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Western Digital Ultrastar Data60 Review

Enterprises and cloud service providers struggling with the demands of big data applications will find Western Digital’s Ultrastar Data60 offers a flexible hybrid solution that teams up a huge storage capacity with performance, reliability and value. This 4U rack system supports up to 60 SATA or SAS3 drives and once certified for WD’s 20TB SMR hard disks (HDDs), will be able to push maximum capacity to an impressive 1.2PB.

Ultrastar Data60 interior view

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The Data60 goes way beyond the concept of a basic JBOD (just a bunch of disks) solution as you can use up to 24 SSDs to create a data acceleration tier. All key components are hot-swappable and the dual I/O modules (IOMs) in the SAS version each present 6 mini-SAS HD ports allowing hosts to be connected over fault tolerant links.

A smart feature is zoning as you can separate drives into different groups and present them to selected hosts. The Data60 is built to handle heavy workloads as it incorporates WD’s patented IsoVibe and ArcticFlow technologies to reduce the impact of vibration and provide thermal cooling zones so drives can operate at lower temperatures.

These two features combine to extend the lifespan of drives and can significantly reduce the number of field returns. Comparing the annual field return data from its previous generation of storage products, WD estimates that these two technologies can reduce returns by up to 62%.

Ultrastar Data60 Technology features

Vibration in dense multi-drive storage arrays is a major issue as hard disks in close proximity to each other can accelerate hardware failures and errors. IsoVibe overcomes this as it uses precise cuts in the system baseboard that are designed to act as a suspension layer which protects each drive from neighbour vibrations and reduces its effect across the entire chassis.

WD has designed the main cooling fan mounts to reduce further vibration and the chassis air flow layout also cuts acoustic noise. WD’s ArcticFlow takes array cooling up a level as it divides the chassis into two separate zones each with their own air flow.

Ultrastar Data60 rear view

The first three rows of drive bays receive air drawn directly from the cold aisle and when it reaches the center of the chassis, is ducted away to the sides and vented out the rear. The rear three rows also receive air flow from the cold aisle but this is passed directly to them via a tunnel in the center of the chassis.

The IOMs also get the benefit of ArcticFlow as the central tunnel is designed to provide their own personal air flow from the cold aisle. WD is sufficiently confident in these features that its standard 5-year limited warranty covers the chassis and all components – including the drives.

Models and deployment

The Data60 is available in two models with the lower-cost SATA version supporting a single IOM. The SAS version we have on review includes dual IOMs running in active-active mode to provide high availability services.

The minimum specification for either model is a chassis partially populated with 24 storage devices and for testing, we used four 1.6TB WD Ultrastar SAS3 SSDs and twenty 18TB Ultrastar SAS3 HDDs. The chassis is populated by fitting drives in the rear row of twelve top loading bays first and moving towards the front as each row is filled.

Each drive is supplied in a sturdy carrier that slots neatly into the bay and locks into place. The two hot-swap IOMs are positioned in the centre of the chassis with a dedicated fan module and dual 1,600W hot-plug PSUs are located behind them.

Data60 with QSAN storage appliance

Use the Data60 to expand a Qsan storage appliance and you can see all its details in the SANOS web interface

It’s a little complicated but zones can be configured in-band using SES (SCSI Enclosure Services) commands or by using the IOM’s Gigabit ports for OOB (out of band) management and Redfish Curl commands. By default, zoning is disabled so all hosts can see all drives but you can create two, three or six zones and each is automatically assigned to specific host ports.

WD’s partnership with Qsan allows its XCubeSAN storage appliances to be massively expanded using the Data60. Tight integration into Qsan’s SANOS web console includes facilities to view all enclosure drives plus environmental readings and expansion units are even displayed with a Data60 graphic.

Ultrastar Data60 Performance

LSI Storage Authority

We used the LSI Storage Authority app to create RAID arrays from storage presented by the Data60

For performance testing, we called up the lab’s Dell PowerEdge T640 Xeon Scalable server running Windows Server 2019 and equipped with a dual-port Broadcom MegaRAID 9580-8i8e PCI-E RAID card. With the server connected to the Data60 over dual SAS connections, we loaded the LSI Storage Authority web-based configuration tool and created a massive 311TB RAID5 array from the twenty 18TB SAS3 HDDs.

With the virtual volume presented to the server, we recorded excellent Iometer sequential read and write rates of 6,732MB/sec and 6,410MB/sec. With the RAID card’s disk cache and write back policies enabled, we saw Iometer report random read and write rates of 1,940MB/sec and 650MB/sec while I/O throughput was measured at 17,200 and 19,000 IOPS.

Storage Spaces

The Data60 is an ideal solution for Microsoft’s Storage Spaces and for creating tiered virtual volumes

The Data60 is a great choice for businesses that want to use Microsoft’s Storage Spaces. We swapped the server connection over to a basic SAS9300-8e HBA card and from the Server Manager app, could see all SSDs and HDDs and create a single Storage Pool using them all.

During creation of a mirrored virtual disk, we enabled storage tiers and assigned the four SSDs to the Faster tier and the 18TB HDDs to the Standard tier. With Iometer running, we applied the PowerShell Storage Optimisation Report tool and could see all activity had shifted to the SSDs where we recorded sequential read and write rates of 2,636MB/sec and 1,640MB/sec.


The UltraStar Data60 is perfectly designed for big data applications and its smart hybrid design allows SSDs and HDDs to be used to create a balanced combination of capacity and performance. It’s exceedingly well built and WD’s innovative IsoVibe and ArcticFlow technologies can significantly increase reliability and longevity.

The dual IOMs provide valuable failover features and although it should be easier to configure, zoning adds extra versatility. With a SAS model supplied with 24 12TB SAS3 HDDs costing around $13,600, the Data60 simply won’t be beaten on value either.

9 Total Score
Perfect for Big Data Applications

The UltraStar Data60 is perfectly designed for big data applications and its smart hybrid design allows SSDs and HDDs to be used to create a balanced combination of capacity and performance. It’s exceedingly well built and WD’s innovative IsoVibe and ArcticFlow technologies can significantly increase reliability and longevity.

Build quality
  • Top value
  • Great performance
  • Hybrid storage design
  • IsoVibe protection
  • Smart cooling features
  • 5-year warranty
  • Zone configuration could be simplified

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