Review: Most reliable enterprise-grade drives on the market
Over the past three decades, Seagate Technology has held a tenured position in the industry for being accredited with high-performance digital storage solutions in a large variety of consumer markets. From the mainstream end-user to the hardware enthusiasts to the enterprise and professional marketplace, Seagate has provided an abundance of product offerings across the entire spectrum.
During these past thirty years in the world of computing, magnetic storage capacity has increased at an exponential rate. The emergence of Web 2.0 infrastructure and cloud computing have ushered in a new era of data reliability for the world’s enterprise data servers and storage solutions. As the world’s demand for increased storage capacity progresses into the 2010s, its dependence on company-advertised reliability measures has risen as well. Seagate is a company that many ardent enthusiasts in the information technology business regard as having a highly dependable, honest and trustworthy engineering workforce when it comes to data being stored on their hard disk platters. Nevertheless, the company has asked many journalists, including ourselves, to put the validity of these statements to the test and prove to the enterprise world that its company ethics, product dependency and engineering innovation have withstood the forces of time since its foundations in 1979.
The company recently sent us two of its fourth-generation Constellation ES 2TB (ST32000644NS) drives designed for high-capacity storage, 24/7 operation and seamless enterprise integration. We have been presented these drives under the presumption that they would provide the most exceptional business-oriented sustainability in precious mission-critical environments similar to those found in HP, Nvidia, Microsoft and Google server storage rooms and database centers. As such, our hypothesis stands that these drives will be one of the most reliable magnetic storage SATA solutions on the market for any system builder or IT professional.
“The need for greater storage capacity will continue to expand in multiple directions and dimensions, but there will be an increasing scrutiny of all storage system purchases, with an eye to decreasing power consumption, footprint, and cost per GB in unprecedented ways,” said John Monroe, a research vice president at Gartner Inc. “Performance will not be ignored, but a flexible balance of capacity, cost per GB, power and speed will become more crucial in fulfilling end-user storage demands at varied price points.”
Nevertheless, while Seagate has advertised its fourth-generation Constellation ES series drives to specifically appeal to enterprise and professional marketplaces, we are inclined to believe that they also hold a significant appeal to PC hardware enthusiasts who desire a combination of incredible RAID0 performance at the benefit of having an abundance of storage capacity. During our tests, we will measure both RAID0 and RAID1 performance as it applies to performance-demanding customers and reliability-demanding customers in different respective markets, and we hope to exemplify the comparative advantage that these drives offer in both categories.
Pricing and Specifications
While Seagate’s fourth-generation Constellation ES drives have received a lot of press over the fact that they are the world’s first 2TB enterprise storage solutions, there is much more be known about the technology and architectural design behind these drives. “Constellation is a much bigger deal than the capacity milestone,” noted Pete Steege, Global Segment Manager at Seagate. We are inclined to agree with him in many respects. The Seagate Constellation ES drives currently come in three capacities – 500GB, 1TB and 2TB – and are currently shipping in the SATA II 3Gbps interface with a spindle speed of 7200RPM. We should note that Seagate representatives have told us that models ST3500514NS (500GB), ST31000524NS (1TB), and ST32000644NS (2TB) are new to the channel, just released and hard to find, with availability favored towards reviewers and OEM partners.
The Seagate Constellation ES 500GB, 1TB and 2TB models that we were able to find in stock are currently priced at $93.99, $159.00 and $299.73 respectively, making the 2TB SATA model on review priced slightly above the 2TB Barracuda XT 6Gbps SATA III drive that several news outlets have positively critiqued these past few months (although the drive offers almost no performance advantage over its 3Gbps competition). In comparison, Samsung currently prices its EcoGreen F2 series drives at around $75 for 1TB and $99 for 1.5TB, while Western Digital currently prices its new Caviar Black series drives at $69 for 500GB, $99 for 1TB and $300 for 2TB. For a more direct comparison to our Seagate ST32000644NS 2TB drive, Western Digital prices its enterprise-oriented 2TB RE4 SATA 3Gbps drive (WD2003FYYS) at around $309.99. In 2010, these are the prices to expect for 2TB drives sporting 64MB of cache, proper RAID clustering support and enhanced power management designs for large-scale server environments.
Seagate has also stated several times that Serial-Attached-SCSI 6Gbps (SAS 2.0) versions of all three drives are currently in production, and we can expect availability very soon. In the meantime, however, this review will focus on SATA 3Gbps performance and should be an indication that the currently shipping drives are more than sufficient for many enthusiast users on the market. Model numbers for the SAS 2.0-interfaced drives include ST3500414SS (500GB), ST31000424SS (1TB) and ST32000444SS (2TB) as well as three Self-Encrypting Drive (SED) models numbered ST3500415SS (500GB), ST31000425SS (1TB) and ST32000445SS (2TB).
At the time of the original press announcement, the Constellation ES series was advertised as being the most power-efficient magnetic storage drive series available on the market. Seagate engineers went to work on a highly-efficient power saving feature dubbed PowerChoice which “decreases power consumption by up to 54-percent for record power savings in enterprise environments.” According to the product specifications for the SATA interfaced drives, the PowerChoice feature is capable of reducing overall power consumption from 7.0W idle down to around 4.4W idle. In comparison, the SAS-interfaced drives are advertised to run as low as 5.4W with the PowerChoice option.