Seagate Savvio 15K.3 Enterprise HDD Review

We drill down on the performance of the new Seagate 15K.3 enterprise HDD and look at how it fits into the Seagate portfolio of hard disk drives.

Manufacturer: Seagate
9 minutes & 38 seconds read time


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Seagate's wide range of enterprise HDD products encompass every workload requirement. We have evaluated the Enterprise Turbo SSHD, the Enterprise Performance 10K v7, and the Enterprise Capacity ES.3. Today, we are rounding out the Seagate product stack with the Savvio 15K.3. In this product evaluation, we will be comparing the 15K.3 to the entire Seagate family to examine its position in the Seagate family.

The Savvio 15K.3 is a 2.5-inch 6Gb/s SAS HDD that spins at 15,000 RPM. Dual-port SAS provides failover and multipath for mission-critical environments, the desired usage for this caliber of drive. The 15K.3 finds its home in high-performance Tier 1 blade, rack, and tower servers that host transactional-based applications. These speedy drives can also be used for caching and tiering models to speed the most critical data.

The Savvio 15K.3 features a 2.0ms average latency and a sustained transfer rate of 202 MB/s to 151 MB/s (inner to outer tracks). The drive features a 64MB multi-segmented cache used in conjunction with control algorithms to provide optional prefetch (read-ahead) and read/write caching. The drive supports logical block sizes of 512, 520, 524, and 528.

The 15K.3 is available as a standard model (ST9300653SS), a SED model (ST9300553SS), and a SED FIPS 140-02 Model (ST9300453SS). The standard model provides Protection Information (PI) for enhanced data integrity. The SED models offer AES-256 encryption and security for data at rest in compliance with TCG standards. These drives also support cryptographic erase, which allows for easy drive retirement and repurposing. The SED FIPS 140-02 models provide the utmost protection for sensitive but unclassified and protected-class data to ensure compliance goals and data security initiatives.

The 15K.3 sports the standard Non-recoverable Read Errors per bits read rating of 1 LBA per 10E16 and has an AFR of 0.44 percent. The MTBF is also impressive at 2,000,000 hours, and the drive is backed by a five-year warranty.

Each drive in the Seagate enterprise HDD portfolio is purpose built to deliver performance targeted for specific applications. The Enterprise Capacity ES.3 provides bulk storage for unstructured data in cloud environments, while the Seagate Enterprise Performance v7 fulfills the role of a fast drive for mission-critical data. Residing at the very top of the HDD pyramid, the Enterprise Turbo SSHD provides the fastest performance for Tier 0 applications. The SSHD is generally much faster in real applications than we can highlight with synthetic testing, but look to these pages soon for a review of an SSHD array under various transactional workloads.

The 15K.3 perches atop the pure-HDD performance tier for only a short time longer. The Seagate Enterprise Performance 15K v4 is due this summer and will offer higher performance in several key metrics.

Savvio 15K.3 Internals and Specifications

Savvio 15K.3 Internals

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The Savvio 15K.3 comes in a standard 2.5-inch 15mm form factor.

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The drive features a thick pad between the PCB and the drive housing to absorb vibration. There are small thermal pads on the two critical components on the PCB, which allows them to shed heat into the case of the HDD.

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The SK Hynix DRAM totals 64MB. A SMOOTH drive motor controller is near the bottom of the PCB, and the large Seagate/LSI co-branded ASIC is near the top.

Savvio 15K.3 Specifications

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Test System and Methodology

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Our approach testing storage is 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 they fall short in providing the clearest view possible of I/O Quality of Service (QoS).

'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.

We measure power consumption during test runs. This provides measurements in time-based fashion, with results every second, to illuminate power consumption behavior. This significantly affects the TCO of the storage solution. We also present IOPS-to-Watts measurements to highlight the efficiency of the storage solution.

The HDDs in this report are of varying capacities. The 600GB Enterprise Turbo SSHD, the 300GB Savvio 15K.3, the 1.2TB Enterprise Performance 10K v7, and the 4TB Enterprise Capacity are all tested over the full LBA range to allow each HDD to highlight its average performance. The first page of results will provide the 'key' to understanding and interpreting our 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 Savvio 15K.3 trails the SSHD very closely at lower queue depths, but it levels off at 543 IOPS at QD256. The Enterprise Turbo SSHD delivers 608 IOPS.

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The Enterprise Turbo SSHD really opens the gap with random write activity, taking quite the lead with 452 IOPS, while the 15K.3 delivers 428 IOPS at QD256. The 15K.3 manages easily to outstrip its 10k and 7,200 RPM brethren.

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

The SSHD again leads the pack, but the 15K.3 holds its own with solid performance as we mix in heavier write activity.

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We record the power consumption measurements during our test run at QD256.

The 7,200 RPM Enterprise Capacity ES.3 brings a much higher operating voltage along with its 4TB of capacity, while the 2.5-inch drives sip power below 7 watts. The 15K.3 in particular is stingy with a draw of only 6.49 watts.

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We generate IOPS to Watts measurements from data recorded during our test. The 15K.3 delivers an outstanding 81 read IOPS per Watt, and its slightly lower power consumption allows it to eke out a win over the SSHD in write efficiency at 101 IOPS per Watt.

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 this is an important aspect of performance for enterprise environments. 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 Seagate Savvio 15K.3 averages 535 IOPS at QD256, and the SSHD delivers an average of 596 IOPS.

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The average 8k random write speed of the Savvio 15K.3 is 430 IOPS at QD256

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The 15K.3 again blows past the lower-speed competition in our mixed workload testing, while the Turbo SSHD reigns supreme in mixed workloads.

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The Savvio 15K.3 again manages to best the competition in power consumption with an average of 7.49 watts.

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The Enterprise Turbo SSHD takes the lead in efficiency with write activity but trails slightly with read activity.

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.

In this test, the Savvio 15K.3 shows its age. It is outstripped by the Enterprise Performance 10K, which has more to do with the speed increase in the much newer 10K HDD than a weakness in the 15K.3. The SSHD chugs along with a beastly 243 MB/s average.

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The 15K.3 again lags with an average of 187 MB/s, and the SSHD continues its dominance with almost 242 MB/s. We can see the data travel across the platter of the SSHD during each test iteration. The higher results from the outer tracks come first, and then the speed lowers as it moves to the inner tracks.

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The mixed sequential write testing reveals very strong performance from the Enterprise Performance 10K, which manages to shadow, or beat, its 15k counterpart in much of the chart. The Turbo SSHD actually falls to the 15K.3 and the 10K in the 80-90 percent range, the only weakness that we have ever observed with the SSHD. The algorithms in the SSHD do not cache sequential data, bringing it down to earth with the rest of the mere mortals in this small area.

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The 15K.3 continues its trend of having the lowest power consumption with an average of 6.9 watts.

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The SSHD pulls ahead in efficiency in this test with an average of 32 MB/s per watt.

Database/OLTP and Web Server


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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 percent read and 33 percent write distribution that can bring even the highest performing solutions down to earth.

The Savvio 15K.3 averages 470 IOPS at QD256, while the Enterprise Turbo SSHD nearly reaches 600 IOPS.

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The 15K.3 averages 7.34 watts during the measurement window, trailed closely by the Turbo SSHD.

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The Enterprise Turbo SSHD is clearly in its element with this mixed workload, delivering superior efficiency over the other drives in the test pool.

Web Server

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The Web Server 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.

The Savvio 15K.3 delivers 523 IOPS at QD256 in this read-centric workload, and the Enterprise Turbo SSHD provides an outstanding 610 IOPS.

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The 15K.3 pulls just 7.45 watts in this workload.

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The 15K.3 again leads the pack with superb efficiency.

Email Server

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The Email Server profile is a very demanding 8k test with a 50 percent read and 50 percent write distribution. This application is indicative of performance in heavy write workloads.

The Savvio 15K.3 delivers 523 IOPS at QD256, and the Enterprise Turbo SSHD again overachieves with an average of 566 IOPS.

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Once again, the SSHD rounds out the top of the efficiency chart.

Final Thoughts

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The face of data storage is changing rapidly as new technologies emerge, and Seagate is morphing to the new reality. Seagate has extended their push into the enterprise SSD market with the Seagate 600 Pro for mainstream use and the Seagate 1200, a cutting edge 12Gb/s SSD. These are not the traditional solutions expected from an HDD manufacturer, but they are surely a sign of the times. While the face of data storage is changing, some things will remain the same. The massive explosion of data creates a requirement for bulk unstructured data. The performance HDD market is still alive and well, and SSDs are still prohibitively expensive for most mainstream architectures.

Seagate also has a strategic agreement with Samsung that provides them with a hot commodity in the SSD world: guaranteed NAND supply. Perhaps most telling is the Seagate mentality of using in-house design and engineering teams for their SSD products. Many of their competitors have purchased numerous outside companies to siphon up IP and talent quickly, but Seagate has stuck to more conservative purchases and homegrown engineering. Organic growth can be more productive in the long term; mergers can get messy and inefficient when smaller companies are assimilated into larger corporations. Only time will tell which approach will provide the best path forward.

Seagate is not content to rest on their laurels. They have led the industry with the development of SSHDs in both the client and enterprise space. This early technology lead has afforded Seagate yet another advantage: the only enterprise SSHD available on the market.

OEMs and hyperscale customers demand dual sourcing before they fully embrace a new technology. When another HDD manufacturer releases their SSHD (shortly), we should begin to see SSHDs take a deeper hold in the datacenter. We likely are not witnessing the passing of the torch from normal 15K HDDs to SSHDs just yet, but today's test results may foreshadow the future of high-speed storage solutions. There is no doubt the SSHD is a superhero in these tests. File systems and applications introduce more locality, which leads to results that are even more impressive.

The Savvio 15K.3 delivers impressive performance in the majority of our random workloads, easily besting other typical HDD solutions. The sequential performance indicates that a refresh of the 15K product line is due; it was surprisingly beat by the strength of the Enterprise Performance 10K v7.

A great advantage of the smaller size and faster speed of a 15k drive is the gain in performance efficiency. The 15K.3 not only had the lowest overall power consumption, but it was also the most efficient. This efficiency leads to reductions in overall TCO.

The Savvio 15K.3 hosts a spate of enterprise-class features, including a SAS interface, SED and encryption options, and an impressive MTBF of 2,000,000 hours and a AFR of 0.44 percent. Rounding this solid performance out with a five-year warranty explains why the Savvio 15K.3 has become a staple in the datacenter.

PRICING: You can find the Savvio 15K.3 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 Savvio 15K.3 (300GB) retails for $232.00 at Amazon.

Canada: The Savvio 15K.3 (300GB) retails for CDN$401.41 at Amazon Canada.

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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.

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