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Hard Drive Reliability Study Flawed? 237

storagedude writes "A recent study of hard drive reliability by Backblaze was deeply flawed, according to Henry Newman, a longtime HPC storage consultant. Writing in Enterprise Storage Forum, Newman notes that the tested Seagate drives that had a high failure rate were either very old or had known issues. The study also failed to address manufacturer's specifications, drive burn-in and data reliability, among other issues. 'The oldest drive in the list is the Seagate Barracuda 1.5 TB drive from 2006. A drive that is almost 8 years old! Since it is well known in study after study that disk drives last about 5 years and no other drive is that old, I find it pretty disingenuous to leave out that information. Add to this that the Seagate 1.5 TB has a well-known problem that Seagate publicly admitted to, it is no surprise that these old drives are failing.'"
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Hard Drive Reliability Study Flawed?

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  • by TheRealQuestor ( 1750940 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @09:25PM (#46106203)
    BS. I have had at least 2/3 of my newer seagates fail. From 500 gigs to 2TB drives. At LEAST 10 in the last 3 years. In the same time I have had 1 of 6 hitachi and 2 of 18 western digital. I will NEVER buy another seagate drive. Just lost my external 1.5TB USB3 drives go last week with 0 warning and TON of my data. I hate seagate with a passion that I feel for no other.
  • Re:In all fairness (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @09:32PM (#46106273) Homepage

    If the entire box is dead, wouldn't that imply mishandling during shipping?

    Bad batches during production. Seagate used to be famous for this, and if you look back at their 90's financials you can see that for quite a while they were hanging on from folding by the edge of their teeth.

  • What's the point? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @09:37PM (#46106311)

    This article states everything anyone competent already knew. Consumer drives come rated for a lighter workload than enterprise.

    Duh? That's the point - it's a cost:reliability tradeoff. With "enterprise" drives being 1.5x+ the expense, for uses like Backblaze where you can survive multiple disk failures with ease it's a no-brainer.

    I also got "burned" by these Seagate 1.5TB disks. By *far* the worst drives we have in production (~300 or so these days), and they have had an annual failure rate around 20% since the day they were put into service. Other consumer drives don't even come close to that metric, but are rated similarly.

    I actually like Seagate - every disk manufacturer has problematic models from time to time. No big deal, we knew the risks when we bought them. However, the data Backblaze published is completely validated by our own internal data. It's a drive model to avoid when at all possible. Most of our disks have a less than 5% annual failure rate, but this specific model is close to, or over, 20%. That's a major difference.

    This article just states the obvious. Consumer drives generally fail earlier under heavy loads. This is not interesting, it's a known tradeoff anyone with a high school degree can figure out for themselves by looking at cycle ratings and MTBF. The only thing I care about for this workload, is if my failure rate exceeds the savings I get from utilizing the lesser drives. The answer has thus far (even with 20% of drives failing each year) been a resounding yes.

    There is a difference between consumer drives, data like this is *great* to have published as it can add to your own data and you can compare notes. Will I make a buying decision based off it? Probably not. But it will certainly be one data point of many when it comes time to buy more disk. Known issue? I don't care. All I care about is if the drive works or not, and this particular Seagate model does not. The author of this article completely glances over the fact Seagate admitted to the issue, but did absolutely *nothing* to make it right for their customers essentially blaming them. This fact is what bothers me the most, not the fact they had a problematic drive model - and will likely be the largest factor when it comes to my evaluating Seagate products in the future.

  • by spikestabber ( 644578 ) <> on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @10:09PM (#46106489) Homepage
    We have well over 150 3TB Seagate Barracuda's at work that are halfway into their second year of operation. The first year has been pretty flawless, maybe 1 failure, but the second year, we've had about 15 already get peppered with bad sectors and its continuing to happen at least once per week or so on more drives. This hands a lot of crediblity to Backblazes findings if you ask me. Again these are modern 3TB Barracuda's, (non-XT) I was sad when they discontued the XT line, simply because we have about 30 of the XT 2TB models into their 3rd year and no failures yet. Oh, right, they didn't discontinue the XT at all, rather turned it into the Constellation series and sold it for double the price!
  • Re:Meh. fud spam. (Score:5, Informative)

    by citizenr ( 871508 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @11:04PM (#46106789) Homepage

    SSD is getting cheaper and faster every day.

    You know whats getting cheaper? TLC flash, the kind that degrades WHEN YOU READ IT, the kind that has internal read counter and needs to be written again after a certain number of reads to level cell voltages, the kind that has ~300 writes life span. Its designed to DIE no matter what you do with it.

  • re: drive throughput (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sangui5 ( 12317 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @11:23PM (#46106913)

    IIRC Backblaze's workload is write once read maybe once (I mean, they are a backup company). So it's quite likely that they are massively under the specs for throughput.

    The truly interesting thing about this study is that they name names; previous work in the area (lke Bianca Schroeder's FAST 07 paper, [] or Google's FAST 07 paper, [], or NetApp's FAST 08 paper []) doesn't give away vendor names. The Backblaze results broadly agree with the previous results.

  • Re:In all fairness (Score:5, Informative)

    by sribe ( 304414 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @11:25PM (#46106925)

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Seagate absorbed Miniscribe by way of Maxtor. I wouldn't be so sure that 'shipping bricks' isn't in their patent portfolio.

    Since most /. folks weren't even alive back then, let me recap a few of Miniscribe's business tactics:

    - Set up off-the-books companies to which they "sold" drives that were simply stored in warehouses.

    - Claimed the sale of drives which had not yet been delivered to customers. Their outside auditors called them out on the fact that they couldn't claim the income from drives that were still on the boat from China, and made them restate earnings. When it all fell apart, the criminal investigation discovered that the drives had never even existed to begin witth.

    - Took returned dead disk drives, tossed them onto a pile in the office which was nicknamed the "dog pile", and when the pile got big enough, packed them up and shipped them out as new orders.

    So no, Seagate is nothing at all like Miniscribe ;-)

  • Re:Meh. fud spam. (Score:5, Informative)

    by greg1104 ( 461138 ) <> on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @11:59PM (#46107103) Homepage

    Recent reliability testing [] has been downright horrifying for the TLC based drives. I predict a whole lot of people buying Samsung 840 drives because they're cheap are going to regret that.

  • Re:In all fairness (Score:5, Informative)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Thursday January 30, 2014 @12:08AM (#46107137) Journal

    Well I go through a lot of drives at the shop and while I haven't had a chance to try the new 4Tb I can say their 1Tb, 1.5Tb, and 2Tb had a LOT of fails, enough that I actively avoid them now. Rumor has it that its caused by Maxtor shitty ARM chips and lousy firmware but that's rumor so who knows if its true.

    From what I've seen, in order from least failures to most, Samsung (especially Ecogreens, they just seem to last and last), Hitachi, WD, and finally Seagate. Maybe their business side is better but on the consumer side their 500Gb drives are good but anything bigger than the 640Gb just seem to die.

    Sadly it really doesn't matter now that Samsung and Hitachi have had their drive business bought by Seagate and WD so if you need real storage space? Gotta pick one of the other. The WD blues and greens seem to be decent ATM and the red NAS drives make good storage for HTPCs.

  • Re:Meh. fud spam. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Agret ( 752467 ) <alias.zero2097@gma i l .com> on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:36AM (#46107973) Homepage Journal

    Although the 840 Series is clearly in worse shape than the competition, these results need to be put into context. 500TB works out to 140GB of writes per day for 10 years. That's an insane amount even for power users, and it far exceeds the endurance specifications of our candidates.

    Seems like it's not as bad as you make it out, I don't think i'd be using a 'puny' 250gb drive in 10yrs much like I don't use 250gb HDDs now that drives over 1TB are around. 1TB SSDs are already around the $500 mark and after ~5 yrs I think they'll be quite affordable.

  • Article is accurate (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @07:44AM (#46108517)

    Just last December of 2013, we have purchased around 200 Toshiba (but are the same Hitachi/HGST drives before) and 250 Seagate drives (500GB). There were no DOA for Hitachi drives and there were a couple for the Seagate. After around a month, so far only Seagate has been sent for warranty.

    Previously we have purchased around 350 Hitachi/HGST drives (500GB) and the failure rate is definitely less than 5% per annum in a span of around 3 years. I haven't proceed warranty of around 50 pcs. Probably it will be somewhere around 35 pcs.

    In our near-line storage environment, we also had WD (1TB), Hitachi (2TB), and Seagate (1TB, 1.5TB, 3TB.) I have the following observations:
    1. Enterprise drives (Seagate 1TB SAS) had similar failure rates than regular drives. We have 7 out of 10 in a span of around 5 years.
    2. Eight Hitachi 2TB drives are still working well after 2-3 years without failure.
    3. Seagate 1.5TB (7200.11) drives are around 3-4 years old where around 6 out of 26 drives are already dead.
    4. WD Black 1TB drives are around 4-5 years old and that we have 13 out of 16 still working.
    5. Seagate 3TB (SV35) drives are just over one year old and we have 2 out of 24 fail after the one year.

    Statistically, the failure rates that is observed are similar to what we are getting. Unfortunately here, we can no longer get Hitachi drives per se since they became Western Digital and locally it is not promoted anymore. We are sticking with Toshiba but I hope they are able to maintain it.

    Note: All drives are 7200RPM

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"