Solid state drives (SSDs) may grab most of the headlines these days, but demand for cloud-enabled products and system storage continues to rise, and hard drives are still an order of magnitude cheaper than even the cheapest SSDs. Seagate is pushing the boundaries on magnetic spinning media with a new suite of 10TB hard drives — and it’s relaunching a familiar brand name in the consumer space while introducing new brands for its NAS and remote surveillance products. Collectively, these 10TB drives are known as the Guardian Series.
For over a decade, Seagate’s high-end consumer drives were branded as Barracuda’s. In 2013 the company unofficially retired the name, choosing instead to refer to its desktop drives as “Desktop HDD.” While the company wins points for simplicity, “Desktop HDD” isn’t the kind of branding that gets anyone excited about anything. Seagate is relaunching the Barracuda — or BarraCuda if you prefer Seagate’s new spelling — brand name around its 10TB consumer drives.
BarraCuda drives will be available in two flavors — BarraCuda and BarraCuda Pro. The BarraCuda base drives are available in a variety of capacities and both the 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch form factors, while BarraCuda Pro drives are 3.5-inch products available in up to 10TB. Seagate is also rebranding its solid state hybrid hard drives (SSHD) as FireCuda.
The difference between the BarraCuda and BarraCuda Pro is their workload rate limits (yearly), warranty period, and sustained transfer rates. The BarraCuda drives can transfer up to 210MB/s, have a 55TB/year workload limit, and a two-year warranty. BarraCuda Pro drives, in contrast, offer a 220MB/s sustained transfer rate, 300TB/year write limit (in 24×7 operation) and five-year warranty.
Be advised that “Sustained transfer rate” is a suspect phrase at best. A typical 7200 RPM HDD’s sustained transfer rate will depend on where data is stored on the drive. Data stored at the outer edge will transfer more quickly than the innermost tracks, which is why short-stroking hard drives to isolate and only use the outer tracks used to be a thing.
Seagate’s literature makes reference to intelligent cache management software as improving overall BarraCuda performance, but its conventional BarraCuda / BarraCuda Pro drives don’t include any NAND flash and their DRAM caches (now up to 256MB on the 10TB drives) have been bumped up to keep pace with rising storage capacities.
(Fun fact: The first large-cache hard drives was the Western Digital WD800JB. It was an 80GB HDD with an 8MB cache and noticeably better performance than its 2MB-equipped counterpart. Hard drive manufacturers have obviously developed more efficient cache mechanisms; the BarraCuda Pro is 125x the WD800JB’s capacity but has just 32x the cache RAM).
These new 10TB drives don’t appear to use helium, but they aren’t based on Shingled Magnetic Recording, either. These drives use conventional perpendicular recording, which means they won’t take a performance hit when writing data.
Seagate is also launching new brand names and product families for its other divisions. Surveillance drives for remote cameras are now sold under the Skyhawk brand, while its 10TB network attached storage (NAS) drives will be branded as Ironwolf. The Ironwolf drives contain additional vibration dampening technology, including remote vibration sensors, dual-plane balancing, and built-in error recovery control.
Dampening vibration is a serious consideration for NAS (Network attached storage) devices or servers. As the video above shows, yelling into a server can kill hard drive performance.
These new product launches are a significant achievement — 10TB consumer drives are a significant step above what’s already on the market and Seagate is confident enough in its product portfolio to roll them out across all of its products at the same time. These new launches come as the company is prepping for significant rounds of layoffs and a reduction in its overall drive manufacturing.
Seagate has announced two rounds of layoffs in the last six weeks and plans to fire roughly 8,100 people over the next 12 months, or 14% of its current global workforce. The company also plans to build fewer hard drives per quarter, from current targets of 55-60 million down to 35-40 million drives.
HDD manufacturers have been hit hard by two trends in the PC market. Like the rest of the PC industry, they face shrinking unit shipments as consumer and business PC sales drop and long-hoped for refresh cycles fail to materialize. They’re also under pressure from SSDs. While most PCs still favor hard drives over solid state storage, SSDs have carved out a healthy chunk of business that used to belong to the hard drive manufacturers. Conventional spinning drives are going nowhere anytime soon, but stiff competition from solid state storage is going to make life as a magnetic medium manufacturer increasingly difficult.