Traditional hard disk storage is living on borrowed time. We know it and storage manufacturers know it. Solid state drives, which use non-volatile memory chips instead of rotating metal discs for storing data, are simply a better medium in the long run. They consume less power, create nearly zero heat, and produce no noise – but best of all, there are no moving parts to wear out over time. The technology and prices aren’t quite there yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Take a quick look through any tech-oriented forum and you will likely run into folks proclaiming the death of traditional platter based storage. For the most part, they're right - but there is a twist to the story as platter based storage manufacturers are fighting back.
There is still plenty of life in traditional storage technologies, and Seagate is out to prove that. In fact, Seagate is out to show that not only can their new line-up of high-end hard disks provide better cost per gigabyte ratios compared to SSDs, but it can also run circles around many of the current SSD offerings, in raw read / write performance. Many folks are under the assumption that SSD’s are the end-all, be-all of high-performance storage. While SSD’s are excellent in terms of seek times, digging deeper shows that their read / write speeds are sometimes lacking compared to today’s high-end hard disks.
With their newly launched Cheetah 15K.6 hard drives, Seagate is looking to bust the doors off of the performance numbers people expect to see with platter-based storage. Some quick numbers to whet your appetite – most desktop level (7,200 RPM) hard drives have sustained transfer rates of about 50 - 60MB/s, where newer models are reaching 70-80MB/s. Typical high-end 10K hard drives can push upwards of 100MB/s. This new Cheetah 15K.6, however, claims to offer up to 170MB/s sustained throughput, surpassing what’s possible with many solid state hard drives currently (though a new generation of SSDs from Intel and others will take SSD performance up a notch again soon). In addition, the Cheetah 15K.6 is over 25% faster than previous generation 15K.5 disks.
Seagate is eager to show what these new discs are capable of, so we’ve got a special treat for all you HotHardware readers. Not only do we have the new Cheetah 15K.6 in house for testing against a load of other enterprise-class hard disks, but we’ve got a pile of them. Not only do we have performance numbers of the 15K.6 in a single drive installation, but we’ve got numbers with them running in high-end RAID-0 and RAID-5 configurations, to show performance scaling capability as well. For those who say platter-based storage is breathing its final breath, you might reconsider that notion. Read on...
Four Seagate Cheetah 15K.6 450GB Drives - 1.8TB of 15,000 RPM luxury storage.
Best In Class Comparisons
Before we look at the Cheetah 15K.6 in greater detail, it’s worth a quick look at the environment which this drive is entering into. If you’re looking at the ultimate in performance in a particular class, here are a few solid options currently on the market in different mediums, for a spec and price comparison.
|Best In Class Performance SAS HDD||Best In Class Performance SATA-II HDD||Best In Class Performance SATA-II SSD|
|Seagate Cheetah 15K.6||Western Digital VelociRaptor||OCZ Core Series|
|Peak Capacity||450 GB||300 GB||128 GB|
|Price Per Gigabyte||$1.7 / GB||$1.0 / GB||$3.90 / GB|
|Sustained Read Speeds||171 MB/s||120 MB/s||143 MB/s|
|Spindle Speed||15,000 RPM||10,000 RPM||N/A|
|Cache Memory||16 MB||16 MB||N/A|
|Average Read Seek Time||3.4 ms||4.2 ms||0.1 ms|
|Average Write Seek Time||3.9 ms||4.7 ms||0.1 ms|
|Average Latency||2.0 ms||5.5 ms||0.1 ms|
|Interface||Serial Attached SCSI 3 GB/s||Serial ATA-II/300||Serial ATA-II/300|
|Acoustics||36 dBA (Idle)
|29 dBA (Idle)
36 dBA (Seek)
|0 dBA (Idle)|
0 dBA (Seek)
|MTBF||1.6 Million Hours||1.4 Million Hours||1.5 Million Hours|
|Warranty||5 Years||5 Years||5 Years|
As we can see, the Cheetah 15K.6 drive currently holds a pretty sizable lead in terms of sustained read speeds over one of the fastest SSDs currently available, and can do so at a lower price per GB ratio compared to high-end SSDs. Of course, SSDs have the inherent advantages of exponentially lower seek times, zero noise, and much lower power consumption. We should also note that Intel's branded SSD product line is going to hit the market soon and is expected to have disk read speeds up to 250 MB/s, but as of today, they are not available for purchase.
The Cheetah 15K.6 drive is nearly double the cost per gigabyte compared to Western Digital’s newly launched VelociRaptor product, but considering the performance differences between the two, this is not too surprising. One must also factor in the cost of a SAS controller board for the 15K.6 drives, which our SATA-II drives don’t have to deal with as well, which is also added cost if you're coming from the land of SATA-based storage. Let’s look at the Cheetah 15K.6 closeup, next.