WD Red and Red Pro HDD NAS Performance Analysis in RAID 5 with 10GbE

WD Red and Red Pro HDD NAS Performance Analysis in RAID 5 with 10GbE

Chris fires up a Thecus N7710-G NAS configured with RAID 5 and 10GbE to look at the performance of Western Digital's new Red 6TB and Red Pro 4TB HDDs.

@ChrisRamseyer
Published Fri, Aug 1 2014 9:06 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:33 PM CDT

Introduction

WD Red and Red Pro HDD NAS Performance Analysis in RAID 5 with 10GbE 01 | TweakTown.com
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Tyler managed to kick out his two reviews of Western Digital's new Red and Red Pro products in a single drive environment on a desktop. Today, I take the Reds to a NAS to measure performance over the network. Before we get started, let's talk about some of the changes WD made to the Red family.

Upon release, Western Digital marketed the Red 3.5-inch drives for NAS products ranging from 1 to 5 drives. It didn't take long for adventurous souls to try even higher drive counts in larger NAS products. The highest we took the original Red with NASware 1.0 was 11 drives with a single SSD cache in a QNAP TS-EC1279U-RP. At that point, we were way out of Western Digital's recommended usage model, but the system performed flawlessly.

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We must not have been the only ones testing Reds in larger drive bays because Western Digital has increased the recommended drive count to 8 drive bays for all Red products. The latest version of NASware, now up to version 3.0, brings a few new enhancements. The new third generation supports the ATA Streaming Feature Set for better A/V performance. 3.0 also increases the SMART Command Transport support, now offering temperature accuracy within 1C as well as better power management support.

The latest NASware piles on features to existing 1.0 and 2.0, the most notable being TLER, a technology designed for hard disks in a RAID environment that reduces the chance of your NAS performing a full rebuild when a recoverable error occurs.

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NASware 3.0 isn't the only big news in this release. The 3.5-inch Red gains two new capacity sizes, 5TB and 6TB. In addition to the new Red capacity sizes, a new 7,200 RPM model, Red Pro, makes its first appearance, replacing Western Digital's Se product line for NAS environments up to 16 drive bays. The up-spec Red Pro also features hardware vibration compensation for large arrays in rackmount servers with several in the same cabinet, and a longer warranty.

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Unlike most products, the WD Red Family gets special treatment when it comes to warranty and support. Western Digital knows that valuable data resides on NAS/backup appliances, and when something goes wrong, it can turn tragic. To help expedite any issues, Red products get a special premium 24/7 support like 1-855-WDRED.

Let's take a look at the two new Red products and then put them to the test in a high performance NAS environment.

PRICING: You can find the Western Digital Red and Red Pro for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Western Digital Red 6TB retails for $299.99 at Amazon.

United States: The Western Digital Red Pro 4TB retails for $259.99 at Amazon.

WD Red 6TB

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The new release brings the 3.5-inch Red family up to a total of six drives, divided by capacity size. The sizes are 1TB to 6TB in 1TB increments.

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The newest members of this class of Red are the new 5TB and 6TB models. The new 6TB model uses five 1.2TB platters and pairs the high density with 64MB of DRAM buffer space. IntelliPower makes a return--marketing spin for 5,400 RPM WD drives. It's important to note that WD didn't need to do anything exotic to get to 6TB. Your drive will not float away from helium like HGST's 6TB, 7-platter design built for enterprise cold storage (not a reference to actual temperatures).

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Here we see the model numbers for the entire Red product family. The 2.5-inch models ship in 750GB and 1TB capacity sizes and use a smaller 16MB DRAM buffer.

Existing Red models will be updated to NASware 3.0, but there isn't a field update utility coming for existing owners of Red products. WD assured us that all Red products now support up to 8 drive bays.

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At the time of writing, users could purchase Red products at Newegg for as little as $69.99 (1TB, 3.5"). Newegg also has the new 6TB Red in stock for $299.99, but the 5TB model wasn't listed yet.

PRICING: You can find the Western Digital Red and Red Pro for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Western Digital Red 6TB retails for $299.99 at Amazon.

WD Red Pro 4TB

WD Red 6TB

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Western Digital replaced the Se product family (in these types of devices) with the new Red Pro. This model uses 7,200 RPM rotating platters and comes in three capacity sizes: 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB.

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The Red Pro is a 3.5-inch exclusive with 800GB platters and uses 5 platters to reach its maximum capacity size of 4TB. The Pro version also has a 64MB buffer like the Red products, but the key selling point here is the higher rotational speed, longer warranty, and the addition of hardware-based vibration compensation.

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The Red gained support for up to 8 drive bays, and the Red Pro covers 8 to 16 drive bays. Larger systems move closer to the SAN category where Western Digital positions the WD Re, a datacenter class product that ranges in capacity from 250GB to 4TB.

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As mentioned before, Red Pro has three capacity sizes right out of the gate: 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB.

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Of the three Red Pro capacity sizes announced, Newegg only listed the 4TB model as in stock at the time of writing. The Red Pro 4TB is $259.99, just $85 more than the Red 4TB with IntelliPower.

PRICING: You can find the Western Digital Red and Red Pro for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Western Digital Red Pro 4TB retails for $259.99 at Amazon.

Test System Setup

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Our NAS test 'system' has migrated to three 42U racks like what you would find in a datacenter. There are ten servers that attack the target NAS with 120 Hyper-V installations of Windows 7 64-bit, each with a dedicated gigabit Ethernet port. The systems feed to three Extreme Networks X450e-48p switches and then to a Supermicro SSE-X3348TR top-of-rack switch. The device under test connects to the Supermicro switch via 1GbE, 10GbE, or 40GbE. The iSCSI and NASPT tests use a single machine connected to the Supermicro switch.

This level of testing wouldn't be possible without the help and support from several companies, many of which have little to do with NAS products. We would like to thank AVADirect, Antec, Corsair, GIGABYTE, Icy Dock, Kingston, LSI, Noctua, Rosewill, Seagate, Thermaltake, and Western Digital for their much-appreciated support.

TweakTown Custom 120-Client Office Test

The TweakTown Custom 120-client Office Test uses 120 Windows 7 Hyper-V installations and custom software to stress each NAS with traces from Microsoft Office tasks. Both throughput (in Mbits per second) and latency (in milliseconds) are measured.

Thecus N7710-G

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For this test, we used a Thecus N7710-G NAS to test three drive groups. The groups are three WD Red 6TB, three WD Red Pro 4TB, and three Seagate NAS 4TB, each group in a RAID 5 array. The Thecus N7710-G ships with a Thecus 10GbE network card standard.

Supermicro SSE-X3348TR 10GbE / 40GbE Switch

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With a switching fabric of 1284Gbps through forty-eight 10GbE ports with RJ45 connectors and four 40GbE QSFP connectors, the SSE-X3348TR is our switch of choice for testing SMB and enterprise network attached storage products. Many server and motherboard manufacturers have included 10GbE on top-tier enterprise products.

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Today, we're using RAID 5 in a 3-drive array for all of the tests.

Benchmarks - iSCSI Enterprise Workloads

Database

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File Server

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Email Server

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Web Server

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Workstation

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iSCSI Enterprise Workload Summary

Seagate and HGST also manufacture NAS specific HDDs. I have the Seagate NAS drives in my arsenal, and the drives are appropriately named NAS (product family name), leaving little doubt regarding what it's intended for. I don't have any HGST NAS models on hand at this time.

In nearly all of the workload tests over iSCSI, we see the WD Red Pro delivering more IOPS than the 6TB Red and 4TB NAS. In some of the tests, the NAS drive comes very close to the Red Pro, something that caught us by surprise.

I didn't intend to test the original 1TB Red drives in a three drive RAID 5 array, but the low performance in many of the iSCSI tests from the Red 6TB pressed the issue, so I had to verify the results. When I compared the Gen 1 Red to the Seagate NAS, the results were much closer than the new Gen 3 Red to the Seagate NAS.

Benchmarks - iSCSI Workload Response Time

Database

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File Server

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Email Server

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Web Server

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Workstation

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iSCSI Enterprise Response Time Summary

Here we see the response time for each of our drive groups running RAID 5 in a 3-disk array. It appears the new Red 6TB gained some latency with the larger capacity size even with the new 1.2TB platters. This was the first result that led us to break out the older Red drives to get measurements.

Benchmarks - iSCSI Workload Maximum Response Time

Database

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File Server

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Email Server

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Web Server

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Workstation

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iSCSI Enterprise Maximum Response Time Summary

Here we see the maximum response time for each of the standard workloads. Both the Red 6TB and Red Pro 4TB arrays suffer from abnormally high maximum response times in some of the tests. After testing with the original Red 1TB drives in RAID 5, we confirmed this was a WD issue that has grown into a larger issue with the new Red 6TB.

Benchmarks - Multi-Client Test

The Intel NAS Performance Tool (NASPT) is an excellent way to determine NAS performance in a single-user environment. Any review that only uses NASPT assumes that only a single computer will access the target NAS at one time. We took issue with this method of testing and spent over a year designing, building, programming, and finally validating the TweakTown Multi-Client Test.

The test uses Microsoft Office data recorded to traces and played back to the NAS from up to 120 client Windows 7 installations (clients). We record total throughput of all clients and average response time per client.

Over time, we'll populate the two multi-client charts with several NAS products from a span of categories. The products range from a dual Xeon server with two 10GbE ports to a 2-bay NAS with a single gigabit Ethernet connection. The products will fall into their performance categories based on performance and not marketing material or opinion.

Throughput

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Our 120 multiclient office workload is extreme for three drive RAID 5 arrays, but we wanted to give it a shot since we're using a 10GbE network to the Thecus N7710-G drive host. All three arrays perform nearly identically until we get to sixteen clients; that's where we start to see some separation. At twenty-four clients, the Red Pro with 7,200 RPM platters starts to show its dominance and continues to outperform the other two arrays on the chart as expected.

At 104 clients, the latency from the Red 6TB array starts to cause problems, resulting in lower than expected throughput.

Latency

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Here we see the same test, but now we're looking at the latency. Surprisingly, the Red Pro 4TB didn't walk away from the Seagate NAS 4TB as much as we expected.

Benchmarks - Mixed Workload - The VM Tests

This set of tests comes from a group of VMware enthusiasts that requested we run these specific tests on the NAS products we test. We've added them to our standard SMB/SME NAS product reviews.

Throughput

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Average Response Time

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IOPS

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iSCSI Mixed Workload

After seeing the other tests, nothing in these are out of the ordinary. The response time on the Red 6TB shows up again with higher results than we expected.

Final Thoughts

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Western Digital broke new ground by releasing the first NAS specific HDD three years ago. Until then, we had to rely on NAS manufacturers to test HDDs and issue compatibility reports, often filled with out-of-date products or mainly expensive enterprise drives. Western Digital turned the tables and produced an HDD made specifically for NAS appliances and forced NAS manufacturers to build products that work with WD's product. The result has been very good for consumers, and now every HDD builder has a NAS specific product.

It's difficult for me to call the new WD Red Pro an innovative product since it's a replacement for the Se product line. By pulling Se into the Red product family, customers have a clear understanding of what the drive is used for; Red is for NAS and Se is for...well, most of us wouldn't know without researching the product. It leads me to wonder if WD's Xe (datacenter/enterprise) may pick up a color code before too long as well. Red Pro is a nice addition to the NAS specific HDD products on the market. Even though Western Digital's marketing material states for use in 8 to 16 bay arrays, WD knows there will be some crossover into the smaller NAS products from people looking for higher performance.

Some may wonder why WD would release a new 7,200 RPM HDD for the NAS market when HGST, a WD Company, just released the HGST NAS HDD, also with 7,200 platters. As part of the agreement to be able to acquire HGST, WD had to agree to let HGST stand alone as a separate entity for a period of time. The two companies can't even collaborate on products or strategy. At some point, this will change, but for now, WD and HGST are competitors. HGST released a NAS specific drive with 7,200 RPM platters, so WD needed to answer. The Red Pro was born.

The larger capacity sizes in the Red products are a nice addition, but they are an evolution more than a revolution. It's nice to have a 6TB option that isn't enterprise specific and doesn't cost more than some decent notebooks per drive.

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We're still not sure why the 6TB model we tested today ran wild with latency. I hope WD tames this with a firmware update at some point. The bad thing about latency is it multiplies when you add drives to RAID arrays. One drive has to wait on the data to read back from the drive before it's in the sequence, and it just escalates as more drives are stacked together in an array. Maybe the increased latency is a way to keep users from using Red HDDs in larger arrays. With the first Red drives that hit the market, I was comfortable recommending them in arrays up to 8 or even 12 drives, but the new Red 6TB shouldn't go much more than 6 drives. That doesn't mean your data is in jeopardy...just your sanity while waiting on your data to transfer.

If you plan to run VMs off of a NAS storage array, then the Red Pro is the entry point, but in our tests, we observed that some other drives may produce a better experience due to high latency on the Red products.

If you just want to store a bunch of data in cold storage or plan to watch a movie every few days from a NAS with a DLNA device, the Red and Red Pro HDDs will do the job without issue.

PRICING: You can find the Western Digital Red and Red Pro for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Western Digital Red 6TB retails for $299.99 at Amazon.

United States: The Western Digital Red Pro 4TB retails for $259.99 at Amazon.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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