Seagate’s Barracuda ES.2 SAS drives make for an interesting and certainly unexpected entry to the rapidly evolving storage market. Seagate definitely took a chance with this drive, as no other player in the market has taken desktop-class technology and re-marketed it towards the workstation and server markets. Typically, it’s the other way around. However, this is a solid move, in our opinion, as IT managers can now buy both high performance 10K/15K RPM and high-capacity 7,200 RPM drives with a single SAS interface, instead of having to mix and match controller just to get costs in line with SATA for bulk storage.
There are a few scenarios which play out as possible needs for such a product. First off, you have those who want a ripping fast 15K SAS drive as the boot drive or for high throughput/transaction rate applications, along with one or more 1 TB SAS disks for bulk storage. Previously, you would have to opt for a high-capacity SATA drive, which would have to run on another connector (typically your motherboard or another controller). These drives could also be heavily used to provide large-scale capacity for rack servers with SAS interfaces. Or, you could run the disks all by themselves with a cheap SAS controller or an onboard SAS controller, and have mildly fast storage with the benefits of SAS coming into play.
If you’re looking for an incredibly fast drive, this new Barracuda doesn't have as much bite as its high-end SAS brethren, but there are environments where it performs quite well for a 7,200 RPM class drive. The drive can perform quite well under certain scenarios, as shown by our HDTune and IOmeter benchmarks, which were very solid for a 7,200 RPM solution. On the other hand, our FC-Test and PCMark Vantage disk numbers were undeniably pokey, giving us a mixed opinion on the product for mainstream applications. When you throw in the higher cost of the solution with the price of a SAS controller card, one of the new generation 7,200 RPM SATA drives will typically provide similar levels of performance compared to the ES.2 SAS. Whether its performance abnormalities were caused by the lower cache memory or inefficiencies with our SAS controller, its performance today in some scenarios is just doesn't quite measure up.
The Barracuda ES.2 SAS is not what one would consider a consumer level product and very likely won’t be a big seller in the end-user/enthusiast space. However, it should fill a long-empty hole in the workstation and storage markets, allowing true high-capacity storage at fairly low price points with SAS connectivity. It’s unlikely that there will be competition in this arena for quite some time, so if you need lots of SAS-enabled storage capacity, this is just about the only drive to consider right now. However, we would recommend perhaps waiting for an updated version of the drive as firmware revisions will likely smooth things out a bit for the platform. Beyond some slight performance variances and anomalies, the Barracuda ES2 1TB SAS drive is a solid storage product overall. It has low noise, lots of capacity and is capable of pushing out excellent performance in the right usage model. This unit currently sells for $315+, about $60 more than the ES.2 SATA variant, a tough pill to swallow for the average end user, when you throw in the additional price of a SAS controller. However, performance enthusiasts can now dare to dream of a high capacity option in a SAS-enabled Hardware RAID configuration. And of course, for storage server applications, this new 'Cuda from Seagate could be a big fish in the not-so small pond of enterprise storage.