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Sunday, 05 August 2018 10:20

Review – SeaGate IronWolf and IronWolf Pro 12Tb

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The days of big data demand big storage. Seagate's IronWolf range delivers it in spades, along with enterprise-grade reliability, concurrency and longevity.

The IronWolf and IronWolf Pro range look, on the surface, like a conventional 3.5” drive, but this massive-capacity drive now exceeds even its own previous 10TB heights. Seagate’s research, design and engineering efforts have now reached 12TB capacity still in the same 3.5” package. This is achieved using Perpendicular Magnetic Recording discs and by using helium, instead of air. As helium is less dense than air, it reduces the drag on spinning discs and permits thinner platter discs, which thus mean more discs can be squeezed into the same enclosure.

Both the IronWolf and IronWolf Pro are optimised for 24x7 NAS workloads with AgileArray, enabling dual-plane balancing and RAID optimisation in multi-bay environments, with the most advanced power management possible and rotational vibration sensors to maintain high performance in multi-drive NAS enclosures. The health of the drives is monitored by built-in IronWolf Health Management software, and employ an Avago controller with 256MB DRAM buffer.

The IronWolf range is not just a freakishly big hard disk, it's also a powerful and serious device.

Both models are seriously grunty premium units. However, the Pro is specially optimised for creative professionals offering increased drive reliability engineering upping the guaranteed 180TB writes per year to 300TB, and an increased warranty from three years to five. The Pro also provides two years access to Seagate's Rescue Data Recovery Service in case of disaster.

iTWire took a pair of Seagate IronWolf Pro 12TB drives for a spin – quite literally, with the drive’s internal platters spinning into action. Its 7200 RPM spindle delivered 250MB/s disk transfer rates, which contrasts well with the 195MB/s rate of the smaller 2TB brother.

These drives are designed primarily for use in NAS units — in which case you want at least two, to ensure redundancy — but it’s also quite possible to use them in your desktop PC. You will still enjoy vast capacity and excellent speeds, the data recovery service, and all the rest, but certainly won’t tax the controller’s concurrent user workload management functionality.

In a NAS you can literally just pop the drives in, and use the NAS’ management interface to format the disks. In your desktop, you will need to ensure the disk is formatted specially to handle its size. By default, Microsoft Windows will format a disk using the 32-bit Master Boot Record scheme, which cannot handle capacities greater than 2TB. If you install this disk in your computer and format, you’ll find you only have a single 2TB partition and the rest of the disk will be inaccessible. To unleash the extra capacity the disk must be formatted using the GUID Partition Tablescheme, and your BIOS must support Unified Extensible Firmware Interface if it is to boot from it.

Fortunately, it is easy enough to convert your disk to GPT if it has already been formatted via the command-line DISKPART utility. Run this from a command prompt, type LIST DISK to see your drives. Use SELECT DISK x, replacing “x” with the number of the disk you wish to convert as shown by the output from LIST DISK. Finally, type CONVERT GPT.

In all our experimentation, both within a NAS and within a PC, the drives performed admirably, offering truly massive storage and fast and responsive reads and writes even with heavy concurrent usage. Combine this with the Seagate data recovery warranty and you truly have an excellent choice of storage to keep your big files safe.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.