At CES 2019, the Seagate IronWolf 110 SATA SSD made its debut. In a time when most in the industry are saying that SATA SSDs are dying, Seagate is boldly betting against that trend with the new line.
Technical Background on “Why” Seagate IronWolf 110 Exists
With most of the enterprise NAND storage migrating quickly to NVMe and SAS3, one may wonder, why SATA. The answer lies in the underlying architecture of the NAS segment. NAS appliances typically use lower power chips such as the Intel Atom C3000 “Denverton” series. The Intel Atom C3000 series is a big upgrade over the previous generation Atom C2000 series. One of the innovations was adding High Speed I/O (HSIO) lanes to the chips.
These HSIO lanes can be used for storage as SATA or PCIe lanes. With lower-end chips like the Atom C3538 which is popular in desktop NAS units like the Synology DS1618+ we reviewed, there are only twelve HSIO lanes. These twelve lanes now usually have 4-8 that are reserved for PCIe expansion. That leaves only a handful of lanes for connecting drives.
Designers can add PCIe SATA controllers that add cost to these platforms, but it is rare to see full-blown SAS HBAs or RAID cards in a desktop NAS. Adding a SAS HBA adds hundreds to the MSRP of a NAS and increases power consumption.
Since designers need to make a choice, most will use the HSIO lanes, or PCH/ southbridge SATA connectivity built into modern platforms for lower-end NAS units. Since many support only 1GbE to 10GbE connectivity, an array of SATA SSDs is able to fill external Ethernet network pipes with data in a NAS scenario.
While the rest of the market is moving to NVMe or SAS, the lower-end NAS segment continues to use SATA because it makes sense. Under this premise, the Seagate IronWolf 110 SATA SSDs are an interesting new product in the segment.
Seagate IronWolf 110 Key Specs
Here are the key specs of the IronWolf 110. You will see the 3D TLC NAND along with the SATA III interfaces. Capacities start at 240GB and double each drive to a capacity of 3.84TB at the high-end.
Frankly, 435TBW on an average prosumer NAS 240GB SSD is a lot, and 7PBW on the 3.84TB drive is more than just about anyone can use. The drives are designed to offer lower power operation and faster speeds than traditional hard drives at the expense of capacity per device. The Seagate IronWolf 110 SSDs also include Durawrite which this video does a good job explaining.
At first, launching a SATA SSD in 2019 for an application other than as a boot device seems strange. Then one realizes that NAS manufacturers like QNAP, Synology, Thecus, Drobo, Asustor, and others are being forced to continue offering SATA because of desktop NAS form factors and technical underpinnings. In that context, Seagate is going after what it sees as an emerging NAS market much like Western Digital did with its Red series many years ago. Future generations with 3D QLC NAND will increase capacities and we can see this being a go-to option for NAS units that are in vibration-prone environments like production vans. SSDs have enormous advantages for rugged operation. The Seagate IronWolf 110 is a drive the industry will watch to see how it catches on in the NAS arena.