RealTime IT News

WD Thinks Green for 2TB Enterprise Drive

Western Digital
Source: Western Digital
Hard drive maker Western Digital has expanded its enterprise class of hard drives with the introduction of a 2-terabyte capacity unit -- an offering that promises not only huge storage, but energy efficiency as well.

With the new WD RE4-GP, Western Digital is currently the only manufacturer offering 2 TB hard drives for enterprise applications. Compared to previous generations, the RE4-GP has some additional improvements under the hood: The drive speeds up data with dual processors and an astounding 64 MB of cache, double that of many high-end SATA drives.

At the same time, Western Digital is aiming to convey that it's taking green to heart as Earth Day approaches. The WD RE4-GP is the first the company has designed with power savings as the primary goal, conserving power and running very cool, while still delivering solid performance for some applications and long-term reliability.

Some of the obvious ways that WD makes this drive green is by utilizing state-of-the-art, power-saving circuitry and by giving the drive a larger cache, which means the drive has to access the media less often. The unit also enters an idle state when it can, but still spins back in less than a second -- even parking heads to reduce drag, and thus the power needed to keep it spinning.

A less obvious way to be green is the unit's increased drive capacity, which means a company needs fewer physical drives.

Another hidden cost to the environment -- but a clear contributor to ownership costs -- is the need to physically replace old or worn-out drives. That's less of a concern with a drive like the WD RE4-GP, which boasts Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) of over a million hours. In theory, at least, the drives can run for 130 years in a heavy-duty cycle environment, and only half of them would fail in that time.

That longevity has important implications for the environmentally conscious: Making replacement drives takes power and natural resources.

The RE4-GP does feature some shortcomings compared to its rivals in the enterprise datacenter: The drive is based on SATA technology and doesn't have the high-speed rotation and data interface typically seen in SCSI drives used for data-intensive applications. But that still means they're suitable for a slew of applications around tape replacement and multimedia, WD said.

"Our first-generation green drives have had a huge position in tape replacement, large-scale non-RAID audio applications, and video surveillance," said Tom McDorman, vice president and general manager in Western Digital's enterprise storage solutions division. "In fact, a case study done at the Venetian Macau casino found a 44 percent reduction in power."

Another concern for some stats-watchers is that WD shies away from discussing the drive's rotational speed. While the WD RE3, an earlier model in Western Digital's standard -- that is, non-green -- enterprise drive lineup offers speeds of 7,200 rotations per minute (RPM), WD said only that the metric is outdated when it comes to its green drives.

"We believe rotational speed is becoming an old spec that everybody will soon forget about -- it will be replaced by the overall access time combining seek time, the magnets, spindle speed, everything would come into play," McDorman said.

"As we build each individual platform, we found the optimum RPM for the different platforms was different. As we drove for power consumption, one RPM isn't necessarily the best," he added. "Also, lower RPMs isn't always lower power, many factors come into play."

McDorman did suggest, however, the average speeds for the unit range near the mid-5500 RPMs, give or take a few hundred.

The WD RE4-GP carries a suggested price tag of $329.