Hard Drive Stats for Q1 2017

By | May 9th, 2017

2017 hard drive stats

In this update, we’ll review the Q1 2017 and lifetime hard drive failure rates for all our current drive models, and we’ll look at a relatively new class of drives for us – “enterprise”. We’ll share our observations and insights, and as always, you can download the hard drive statistics data we use to create these reports.

Our Hard Drive Data Set

Backblaze has now recorded and saved daily hard drive statistics from the drives in our data centers for over 4 years. This data includes the SMART attributes reported by each drive, along with related information such a the drive serial number and failure status. As of March 31, 2017 we had 84,469 operational hard drives. Of that there were 1,800 boot drives and 82,669 data drives. For our review, we remove drive models of which we have less than 45 drives, leaving us to analyze 82,516 hard drives for this report. There are currently 17 different hard drives models, ranging in size from 3 to 8 TB in size. All of these models are 3½” drives.

Hard Drive Reliability Statistics for Q1 2017

Since our last report in Q4 2016, we have added 10,577 additional hard drives to bring us to the 82,516 drives we’ll focus on. We’ll start by looking at the statistics for the period of January 1, 2017 through March 31, 2017 – Q1 2017. This is for the drives that were operational during that period, ranging in size from 3 to 8 TB as listed below.

hard drive failure rates by model

Observations and Notes on the Q1 Review

You’ll notice that some of the drive models have a failure rate of “0” (zero). Here a failure rate of zero means there were no drive failures for that model during Q1 2017. Later, we will cover how these same drive models faired over their lifetime. Why is the quarterly data important? We use it to look for anything unusual. For example, in Q1 the 4 TB Seagate drive model: ST4000DX000, has a high failure rate of 35.88%, while the lifetime annualized failure rate for this model is much lower, 7.50%. In this case, we only have a 170 drives of this particular drive model, so the failure rate is not statistically significant, but such information could be useful if we were using several thousand drives of this particular model.

There were a total 375 drive failures in Q1. A drive is considered failed if one or more of the following conditions are met:

  • The drive will not spin up or connect to the OS.
  • The drive will not sync, or stay synced, in a RAID Array (see note below).
  • The Smart Stats we use show values above our thresholds.
  • Note: Our stand-alone Storage Pods use RAID-6, our Backblaze Vaults use our own open-sourced implementation of Reed-Solomon erasure coding instead. Both techniques have a concept of a drive not syncing or staying synced with the other member drives in its group.

The annualized hard drive failure rate for Q1 in our current population of drives is 2.11%. That’s a bit higher than previous quarters, but might be a function of us adding 10,577 new drives to our count in Q1. We’ve found that there is a slightly higher rate of drive failures early on, before the drives “get comfortable” in their new surroundings. This is seen in the drive failure rate “bathtub curve” we covered in a previous post.

10,577 More Drives

The additional 10,577 drives are really a combination of 11,002 added drives, less 425 drives that were removed. The removed drives were in addition to the 375 drives marked as failed, as those were replaced 1 for 1. The 425 drives were primarily removed from service due to migrations to higher density drives.

The table below shows the breakdown of the drives added in Q1 2017 by drive size.

drive counts by size

Lifetime Hard Drive Failure Rates for Current Drives

The table below shows the failure rates for the hard drive models we had in service as of March 31, 2017. This is over the period beginning in April 2013 and ending March 31, 2017. If you are interested in the hard drive failure rates for all the hard drives we’ve used over the years, please refer to our 2016 hard drive review.

lifetime hard drive reliability rates

The annualized failure rate for the drive models listed above is 2.07%. This compares to 2.05% for the same collection of drive models as of the end of Q4 2016. The increase makes sense given the increase in Q1 2017 failure rate over previous quarters noted earlier. No new models were added during the current quarter and no old models exited the collection.

Backblaze is Using Enterprise Drives – Oh My!

Some of you may have noticed we now have a significant number of enterprise drives in our data center, namely 2,459 Seagate 8 TB drives, model: ST8000NM055. The HGST 8 TB drives were the first true enterprise drives we used as data drives in our data centers, but we only have 45 of them. So, why did we suddenly decide to purchase 2,400+ of the Seagate 8 TB enterprise drives? There was a very short period of time, as Seagate was introducing new and phasing out old drive models, that the cost per terabyte of the 8 TB enterprise drives fell within our budget. Previously we had purchased 60 of these drives to test in one Storage Pod and were satisfied they could work in our environment. When the opportunity arose to acquire the enterprise drives at a price we liked, we couldn’t resist.

Here’s a comparison of the 8 TB consumer drives versus the 8 TB enterprise drives to date:

enterprise vs. consumer hard drives

What have we learned so far…

  1. It is too early to compare failure rates – The oldest enterprise drives have only been in service for about 2 months, with most being placed into service just prior to the end of Q1. The Backblaze Vaults the enterprise drives reside in have yet to fill up with data. We’ll need at least 6 months before we could start comparing failure rates as the data is still too volatile. For example, if the current enterprise drives were to experience just 2 failures in Q2, their annualized failure rate would be about 0.57% lifetime.
  2. The enterprise drives load data faster – The Backblaze Vaults containing the enterprise drives, loaded data faster than the Backblaze Vaults containing consumer drives. The vaults with the enterprise drives loaded on average 140 TB per day, while the vaults with the consumer drives loaded on average 100 TB per day.
  3. The enterprise drives use more power – No surprise here as according to the Seagate specifications the enterprise drives use 9W average in idle and 10W average in operation. While the consumer drives use 7.2W average in idle and 9W average in operation. For a single drive this may seem insignificant, but when you put 60 drives in a 4U Storage Pod chassis and then 10 chassis in a rack, the difference adds up quickly.
  4. Enterprise drives have some nice features – The Seagate enterprise 8TB drives we used have PowerChoice™ technology that gives us the option to use less power. The data loading times noted above were recorded after we changed to a lower power mode. In short, the enterprise drive in a low power mode still stored 40% more data per day on average than the consumer drives.
  5. While it is great that the enterprise drives can load data faster, drive speed has never been a bottleneck in our system. A system that can load data faster will just “get in line” more often and fill up faster. There is always extra capacity when it comes to accepting data from customers.

    Wrapping Up

    We’ll continue to monitor the 8 TB enterprise drives and keep reporting our findings.

    If you’d like to hear more about our Hard Drive Stats, Backblaze will be presenting at the 33rd International Conference on Massive Storage Systems and Technology (MSST 2017) being held at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara California from May 15th – 19th. The conference will dedicate five days to computer-storage technology, including a day of tutorials, two days of invited papers, two days of peer-reviewed research papers, and a vendor exposition. Come join us.

    As a reminder, the hard drive data we use is available on our Hard Drive Test Data page. You can download and use this data for free for your own purpose, all we ask is three things 1) you cite Backblaze as the source if you use the data, 2) you accept that you are solely responsible for how you use the data, and 3) you do not sell this data to anyone, it is free.

    Good luck and let us know if you find anything interesting.

Andy Klein

Andy Klein

Andy has 20+ years experience in technology marketing. He has shared his expertise in computer security and data backup at the Federal Trade Commission, Rootstech, RSA and over 100 other events. His current passion is to get everyone to back up their data before it's too late.