years is impressive, especially to those NAS users that need to store, share, distribute and protect humongous amounts of data. NAS appliances that have been traditionally great for central data storage are now expected to handle data explosion of epic proportions. Capacity is king in the NAS world and Seagate’s latest 12TB IronWolf series will go a long way to close the data storage gap.

IronWolf series are designed specifically for NAS applications, by providing a range of key NAS features allowing them to work and deal with increased workloads and deliver enhanced reliability and longevity as well as data recovery services should the need arise.

Seagate’s IronWolf series are offered from a 1TB capacity and all the way to the 12TB version that we have currently have in our NAS lab for testing. As a guide IronWolf drives are suitable for up to 8-bays, and the IronWolf Pro extends beyond 24-bays.

IronWolf PRO features

The IronWolf Pro 12TB ST12000NE0007 model has a 7.2K spindle speed and comes with a 256MB cache – the same as the 10TB model. Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) is 1,200,000 (1.2million), which is as good as any enterprise drive out there. Of is Seagate’s multi-user technology which is essentially the drive’s workload rating. Busy SMEs shifting large amounts of data between their users and the appliance on a regular basis will approve of the 300TB/year rating.

The IronWolf Pro comes with a five-year warranty with the added advantage of Seagate’s rescue recovery services, which normally comes with 2 years but this year it has been extended to 5 years for sales from October 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017. (please check with Seagate for further details). SMEs with mission-critical apps should consider the Pro version as this can provide immediate access to Seagate’s data recovery gurus who will assist with data restoration in the event of a failure.

AgileArray Technology

All IronWolf drives feature Seagate’s AgileArray technology which is designed to enhance reliability in multi-drive NAS appliances. Building on Seagate’s ‘NASWorks’, it’s a combination of firmware, hardware and software features that aim 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 is a major issue for storage arrays running 24/7 operations as multiple hard disks near each other can accelerate hardware failures and errors. The IronWolf’s feature Seagate’s RV (rotational vibration) sensors that detect excessive vibrations and protect the drive and heads against any potential long-term damage. However, note that the lower capacity 3TB, 2TB or 1TB IronWolf models don’t have the RV sensors.

There’s much more as the dual-plane design further reduces vibration and noise from the drive’s motor while the firmware and caching algorithms are optimized for RAID operations. And then there’s Seagate’s AccuTrac which comprises improved servo and actuator that react quicker to extreme vibration.

Lab test setup

Comparison of RAID5 throughput speeds over 10GbE using 256KB transfer requests

The IronWolf’s are designed for use in NAS appliances so there’s nothing to be gained by testing a single drive in a PC as this isn’t an appropriate usage scenario. If you want high capacity, reliable drives for your PC we suggest Seagate’s Barracuda Pro 10TB while for mission-critical servers there are the Enterprise models with capacities now going up to a massive 12TB

For testing, we used QNAP’s TS-1685 16-bay desktop appliance equipped with a 2.2GHz D-1531 Xeon and 64GB of DDR4 memory. We populated with eight PRO drives to ensure no holds barred.

We fitted the drives into the appliance’s tool-free carriers and created a big 79TB RAID5 Storage Space. NAS performance is going to be ultimately controlled by the network connection speed. All NAS tests were conducted using a Dell PowerEdge R720 Windows server directly connected to the appliance over 10GbE.

NAS 10GbE performance

Comparison of RAID5 IOPS throughput over 10GbE using 4KB transfer requests

With a share mapped to the server, the IronWolf array delivered top sequential read and write rates of 1,257MB/sec and 1,203MB/sec. Random operations were also handled well with Iometer reporting steady read and write speeds of 1,257MB/sec and 1,146MB/sec

Sequential read and write I/O throughput using 4KB blocks settled at 98,000 IOPS and 66,000 IOPS. Random operations also held up well with read and write rates of 91,000 IOPS and 51,000 IOPS.


Seagate has up the ante with their IronWolf series added NAS features and a reasonable price makes them worthy of any competitor.

We’ve been using the IronWolf 12TB drives for a few months now with Dell, HPE, Synology, QNAP, and Thecus for NAS appliance testing and have had no problems with them.

The 12TB IronWolf Pro’s performed exceptionally well in our 10GbE NAS environment delivering good write speeds along with a high I/O throughput.

Combining reliability, recovery services and their high capacity makes the Seagate 12TB IronWolf PRO drives a great fit for any business NAS requiring those attributes.

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