Buying Guide for Enterprise Hard Drives

With all the excitement around solid state drives (SSDs), hard disk drives (HDDs) just haven’t been getting much attention. So here are some of the latest products available from HDD OEMs.

Toshiba Storage

Earlier in March, Toshiba debuted the AL13SX Series enterprise hard disk drives (HDD). With a 2.5-inch form factor, the AL13SX series models are Toshiba’s mission critical enterprise hard disk drives, spinning at 15,000RPM and available in 300GB, 450GB and 600GB capacities. The AL13SX series provides capacities equal to less power-efficient 3.5-inch enterprise drives.  

In addition, the company has engineered the Toshiba MG04 series. Intended for midline and nearline workloads, it is said to be the industry’s first enterprise capacity HDD supporting 4K Advanced Format sector technologies as well as persistent write cache technology, which is aimed at improving performance and reliability. This disk serves the high-capacity demands of mid-tier servers and cloud application workloads, as well as capacity-optimized data center storage systems. With a 6Gb/s interface model, the SAS MG04SCA and SATA MG04ACA series (7,200 rpm) are available in 3.5-inch form factor at capacities of up to 5TB. There is an option for persistent write cache technologies that help protect against data-loss in the event of sudden power loss.

“Toshiba enterprise storage device products are available with optional encryption and security features designed to comply with Industry Standard security protocols such as the Trusted Computing Group’s Enterprise Security Sub-Classification for self-encrypting drives,” said Scott Wright, Enterprise HDD Marketing Manager at Toshiba Storage Products Business Unit.


Seagate also provides an extensive line of enterprise 3.5 inch and 2.5 inch drives (SAS and SATA) including 15,000 rpm models with up to 300GB and 10,000 rpm HDDs holding up to 900GB Drives in both 3.5″ and 2.5″ form factors.

On the nearline drive side,the Seagate Enterprise Capacity 3.5 HDD, which is said to be the world’s fastest nearline drive with a 550TB/year workload rate limit, about 10 times that of desktop drives.

Further, Seagate supplies Self-Encrypted Drives (SED) at no additional charge. And like Toshiba and others in this guide, Seagate offers SSDs. The company advises users to select the right storage media for the right application.

“SSDs and HDDs complement each other in mixed workload environments,” said Seagate spokesperson Jon Piazza. “SAS has replaced FC for hard drives and SAS is moving from 6Gb/s to 12Gb/s for higher performance and scalability.”


Formerly Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, HGST is now owned by Western Digital (WD), although it continues to develop and market products independently of WD, according to Brendan Collins, Vice President of Product Marketing, HGST.

Its biggest recent announcement is the He6 line of Helium-filled HDDs. Based on its HelioSeal platform, this line is said to harness helium to create the world’s highest capacity HDDs. These hermetically sealed, helium-filled HDDs can be integrated into existing server and storage system architectures.

The HGST helium-filled Ultrastar He6 HDD, for example, has 6TB of storage.  

“This is the highest capacity HDD on the market with a seven-disk design, providing the best TCO, lowest power consumption and the best watts-per-TB,” said Collins.

He backs this up with numbers such as 23% lower idle power per drive, 49% better watts-per-TB and a density footprint 50% higher than the competition.  It is also lighter than a standard five-disk 3.5-inch drive by 50g, while containing two more disks, and has a 38% lower weight-per-TB.


Over the past year, WD has released a portfolio of enterprise-class data center HDDs to address needs such as high-performance, RAID-based enterprise storage and server systems, and scale-out replication-based data center.  Case in point: the WD Se Datacenter Capacity HDD for scale-out cloud and large-scale NAS applications. 

“With the combination of capacity, reliability, and workload capability, WD Se provides a cost-effective solution for large-scale cloud deployments and entry to mid-range arrays designed for low workload applications,” said Brian Mallari, director of product marketing WD datacenter products.

WD’s latest drive is the WD Purple, a line of 3.5-inch, high-capacity hard drives for video surveillance units. It provides up to eight hard drives (each 1 TB up to 4 TB) and up to 32 high-definition (HD) video cameras. According to Matt Rutledge, Senior Vice President of WD’s Storage Technology Group, the goal is to improve high-definition video playback, and to be able to operate in 24×7 surveillance environments.  

HDD Future

With the ongoing flash frenzy, should we all be abandoning ship on our spinning disks? Certainly, many of us have done just that with our latest laptops. But on the enterprise side, don’t expect HDDs to lie down quietly.

Mike Karp, an analyst at Ptak Associates, thinks spinning disks will be around for a long, long time, particularly slower drives with high capacity that are much cheaper than flash. But he doesn’t see much long-range future for Fibre Channel drives or other drives with spindle speeds at 10,000 rpm or beyond. These are relatively expensive, he said, closer to the purchase price of SSD’s, have small capacities, and the cost to operate them far exceeds the costs associated with solid-state drives, he said.

“Adding spindles to increase I/O performance is no longer a viable option,” said Karp. “But slower drives will be with us for a long time to come, finding use in applications where purchase price is paramount such as secondary storage, active archive, and D2D and D2D2T backups.” 

But Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group, thinks rumors of the demise of the HDD are premature.

“Despite being declared dead, they keep spinning and being used from consumer to SOHO to SMB to enterprise and in large quantities by cloud providers where they coexist with flash SSD,” said Schulz. “There are also some HDDs starting to re-appear in tablets or ultra-books that have been SSD based, but now need more space capacity. SSDs are great for IO consolidation where HDDs are good for space capacity optimization and consolidation, not to mention supporting lower performing active and near-line as well as backup and archive data at a lower cost.”

Collins of HGST added that HGST has seen a continued demand for performance-driven and high-capacity enterprise HDDs.

“About 10 to 15% of all data in the data center is hot, and our prediction is that roughly this same percentage of storage will end up on SSD and the remaining 85 to 90% will end up on HDD,” said Collins. “Since the price pre GB trends for both technologies look relatively similar, there will not be a crossover for the foreseeable future.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb has been a full-time professional writer and editor for more than twenty years. He currently works freelance for a number of IT publications, including eSecurity Planet and CIO Insight. He is also the editor-in-chief of an international engineering magazine.
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