The role of the HDD is evolving to mirror the changing needs of the datacenter. We tested the performance of the Toshiba MG03SCA300 drives in RAID configurations, but there is a movement to a multitude of different usage models in the datacenter.
Some are forgoing RAID entirely. The capacity of the HDD continues to increase, and array capacity continues to increase along with it. This increase in size results in a higher probability of data loss. Bit rot, uncorrectable errors, or entire drive failures are always a possibility even with the best of drives. These types of errors and failures result in a high likelihood of drive rebuilds in parity environments. During rebuild periods, the enhanced capacity also increases the risk of an additional failure, and these catastrophic failures can result in the loss of the entire array. Larger capacities also hinder RAID-rebuild times, which adversely affects host performance, sometimes for weeks at a time.
There are several new approaches to data storage gaining steam. Scale-out object storage and rateless erasure coding are coming to the forefront. Surprisingly, some of the largest players in the datacenter no longer utilize RAID in their infrastructure. Heavyweights such as Amazon and Google rely upon heavily replicated data hierarchies to protect the bulk of their data.
RAID is not going to disappear overnight, but the evolution of data storage requires solutions that can fulfill a wide variety of roles. No matter the end application, consistent performance is the hallmark of an effective storage solution.
We utilize scatter testing to observe performance variability, and RAID testing is also uniquely well suited to test performance consistency. RAID arrays can only perform as fast as the slowest drive, and a weak link will affect the entire array. Drives that deliver inconsistent performance suffer poor RAID scaling when placed into arrays. These issues are magnified when utilizing large arrays.
Our tests of the MG03SCA300 drives revealed solid RAID scaling. We regularly observed near-linear scaling during the tests. Mixed workloads can be a significant weakness of lesser-quality drives, but we observed solid performance in our 8K percentage testing as we mixed in heavier workloads. The server emulations also feature varied percentages of mixed random data, and the drives performed within expectations.
One area we usually cannot cover as well as we would like is durability. In this case, we have had an array of eight MG03SCA300 HDDs in the lab for several months. These drives have performed well with constant heavy workloads. We also swap out hardware constantly into different chassis, JBODs, and expanders and have not had issues. Of course, our sample size is not large enough to hypothesize on drive reliability metrics, but we can honestly say our samples have performed admirably.
Along with our array of eight Toshiba MK01GRRB/R, which we have used since the inception of our current testing regimen, the Toshiba drives have performed very well in numerous scenarios, and we look forward to their continued use in our enterprise lab.
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