Seagate Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K 600GB HDD Review

Seagate's Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K v5 hard drive features 32GB of eMLC NAND to boost application performance. Here's our full review.

@paulyalcorn
Published Wed, Feb 4 2015 9:10 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Seagate

Introduction

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The chasm between HDD and SSD performance has led to a variety of approaches to merge the capacity and economy of HDDs with the low-latency performance of flash storage. Many of these approaches leverage software and hardware in a multitude of caching and tiering schemes, but these approaches invariably result in host overhead, and require management oversight. Seagate has taken a divergent path in developing their Enterprise Performance TurboBoost SSHD (Solid-State Hybrid Drive) models. TurboBoost drives merge the positive aspects of both storage mediums in a holistic manner, and require no host overhead, and absolutely no management oversight.

Initial TurboBoost revisions were released as Turbo SSHD models, but the newest revision has been rolled into Seagate's Enterprise Performance 15K HDD lineup. This reflects that the Turbo SSHD has matured to mainstream status, and the new model is updated with a 12Gb/s SAS connection. The TurboBoost 15K HDDs still spin at 15,000 RPM, but also employ a 32GB eMLC NAND layer to cache hot data. eMLC provides a very durable and fast storage layer, and Seagate's proprietary AMT (Adaptive Memory Technology) algorithms identify hot data at the block level, and promote or evict data from the flash layer accordingly. A copy of the data is also retained on the platters, but hot data is served from the NAND to realize up to a 3x application performance improvement.

The NAND layer also improves performance of the standard multi-segmented 128 DRAM cache, allowing it to be used as write-back cache. This boosts random write performance without wearing the NAND by allowing the drive to coalesce random write activity in the DRAM layer, and then writing it down to the platters. A portion of the eMLC is assigned as SLC to function as a NVC (Non-Volatile Cache). The drive flushes data stored in DRAM to the NVC with back EMF in the event of an unsafe power loss, creating an extra layer of power-loss protection not provided by standard HDDs.

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The new TurboBoost models spin at 15,000-RPM, and step up to the 12Gb/s SAS connection. TurboBoost models come in the standard 2.5" form factor in capacities of 300GB and 600GB. TurboBoost is geared for transactional workloads in blade, rack or tower servers, and it works well in both DAS and SAN/NAS environments. The specifications of the TurboBoost models are identical to the standard 15K models, including power consumption rated at 8.7W active and 5.3W idle. The SDR is also identical with 246 to 180 MB/s from outer to inner, which isn't surprising in light of the fact the TurboBoost models only cache random data. A standard average latency of 2.0ms is also identical to regular models, but data served from cache will perform significantly faster.

The Turbo SSHD features a Non-recoverable Read Error Rate of one per 10E16, and a MTBF of two-million hours, or an AFR of 0.44%. 512e and 4Kn models are available. The drive also features an enterprise-standard five-year limited warranty, and self-encrypting and SED FIPS 140-2 models.

Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K has the typical features, and expected reliability and durability of standard 15K HDDs, but offers higher performance in transactional workloads. Let's take a closer look at its caching performance.

PRICING: You can find the Seagate 600GB Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K HDD 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 Seagate 600GB Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K HDD retails for $643.00 at Amazon.

Exploring Cache Performance

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A typical application workload consists of a mixture of I/O sizes and access patterns spread over the surface of the drive. This data tends to congregate in areas referred to as "hot bands," denoted by the blue areas in the graphic above. Hot bands of data are areas accessed more often than other areas. The AMT algorithms identify hot data at the I/O level, and the AMT algorithms promote it to the NAND layer to speed access.

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HDDs provide plenty of sequential speed, and nearly unlimited write endurance, so caching sequential data would not be a good use of the limited eMLC layer. A quick test with sequential read/write data, to only 1% of the LBA range, confirms the drive does not accelerate sequential access.

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We are admittedly making it very easy for the AMT algorithms to identify hot data by only reading and writing from 1% of the drive in this test. We have also included the original Turbo SSHD model as a point of reference.

The original Turbo SSHD identifies the hot data, and peaks at roughly 8,600 IOPS. The TurboBoost model reaches a peak of 10,200 IOPS, representing a hefty 16% increase. Both SSHDs feature the same density and 512e format, so this is a sign of architecture maturation. We also test 4k write speed, but its speed remains constant. In our standard 100% LBA tests, we will examine the benefits of the write back caching enabled in DRAM with the TurboBoost model.

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With the determination that random read data is the only type of access cached in the NAND buffer, we expand our tests to 5% of the LBA range. This mirrors the amount of eMLC NAND used for caching. The larger access space illustrates slower performance from the NAND when it is full, and the increased load on the LSI processor necessary to manage a larger LBA table. This also shows a huge increase in performance, which is twice that of the original Turbo SSHD. The TurboBoost model tops out at 5,000 IOPS, and exhibits a much tighter range of performance than the previous model.

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We experience a drastic increase in speed when we test with small LBA ranges and only one stream of data, so the task falls to us to attempt to trick the AMT algorithms, and simulate a more distributed workload with several data streams.

We created a complex multi-segmented test pattern with multiple data streams to test the efficiency of the AMT algorithms. We test 4K random read data with three data streams. The first addresses the same 5% of the drive we tested above, but only receives 80% of the workload. The second data stream reads from a larger 30% chunk of the LBA range with 10% of the workload, and finally, the third data stream reads from the entire capacity of the drive with the remaining 10% of the workload. This effectively forces the drive to ignore the "less desirable" read access, and cache only the most relevant data by simulating a hot band of data. The AMT algorithms still manage to pick out the hot band of data, and provide enormous acceleration.

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We conduct our testing outside of the file system for numerous reasons. File systems are inefficient and bring forces beyond our control into the equation; such forces include metadata, buffers, and caches. However, for the purposes of the TurboBoost review, the file system can also introduce locality from file system metadata. In many cases, metadata is a primary bottleneck during typical use.

We test the same 5% LBA range tested above, where we topped out at 5,000 IOPS. We top out at 6,000 IOPS with a file system. Here we observe some of the negative results of testing with a file system with this level of granularity. The errata at the beginning of the test reminds us of the system caching and buffers brought on by NTFS, and these results should be taken with a grain of salt. However, they do exhibit the benefits of accelerating metadata.

Enterprise Performance 15K HDD v5 Internals and Specifications

Enterprise Performance 15K HDD v5 Internals

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The Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K HDD v5 comes in the 2.5" form factor with a 15nmm z-height.

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The drive appears similar to normal 2.5" drives. A foam pad resides between the PCB and drive housing, and thermal pads cover the controllers.

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The SMOOTH/Seagate co-branded controller handles motor operations. A co-branded LSI/Seagate TT50431 controller is flanked by a 128MB Samsung DRAM package. The LSI controller is new to this generation of SSHD; the previous model featured a Marvell processor. The LSI/Seagate controller is the same model used on the standard 15K v5, but also handles the AMT caching algorithms, and the NAND chip that resides near the 12Gb/s SAS connection. The 12Gb/s SAS connection provides wide compatibility with the latest RAID controllers and HBAs.

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Idle power consumption is a pain point in the datacenter. The Seagate Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K HDD v5 utilizes PowerChoice Technology, Seagate's proprietary implementation of the T10/T13 Approved Standard. PowerChoice provides four enhanced idle modes that place the drive into deeper quasi-sleep cycles to conserve power; the length of drive inactivity triggers these idle modes. The feature is enabled with a SAS Mode Page or SATA Set Feature command.

There is also the option for immediate host-initiated power transitions in a typical implementation. Once enabled, PowerChoice places the drive into successively deeper idle states with SAS/SATA commands, but each consecutive sleep mode requires more time for resumption. We did not test with enhanced PowerChoice states enabled.

The standard Enterprise Performance 15K HDD v5 provides a 6.4-watt average power draw during the idle power state. The Enterprise Performance TurboBoost model matches the same idle power draw, albeit after a short period of settling.

Enterprise Performance 15K HDD v5 Specifications

The 12Gb/s Seagate Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K HDD we are testing today features the 512E format with the ST600MX0052 part number. There are 4KN, 512E, SED, and FIPS 140-2 variants available with varying part numbers.

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Test System and Methodology

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Our approach to storage testing targets 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).

While under load, all storage solutions deliver variable levels of performance. "Average" results do little to indicate 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. 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. This testing methodology illustrates performance variability, and includes average measurements during the measurement window.

IOPS data that ignores latency is useless. 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 utilize high-granularity I/O latency charts to illuminate performance during our test runs. Our Latency v IOPS testing also reveals performance at varying latency thresholds.

We conduct our tests over the full LBA range to allow each HDD to highlight its average performance. Both models feature the 512e format, and 600GB of capacity. The first page of results will provide the "key" to understanding and interpreting our test methodology.

Benchmarks - 4k Random Read/Write

4k Random Read/Write

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Each level tested includes 300 data points (five minutes of one second reports) to illustrate performance variability. The line for each queue depth 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. 4K random performance is a heavily marketed figure, and is one of the most sought-after performance specifications.

The Enterprise Performance 15K v5 starts out with an impressive average of 510 IOPS at QD256, and the TurboBoost model reaches 539 IOPS.

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Our Latency vs IOPS charts compare the amount of performance attained from each solution at specific latency measurements. Many applications have specific latency requirements. These charts present relevant metrics in an easy-to-read manner for readers who are familiar with their application requirements. The HDDs that are lowest and furthest to the right exhibit the most desirable latency characteristics.

The Seagate 15K v5 TurboBoost model takes the lead in this test.

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The Enterprise Performance 15K v5 averages 498 IOPS at QD256, and the TurboBoost model increases that up to 520 IOPS. We are accessing the full LBA range, so this increase in performance isn't primarily stemming from flash acceleration. The gain comes from the ability of the DRAM to coalesce random data in write-back mode. This is usually somewhat risky, but with the backing of the eMLC layer, to handle any power-loss events, the drive can operate in write-back mode safely.

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The Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K delivers a tangible latency reduction.

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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 TurboBoost model takes the lead for every write mixture during the measurement window.

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We record power consumption measurements during our test run at QD256. It is important to consider watts-per-GB in the overall analysis due to the varying capacities in the test pool.

The Enterprise Performance 15K v5 draws 7.4 watts during the test, and the TurboBoost model draws 7.5 watts.

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Both 15K models provide nearly identical performance.

Benchmarks - 8k Random Read/Write

8k Random Read/Write

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Server workloads rely heavily upon 8k performance, and we include this as a standard with each evaluation. Many of our server workloads also test 8k performance with various mixed read/write workloads.

The Enterprise Performance 15K v5 averages 502 IOPS at QD256, and the TurboBoost model provides 532 IOPS.

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The TurboBoost model takes the edge over the standard model.

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The Enterprise Performance 15K v5 displays its strength with 8k random write activity with an average of 493 IOPS at QD256, and the TurboBoost model provides 521 IOPS, but does so with reduced variability.

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Both models provide an excellent performance-to-latency ratio in this test.

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The Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K takes the lead in every category of this test.

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Power consumption for both models hovers around 8.4 watts.

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We note very little difference in efficiency metrics during the test period, but the TurboBoost model has a slightly higher average.

Benchmarks - 128k Sequential Read/Write

128k Sequential Read/Write

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We write to every LBA to highlight performance degradation from the outer to inner tracks of the drive. The drives begin with much higher speed on the outer tracks, and lose speed as they work inward. The small platter sizes allow the drives to write the entire platter very quickly. Both Seagate Enterprise Performance 15K models manage to top 250MB/s on the outer edge of the platter. The TurboBoost model delivers slightly less performance variation.

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128k sequential speed reflects the maximum sequential throughput of the HDD, and is indicative of performance in OLAP, batch processing, streaming, content delivery applications, and backup scenarios. Today's HDDs are used increasingly for sequential workloads as SSDs encroach upon the application space.

The Enterprise Performance 15K v5 drive averages an impressive 252 MB/s during the sequential read workload at QD256, and the TurboBoost model delivers identical performance.

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Both models fall within a similar performance profile during the test.

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Sequential write performance is important in tasks such as caching, replication, HPC, and database logging. The standard Enterprise Performance 15K averages an impressive 252 MB/s, and the TurboBoost model provides 251 MB/s.

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The results are nearly identical in this round of sequential testing as well.

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The mixed-workload sequential testing is one of our most demanding tests. Many drives will fare very well on the high-end, but fall short with mixed sequential activity. The reduced variability of TurboBoost model is on display during this test, though the standard model ekes out a win in the 30-70% range.

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The TurboBoost model displays significantly lower sequential power draw during the measurement window.

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The TurboBoost's lower sequential power requirements leads to higher MB/s-to-watts measurements.

Benchmarks - Database/OLTP

Database/OLTP

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This test consists of Database and On-Line Transaction Processing (OLTP) workloads. OLTP is the processing of transactions such as credit cards and high frequency trading in the financial sector. Databases are the bread and butter of many enterprise deployments. These demanding 8k random workloads with a 66 percent read and 33 percent write distribution bring even the best solutions down to earth.

The gap widens with mixed workloads, and the TurboBoost model averages 563 IOPS at QD256, well over the standard version.

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The TurboBoost model provides higher IOPS under a lower latency threshold.

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The TurboBoost model requires slightly less power during this test.

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Benchmarks - Email Server

Email Server

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The email server workload is a demanding 8K test with a 50% read and 50% write distribution. This application is indicative of the performance in heavy write workloads.

The Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K v5 leads the test with an average of 563 IOPS at QD256, and reduced performance variability.

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The Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K beats the standard model during our latency v IOPS test.

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The TurboBoost consumes slightly less power during the workload.

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Final Thoughts

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Seagate has brought their Turbo SHHD into the Enterprise Performance product line with the second-generation TurboBoost models. This provides two options for those seeking the fastest HDD storage available: the standard 15K v5 model, or TurboBoost models. TurboBoost models are accentuated with a 32GB layer of eMLC flash for application acceleration.

The move to a faster 12Gb/s interface and a LSI/Seagate controller boosts cache performance over the previous revision. The drive also operates in an NVC-enabled (Non-Volatile Cache) write-back mode, which boosts performance for data not promoted into cache. The value of intelligent identification and acceleration of hot data provides a seamless increase in application performance. TurboBoost models simplify the process of deploying flash-based caching, and alleviate management requirements. Unlike some software-driven tiering and caching implementations, this drive analyzes data internally, and moves it to cache without user intervention; there is no wait for data shuffling between tiers. This alleviates inter-server and network data movement.

The industry is moving to flash solutions for performance-driven workloads, and SSHDs provide an easy means of deploying large amounts of flash into the server. Deploying 16 TurboBoost SSHDs provides a 512GB shot of flash acceleration into the server in the form of a slip-in solution that can replace existing drives. The increased performance boosts overall server efficiency and output without the need for costly software and hardware.

Many decision-makers will choose either 15K HDDs or faster SSDs, but value SSDs do not feature as much endurance as SSHDs, nor do they come with the venerable SAS connection. The eMLC NAND flash employed on the TurboBoost models, along with selective data caching, provides plenty of endurance for any workload during the warranty period.

In tests designed to ferret out the benefits of caching, we found the Enterprise Performance TurboBoost model exhibits excellent performance with cached data. With a full NAND buffer, we reached 5,000 IOPS within a tight latency range. In a more advanced test with a simulated hot band of data, we were able to reach 1,500 IOPS.

These tests highlighted the performance of data promoted to cache, but the TurboBoost 15K HDD architecture also provides a boost for "normal" data with its write-back caching mode. We continued to note appreciable performance gains and reduced variability with write workloads when we tested the full surface of the drive. The TurboBoost also fell within the normal power envelope of a 15K HDD, but exhibited a notable decrease in power consumption in sequential workloads.

Overall, the Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K HDD continues to impress. Enterprise-class features such as a five-year warranty, SED, and FIPS 140-2 models, and a two-million hour MTBF, highlight the fact that SSHD technology can provide the same reliability and features as standard 15K models. The Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K HDD provides performance well beyond typical short-stroking techniques, which is why it has earned the TweakTown Best Performance award.

PRICING: You can find the Seagate 600GB Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K HDD 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 Seagate 600GB Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K HDD retails for $643.00 at Amazon.

TweakTown award
Performance96%
Quality, Design, Build and Warranty94%
General Features94%
Performance Consistency90%
Power Consumption and Efficiency93%
Overall93%

The Bottom Line: Seagate's Enterprise Performance TurboBoost 15K hard drive provides a solution that addresses the middle ground between the price and capacity of an HDD, and SSD speed. Generational improvements in performance and a faster 12Gb/s connection yielded excellent 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.

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