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Seagate IronWolf Pro and IronWolf NAS 14TB Review

Ironwolf Drives Introduction and Features

NAS drives have gained tremendous popularity over the last few years, but none more so than the rejuvenated IronWolf series from Seagate Technology. The relentless quest for attaining larger capacity drives and the combination of inexorable need for more storage continues to push Seagate to innovate and expand the IronWolf and IronWolf Pro NAS drives. With the latest announcement of the 8-platter 14TB, we wouldn’t be shocked if Seagate’s preparations for the 16TB and 18TB were not already underway as we write.

Designated as designed for up 24-bay NAS devices is somewhat a misnomer as clearly the IronWolf PRO drives are more than capable, having been designed with Prosumers, Small and Medium Enterprises, as well as creative professionals in mind. Anyone who purchases this unit will see the 14TB as a win, win for their storage needs.

On the NAS front, products from QNAP and Synology have evolved at a greater pace in the last two years than in the preceding eight years. Both manufacturers have worked tirelessly to improve features that now extend beyond enterprise class and allow buyers the ability to protect data not just locally, but remotely and on the cloud with ease. 4K and soon 8K support has allowed creative companies to use the NAS for downloading video and editing on the fly.

QNAP has worked closely with Seagate for many years on product and technology enhancements to help create the best hard drives for NAS users.”

– Meiji Chang, General Manager of QNAP

“The Seagate IronWolf series has captivated the NAS market with the EXOS drives encapsulating the Enterprise NAS and SAN arena.”

– Michael Gray, NAS Product Manager of SimplyNAS

IronWolf and IronWolf Pro 14TB Features

IronWolf Model: ST14000VN0008 and IronWolf PRO Model: ST14000NE0008

AgileArray – 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

Rotational Vibration (RV) sensors  – Often not found in this class of drives, Seagate’s inclusion of this technology provides peace of mind and allows the RV sensors to maintain a level of performance in multi-drive NAS devices to ensure longevity of the drives life cycle. This is a very important feature to have in multiple-drive NAS enclosures.

IronWolf Health Management – One of the most frustrating aspects of a faulty NAS device is not knowing what is wrong with your drive/s when the report of errors are issued. IronWolf Health Management helps to focus quickly for preventing total failure where possible and intervenes towards a possible recovery to ensure protection of data and a meaningful report to capture the fault at hand all accessible within the NAS operating system, given it compatible.

Seagate Health Management

24×7 Operation – Often, drives are designed for limited usage. With the IronWolf range working around the clock this is not an issue. Mission critical data can be always-on, and accessible at all times constantly, leveraging an increase in productivity, whether on-site or remotely.

Whilst both drives share many of the same features, the Pro version supports up to 24 drive bays, has a higher mean time between failures (1.2 million hours), has rotational vibration sensors on all capacities, and is better optimized for multi-users (300TB/year) while offering a five-year warranty whereas, the IronWolf’s mean time between failures is (1 million hours) with a workload rating of 180TB/year and three-year warranty.

Seagate’s rescue recovery services are included with IronWolf Pro drives for 2 years. Customers with mission-critical apps should consider the IronWolf Pro models as these can provide immediate access to Seagate’s data recovery gurus who will assist with data restoration in the event of a failure.

IronWolf Pro, supports up to 24-bay NAS enclosures, with a range of capacities up to 14TB, and the IronWolf is specified for up to 8-bay enclosures with the same range of capacity as IronWolf Pro.

IronWolf drives on the other hand have their own nuances, ideally suited for home and SOHO users, it has one of the best decibel ratios, with low noise-levels enabled by lower seek patterns and able to still maintain an above average performance ratio.

What we are impressed with is the way Seagate has all three major 14TB models up and running, for NAS buyers that is a great feat. For the sake of clarity the model numbers are IronWolf ST14000VN0008, IronWolf Pro ST14000NE0008 and the Seagate 14TB helium-based Exos X14 enterprise drives ST14000NM0428.

The main difference between the IronWolf Pro and the Exos enterprise drives, aside from specifications, is the ability to differentiate in the way they handle caching of data. IronWolf utilizes the write-back policy and the Exos Enterprise deploys the write-through policy.

Write-through

Using the write-through policy, data is written to the cache and the backing store location at the same time. The significance here is not the order in which it happens or whether it happens in parallel. The significance is that I/O completion is only confirmed once the data has been written to both places.

Advantage: Ensures fast retrieval while making sure the data is in the backing store and is not lost in case the cache is disrupted

Write-back

Using the write-back policy, data is written to the cache and Then I/O completion is confirmed. The data is then typically also written to the backing store in the background but the completion confirmation is not blocked on that.

Advantage: Low latency and high throughput for write-intensive applications

Performance  

Many buyers focus on performance as their main decision making factor, whilst we empathize with this thought, one should not cast aside the pertinent factors of compatibility, design, quality, reliability and support for the drives.

Seagate Ironwolf Hard Drives

Lab Test Setup

NAS 10GbE performance

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 four IronWolf 14TB drives – plain vanilla with no SSD cache at all.

We fitted the drives into the appliance’s tool-free carriers and created a big 40.5TB RAID 5 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.

Seagate Ironwolf 14TB NAS DriveIRONWOLF 14TB – ST14000VN0008

Comparison of RAID 5 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 1,318MB/sec and 1,264MB/sec. Random operations were also handled well with Iometer reporting steady read and write speeds of 1,302MB/sec and 1,191MB/sec

Sequential read and write I/O throughput using 4KB blocks settled at 105,000 IOPS and 74,000 IOPS. Random operations also held up well with read and write rates of 98,000 IOPS and 59,000 IOPS.

Seagate Ironwolf Pro 14TB NAS DriveIRONWOLF PRO 14TB – ST14000NE0008

Comparison of RAID 5 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 1,485MB/sec and 1,293MB/sec. Random operations were also handled well with Iometer reporting steady read and write speeds of 1,478MB/sec and 1,279MB/sec

Sequential read and write I/O throughput using 4KB blocks settled at 129,000 IOPS and 76,000 IOPS. Random operations also held up well with read and write rates of 114,000 IOPS and 61,000 IOPS.

The 14TB Seagate IronWolf and IronWolf Pro drives performed well, clearly the IronWolf drives stacked up well, whilst the Pro were steady on performance and clearly the difference between write back cache enabled and write through cache on the Pro is prevalent.

Seagate Ironwolf 14TB insideThe Seagate 14TB IronWolf and IronWolf Pro drives are the fastest we have tested thus far, and having used them internally for over a period of just a month, they have been consistent and rock solid for the tasks we have thrown at them, all drives have been 24×7 and been used on various QNAP and Synology NAS models ranging from home to enterprise class.

The real world applications used for extended testing was centered around office and database applications. SQL based DB which measured the typical I/O rates for IOPS and sequential throughput, using PerfMon to obtain average disk sec/read and average disk sec/write, which is read and write latency at disk level. Both models performed admirably the IronWolf Pro was especially impressive on the SQL routines. Unfortunately, the other tests have not been possible as of yet before publishing, but we may revisit and update this post shortly.

Conclusion

All in all the IronWolf and IronWolf Pro 14TB drives have impressed us to the extent we have been pleasantly surprised with what they had to offer, and Seagate tends to work diligently towards improving the user experience, features and reliability. Overall the IronWolf series of 14TB drives deservedly get our TOP 10 award for innovation and reliability.

8.5 Total Score
Top 10 Award for Innovation and Reliability

All in all the IronWolf and IronWolf Pro 14TB drives have impressed us to the extent we have been pleasantly surprised with what they had to offer, and Seagate tends to work diligently towards improving the user experience, features and reliability. Overall the IronWolf series of 14TB drives deservedly get our TOP 10 award for innovation and reliability.

Performance
9
Features
9
Build Quality
9
Usability
9
Value
8
PROS
  • Great Features
  • Excellent Performance
  • Health Management and Data Recovery
CONS
  • Currently Expensive
User Rating: 4.67 (3 votes)

2 Comments
  1. Reply
    George Bell September 16, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    Is the difference between IronWolf Pro 14TB and the EXOS 14TB – just the cache?

    • Reply
      Editor November 1, 2018 at 6:10 pm

      Yes that is one of the differences

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