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Toshiba MG03ACA400 4TB Enterprise HDD Review

Toshiba MG03ACA400 4TB Enterprise HDD Review

Toshiba's MG03ACA400 4TB Enterprise HDD offers a capacity-intensive Tier-2 solution for storage of unstructured data. Let's take a close look at it.

@paulyalcorn
Published Mon, Aug 12 2013 9:02 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:31 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Toshiba

Introduction

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The Toshiba MG03ACA400 is a 3.5" 7,200 RPM HDD that comes with a 6Gb/s SATA connection available in capacities of 1TB, 2TB, 3TB and 4TB. The MG03ACAx00 series of HDD's is designed for entry-level server workloads and capacity-intensive Tier-2 networked storage systems.

An explosion of unstructured 'cold' data that requires storage in large capacities fuels the growing need for massive amounts of data storage. This increasing demand for data storage has led the leaders of HDD manufacturing to rapidly increase the amount of storage available per drive over the past few years. This trend is reflected in the number of Terabytes shipped per year. In 2012, the HDD industry shipped 53% more Terabytes for enterprise applications than were shipped in 2011.

This trend is accelerating, and even more shocking are the projections for a jump of 83% of total Terabytes shipped this year. This rapid expansion in shipped capacity is surprisingly being met with only a 25% increase in the actual number of HDDs produced. This disparity between capacities in comparison to the number of units shipped is indicative of the rapid gains in HDD technology that are expanding the capacity available per unit.

Serving this need for storage of data in a cost efficient and economical manner has become the driving force behind a spate of recently announced large capacity HDDs from the major HDD manufacturers.

The Toshiba MG03ACA400 is offered with a number of features well suited for the Tier-2 storage space. The rotational speed of 7,200 RPM spins five platters with 800GB of capacity each. The 3TB models feature four platters with 750GB of capacity each. Both capacities provide the same average latency of 4.17ms, but different sustained transfer rates. The 4TB version supplies 165 MB/s of sequential transfer speed and the 3TB model comes in with a slightly lower speed of 155 MB/s.

Both models feature 64MB of cache that comes in the form of a FIFO ring buffer. The MG03ACA series of HDD's averages a standard 11.6 Watts of power consumption under load, but the real benefits kick in during idle periods. With the focus on Tier-2 storage of relatively cold data, this type of HDD will experience more idle time than upper-tier HDD's with higher performance that are under constant load. Toshiba has provided a low power idle mode that reduces the power consumption of the HDD down to a miserly 6.0 Watts during these periods of inactivity.

The MG03ACA family of HDDs also features models with a 'Y' attached to the end of the product number. These MG03ACAx00Y models feature enhanced encryption capabilities. T13-compliant SANITIZE crypto-scramble and T13 ATA security erase also offer an extra level of protection for data security and can wipe the drives clean in seconds. These features also save money in the event of the retirement or repurposing of HDDs by eliminating long overwrite cycles and the need for physical destruction of the HDD's. The MG03ACA series of HDD's from Toshiba also feature a SAS variant with the MG03SCA product distinction. Look to TweakTown for a review of the SAS model soon.

The Toshiba Mg03ACAx000 series of HDDs is backed by a five year warranty. The MG03ACA series seeks to provide the right balance of performance, efficiency, availability and capacity for the growing low-cost-per-GB storage segment.

Toshiba MG03ACA400 Specifications

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The Toshiba MG03ACA400 provides an average seek latency of 4.17ms and a sustained transfer rate of 165 MB/s for the 4TB model, and 155 MB/s for the 3TB model. This is delivered via a 6Gb/s connection and a 7,200 RPM speed. The MG03ACA series of HDDs comes in a standard 3.5" form factor.

There is the option for models with T-13 compliant SANITIZE crypto-erase and T13 ATA security erase. There are also SAS versions of the HDD available with enhanced encryption capabilities and T10 SANITIZE crypto-erase and TCG-Enterprise SSC.

The power is rated for 11.3 Watts active and 6.0 Watts during an idle low-power state. The MTTF is rated for 1,200,000 hours and there is a load/unload rating of 600,000.

The MG03ACA series of HDDs is designed for an always-on usage model, and is backed by a five-year warranty.

Toshiba MG03ACA400 Internals

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The Toshiba MG03ACA400 comes in a standard 3.5" form factor.

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Removing the PCB reveals the blue foam padding used to help absorb vibration in multi-drive deployments. The drive and motor controllers have a thermal pad to help shed heat into the case of the HDD.

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The ESMT chip is a 64MB DDR2 component for caching. There is also a chip to control the drive motor, and a Marvell drive controller.

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A standard 6Gb/s connection allows for wide deployment into a number of use-cases.

Test System and Methodology

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We utilize a new approach to HDD and SSD storage testing for our Enterprise Test Bench, designed specifically to target long-term performance with a high level of granularity.

Many testing methods record peak and average measurements during the test period. These average values give a basic understanding of performance, but fall short in providing the clearest view possible of I/O QoS (Quality of Service).

'Average' results do little to indicate the performance variability experienced during actual deployment. The degree of variability is especially pertinent, as many applications can hang or lag as they wait for I/O requests to complete. This testing methodology illustrates performance variability, and includes average measurements, during the measurement window.

While under load, all storage solutions deliver variable levels of performance. While this fluctuation is normal, the degree of variability is what separates enterprise storage solutions from typical client-side hardware. Providing ongoing measurements from our workloads with one-second reporting intervals illustrates product differentiation in relation to I/O QOS. Scatter charts give readers a basic understanding of I/O latency distribution without directly observing numerous graphs.

Consistent latency is the goal of every storage solution, and measurements such as Maximum Latency only illuminate the single longest I/O received during testing. This can be misleading, as a single 'outlying I/O' can skew the view of an otherwise superb solution. Standard Deviation measurements consider latency distribution, but do not always effectively illustrate I/O distribution with enough granularity to provide a clear picture of system performance. We use histograms to illuminate the latency of every single I/O issued during our test runs.

We measure power consumption during test runs. This provides measurements in time-based fashion, with results every second, to illuminate the behavior of power consumption in steady state conditions. Power consumption can cost more over the life of the device than the initial acquisition price of the hardware itself. This significantly affects the TCO of the storage solution. We also present IOPS-to-Watts measurements to highlight the efficiency of the storage solution.

Our test pool features HDDs of varying speed and capacity, so it is important to bear this in mind when viewing results. We conduct our tests over the full LBA range to allow each HDD to highlight its top performance. In some cases, this approach can give slower speed and higher capacity HDDs a slight advantage in test results due to a longer 'dwell' time on outer tracks. Typically, this is not a concern when testing HDDs of similar speeds and capacities. The first page of results will provide the 'key' to understanding and interpreting our new test methodology.

4K Random Read/Write

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Each QD for every parameter tested includes 300 data points (five minutes of one second reports) to illustrate the degree of performance variability. The line for each QD represents the average speed reported during the five-minute interval.

4K random speed measurements are an important metric when comparing drive performance, as the hardest type of file access for any storage solution to master is small-file random. One of the most sought-after performance specifications, 4K random performance is a heavily marketed figure.

The Toshiba MG03ACA400 scores in-between the two competitors with an average of 180 IOPS at QD256, only falling slightly by 10 IOPS to the Seagate Enterprise Capacity V.6.

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The Toshiba MG03ACA400 falls into a very tight range of performance with its competitors, averaging 199 IOPS in comparison to the Seagate V.6 with 205 IOPS at QD256 in our 4K write testing. The Western Digital SE trails closely behind with an average of 198 IOPS.

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Our write percentage testing illustrates the varying performance of each solution with mixed workloads. The 100% column to the right is a pure write workload of the 4K file size, and 0% represents a pure 4K read workload.

The Toshiba manages to beat the Western Digital SE with its mixed read/write workload performance, but falls behind the Seagate V.6 in the 60-90% range.

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The Toshiba comes extremely close to tying the Seagate V.6 in overall latency, providing 57,897 I/O's (97.9%) at 100-200ms, and the remaining 1236 I/O's (2.09) in the 200-400ms range. The V.6 only edges the Toshiba by a mere .1% in this test.

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We record the power consumption measurements during our test run at QD256, and we calculate the stated average results during the last five minutes of the test.

The Toshiba MG03ACA400 averages 9.63 Watts, above the competing solutions. It is important to note that the difference of only .7 Watts needs to be taken into consideration with the IOPS to Watts results below.

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IOPS to Watts measurements are generated from data recorded during our test. The Toshiba HDD delivers an average of 22.4 IOPS per Watt for 4K random writes, and 20 IOPS per Watt for 4K random read access.

8K Random Read/Write

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8K random read and write speed is a metric that is not tested for consumer use, but for enterprise environments this is an important aspect of performance. With several different workloads relying heavily upon 8K performance, we include this as a standard with each evaluation. Many of our Server Emulations below will also test 8K performance with various mixed read/write workloads.

The Toshiba MG03ACA400 delivers an average of 178 IOPS at QD256, again falling into the space between the two competing solutions.

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The average 8K random write speed of the Toshiba HDD is 196 IOPS at QD256, only falling behind the V.6 by two IOPS.

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The Toshiba MG03ACA400 performs well in comparison to the Western Digital Se, but falls slightly to the Seagate V.6 in the 60-90% range.

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Once again, the Toshiba HDD delivers superb latency performance, with 97.70% of I/O's (57,606) at 100-200ms, and the remaining 1,355 I/O's (2.29%) at 200-400ms, edging out the Seagate V.6 by the very slimmest of margins.

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Power consumption for the Toshiba MG03ACA400 averages 11.75 Watts during the test period.

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The Toshiba averages of 11.72 IOPS per Watt in 8K random write, and 11.75 IOPS per Watt for 8K random read access.

128K Sequential Read/Write

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The 128K sequential speeds reflect the maximum sequential throughput of the HDD using a realistic file size encountered in an enterprise scenario.

The Toshiba MG03ACA400 averages 163 MB/s at sequential read, beating the Western Digital SE.

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The Toshiba HDD averages an impressive 162 MB/s in sequential write speed, falling below the Seagate V.6.

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The Toshiba HDD falls into a lower performance envelope than the other competing solutions in our mixed read/write testing.

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The Toshiba MG03ACA400 offers up 92.69% of requests in the 20-40ms range, delivering a consistent level of performance that also experiences even lower latency than the Seagate and Western Digital offerings.

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The Toshiba HDD averages 8.86 Watts during sequential write testing.

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The Toshiba HDD provides an average of 18 MB/s per Watt for 128K sequential write and 18 MB/s per Watt for sequential read.

Database/OLTP and Webserver

Database/OLTP

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This test emulates Database and On-Line Transaction Processing (OLTP) workloads. OLTP is in essence the processing of transactions such as credit cards and high frequency trading in the financial sector. Enterprise HDDs are uniquely well suited for the financial sector with their low latency and high random workload performance. Databases are the bread and butter of many enterprise deployments. These are demanding 8K random workloads with a 66% read and 33% write distribution that can bring even the highest performing solutions down to earth.

The Toshiba MG03ACA400 averages 178 IOPS at QD256.

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The Toshiba HDD offers up a wide range of access time, much like the other HDDs, falling into the familiar spot between the Western Digital SE and the Seagate V.6.

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The Toshiba HDD averages 11.4 Watts during the test period.

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The Toshiba HDD averages 15 IOPS per Watt in our Database/OLTP testing.

Webserver

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The Webserver profile is a read-only test with a wide range of file sizes. Web servers are responsible for generating content for users to view over the internet, much like the very page you are reading. The speed of the underlying storage system has a massive impact on the speed and responsiveness of the server that is hosting the website, and thus the end-user experience.

The Toshiba HDD averages 179 IOPS at QD256.

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The Toshiba HDD falls into a very close latency range with the Seagate Enterprise Capacity V.6.

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The Toshiba averages 11.7 Watts during the test.

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The Toshiba MG03ACA400 averages 14.4 IOPS per Watt during the measurement window.

Fileserver and Emailserver

Fileserver

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The File Server profile represents typical file server workloads. This profile tests a wide variety of different file sizes simultaneously, with an 80% read and 20% write distribution.

The Toshiba MG03ACA400 averages 234 IOPS at QD256 and beats the other competing solutions in this test.

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The Toshiba HDD averages 11.75 Watts during the test.

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The MG03ACA400 averages 14 IOPS per Watt during the measurement window.

Emailserver

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The Emailserver profile is a very demanding 8K test with a 50% read and 50% write distribution. This application is indicative of the performance of the solution in heavy write workloads.

The Toshiba MG03ACA400 averages 194 IOPS at QD256.

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The Toshiba HDD averages 10.9 Watts during the test.

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The Toshiba averages 16.55 IOPS per Watt.

Final Thoughts

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Toshiba has been designing and delivering enterprise HDDs since 1967 and has a long heritage of offering reliable HDD's to address the needs of the datacenter. The MG03ACA300 offers up a high capacity solution that comes in at a very low cost per GB. The MGo3ACA series of HDDs are designed specifically to address capacity-intensive Tier-2 business-critical networked storage systems and cloud storage.

The Toshiba MG03ACA400 performed well in our testing, with performance that falls into the gap between the Western Digital SE and the Seagate Enterprise Capacity V.6. It is important to bear in mind that this is a Tier 2 storage solution that is well suited for storing bulk data.

The random write performance of the Toshiba HDD is a strong point, nearly reaching the levels of the V.6 in both 4k and 8k access. In sequential read and write, the MG03ACA400 performed well and provided speeds that are very close to the rated specifications.

The random read and write latency is very closely matched to the Seagate V.6, and easily beat the Western Digital SE. In our fileserver emulation, the Toshiba HDD easily beat the rest of the competition. The great performance in fileserver workloads illustrates the focus on a design that is well suited for its intended environment.

In our power testing, the Toshiba HDD posted slightly higher average results than the other HDD's, but we must take into consideration that the scale of the charts can magnify small differences in overall power consumption. In most cases, the differences were at or below 1 Watt. In our IOPS-to-Watts testing, the Toshiba was always within a few IOPS of the competition. The bright spot for the Toshiba MG03ACA400 in our power testing came from the sequential write tests, where it consumed less power and delivered a great IOPS-to-MB/s ratio.

One of the greatest advantages of the MG03ACA400 comes in the form of its low power sleep state. This allows the HDD to consumer less than 6 Watts at idle, and at the same time be ready to provide data to the host at any time.

Toshiba also offers both SAS and SATA versions to address both market segments. There is also the option for models with enhanced encryption features such as T13 SANITIZE crypto-scramble and T13 ATA security erase.

From a pricing standpoint, the Toshiba MG03ACA400 features a lower price structure than the Seagate Enterprise Capacity V.6. With its blend of solid speed, reliability and capacity, this Toshiba hard drive will be a wise choice for those with large static data sets. The Western Digital SE carries a much lower price than either of the competing HDDs, but also features markedly lower performance.

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The quest for benchmark world records led Paul further and further down the overclocking rabbit hole. SSDs and RAID controllers were a big part of that equation, allowing him to push performance to the bleeding edge. Finding the fastest and most extreme storage solutions led to experience with a myriad of high-end enterprise devices. Soon testing SSDs and Enterprise RAID controllers at the limits of their performance became Paul's real passion, one that is carried out through writing articles and reviews.

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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