Western Digital RE 4TB Enterprise Hard Drive Review
The world of enterprise data solutions may seem like a nebulous one at first but the lines between the professional and general end user markets are beginning to blur ever so slightly. At first glance, Western Digital’s new RE series may cater directly to the datacenter market since they come in either SATA or SAS flavors and have a bevy of enterprise-focused features like an MTBF of 1.2 million hours, low power consumption and advanced shock resistance. They’re also quite expensive in comparison to the run-of-the-mill and even high performance HDDs available at your favorite retailer. But this isn’t to say you and I won’t be buying them since the RE series is supposed to provide the last word in reliability due to WD’s stringent validation process and who wouldn’t want their data lasting longer than most people’s lifespan’s?
In order to expand the RE series (or what used to be called the RAID Edition), Western Digital is now adding a massively endowed 4TB SKU. Not only will this offer a solution perfectly for the “Big Data” needs of tomorrow but a sequential data rate of 171 MB/s over a SATA 6Gbps interface actually makes it one of the faster 7200PRM drives on the market. For those outside of its intended market, just be prepared to give up about $425 to own one of the SATA models. The SAS version meanwhile goes for just under $500
Finally getting to the 4TB high water mark did take a while though. Last year we saw the advent of ultra dense 1TB per platter hard drives and it seemed like 4TB – or even larger – 3.5” hard drives were just over the horizon. It really was a great time to be a storage enthusiast. Then the great flood of 2011 hit and literally overnight, the onward march towards bigger, faster and better hard drives came to a stumbling halt.
It took Western Digital a nice while to recover, but not all that long ago they finally showed the world that they were back and released the very potent VelociRaptor 1TB. While this new drive was indeed impressive, most of the community was waiting for a 7200rpm drive with cavernous capacity and intoxicating performance. The RE may not fit this bill perfectly but it will tide us over until the new Black 4TB becomes widely available.
The Western Digital RE 4TB is an interesting blend of old and new technology all wrapped up inside a design that brings new meaning to the word overkill. As the name suggests, this drive is meant for multi disk RAID environments and as such, Time Limited Error Recovery (TLER) has been set to a scant few seconds. After this timeframe expires, the RE will stop trying to recover from errors and expect the attached RAID controller to do the heavy lifting. Sadly, Western Digital has still not opted to update their WDTLER program to allow user-instituted changes to this default setting.
Interestingly enough, Western Digital has also foregone the use 1TB platters for this behemoth. Rather than requiring 4 platters to hit the impressive 4TB mark, the 4TB RE uses five 800GB platters to reach its capacity. This does have the unfortunate consequence of making it a touch more power hungry that it otherwise could be but according to Western Digital, the 5-platter design optimizes longevity. This is a trade-off many in the enterprise world are more than willing to accept.
While the internal design does make the RE 4TB a touch heavier than the common hard drive, the exterior does not look all that different or even all that unique. Western Digital may not have bestowed 1TB platters upon this drive they have given it dual actuator technology, 64MB of cache, and a Marvell dual core controller. The 64MB of cache present in the form of a single Winbond W9751G6JB-25, 64MB DDR2-800 IC which has 5-5-5 timings. There are also accelerometers and pressure sensors attached to the PCB, which –with some advanced algorithms- makes up Western Digital’s Rotary Acceleration Feed Forward (RAFF) technology. Much like on the Raptor line of drives, this technology is able to sense and compensate in real time for rotational and linear vibrations which could otherwise result in a shortened lifespan or even catastrophic failure. These added features also help explain the larger than usual PCB and the 1.2 million hour MTBF rating.
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