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WD Red SMR Drive Compatibility with ZFS

Western Digital Drives - The Preferred Drives of FreeNAS and TrueNAS CORE

c77dk

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Nov 27, 2019
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107
..... I also started a replacement issue with the WD support in Germany. The hotline seems to be competent. We agreed to replace one disk after the other, since they want to replace after I sent the the old one first to them. I'll see how it will go.
If there is interest I could give a update how the story went.
Did they agree to replace all the EFAX drives, even though they aren't new any more? I can see I might have to get in touch with them :smile: Got 4 from around december '19
 

zedfive

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Aug 12, 2020
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Did they agree to replace all the EFAX drives, even though they aren't new any more? I can see I might have to get in touch with them :smile: Got 4 from around december '19
Thats what they first responded:
Western Digital Support said:
Kategorie:PMR vs SMR
Thema:3 Platten zum Austausch gegen PMR (exchange of 3 disks to PMR)
Produkt:WD Red

.....

Wie telefonisch besprochen bitte ich um die Zusendung folgender Info:

- Die Seriennummer und Modellnummer der betroffenen Platten. (SN & Model)
- Den Kaufbeleg. (recipe)
- NAS-Modell-Daten, in der die Platte eingesetzt werden sollte. (NAS-Model)

- Den Vornamen und Lieferadresse (Address)
I've sent the requested information to them and awaiting their response.
So far there was no mention about not exchanging it. And for my opinion they will loose much reputation, if they don't. Those drives are not suitable for NAS especially not for the SOHO market, where WD Red was focused on, allone due to the fact, that resilvering of a raid-(z) will need several days (or even weeks) while the system potentially is in an unsafe state.
 

joeschmuck

Old Man
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We agreed to replace one disk after the other, since they want to replace after I sent the the old one first to them. I'll see how it will go.
I am curious if they are sending you refurbished drives and what the WD warranty website says for when the new to you drives expire. Since I do expect them to be refurb drives, the warranty should correlate with the drive you replaced. And I'm glad they are doing this for you.
 

Evertb1

Neophyte Sage
Joined
May 31, 2016
Messages
559
Recommending WD Red's for all kind of NAS applications has been almost second nature to me the past years. A couple of weeks ago I decided to replace my 2 TB Reds with new drives (4 TB). And then I started to read about this troubles. I own Iron Wolfs now. Still, I wonder how many of my collegues and friends followed up on my recommendations and ended with the wrong drives.
 

Constantin

Vampire Pig
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May 19, 2017
Messages
894
A couple of thoughts re: shingled media recording (SMR):
  • Expecting OS / FreeNAS / etc. developers to keep a running list of SMR drives to avoid major problems is not a sustainable solution. Unfortunately, vendors like WD have been underhanded re: what they're shipping by keeping the recording technology for a given drive under NDA.
  • To boost SMR acceptance in NAS applications, drive OEMs should utilize a normed way for SMR media to identify itself as such - a spinning drive using SMR technology - so that the OS knows what to expect (long timeouts during CMR-SMR transfer, etc.)
  • In turn, that would allow a OS or FreeNAS to display a prominent warning regarding the potential downside of using a SMR drive in a NAS, especially when it comes to resilvering and/or heavy write applications.
  • When a drive identifies itself, it should also advertise its SMR subset - i.e. Device Managed SMR (DM-SMR), Host-Managed SMR (HM-SMR), or Host-Aware SMR (HA-SMR) so FreeNAS and other OS' can play nice with it.
  • As Manfred Berger from HGST explained, DM-SMR drives are practically incompatible with most, if not all, NAS applications.
Given the focus on performance @ iXsystems, I doubt that spending a lot of engineering resources to make TrueNAS / FreeNAS play nicer with SMR technology makes sense.
  • At present, SMR drives sell at the same $/TB price point as CMR drives, so there is only downside to customers using SMR drives.
  • Should SMR drives start to sell at a commensurate discount (i.e. 20% higher capacity for the same $ as CMR) then I suppose looking into HA-SMR and HM-SMR support might make sense. As I understand it, such drives are only sold on a B2B basis.
  • DM-SMR drives in NAS applications are fundamentally flawed and while users should be allowed to use them, the nice thing to do is to warn them of their impending experience in advance; i.e. “Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.
Lately, the three HDD OEMs have been doing a better job of disclosing what recording technology is being used where. But should the HDD OEMs continue to fail to self-regulate proper disclosure to end-customers, then it shouldn't surprise anyone if the government or class-action lawyers step in to do it for them.
 
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Arwen

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May 17, 2014
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A few points;
  • My old Seagate 8TB Archive / SMR disk WAS cheaper than anything else at that density, (when I bought it)
  • DM-SMR drives should have proper firmware that does not respond badly to normal requests. Like reading for a sector not yet written. Return the data, (even if it's just a block of zeros), don't barf!
  • DM-SMR drives should perhaps interleave reads during the write buffer flush. Don't hang. Perhaps 2:1, 2 writes, then allow 1 read.
  • DM-SMR drives should perhaps allow new writes to the write buffer, when it's at 75% or less. Don't hang until it's empty. Multitask!

Last, DM-SMR drives are a prime candidate for hybrid drives, 64GB of SLC flash and spinning media. Use the SLC flash for the write buffer. But, have enough error detection AND correction in the SLC flash that you can still recover any failed read. Plus, as the flash defect list grows, shrink your SLC flash write buffer. Set a limit of say 1/2 of it needs to fail before you would warranty replace the drive. Be up front that write performance may be reduced over time, and WHY.
 

rogerh

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Apr 18, 2014
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I have couple of WD40EFRX drives that have returned sporadic IDNF errors, and recurrent read, write and checksum errors from new, in a ZFS mirror. No other SMART errors apart from the few IDNF errors. I suppose this is just bad cabling/controller and nothing to do with the SMR issue? Can I reasonably be sure of this?
 

Constantin

Vampire Pig
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May 19, 2017
Messages
894
Hi Arwen,
  • Due to the known performance issues with SMR drives, SMR drives should sell at a discount. Basically, by implementing a SSD approach of marrying a faster CMR cache up front with a slower back-end, SMR allowed OEMs to add 20% capacity at almost zero cost (some software development required).
  • SMR drives are predominant in the low-end consumer space for a reason - this is the most price-sensitive part of the market and performance is not as important.
  • What was so troubling to many of us is how WD tried to sneak a technology that their own staff admitted as unsuited for NAS applications into their NAS drive product family. B2B customers like iXsystems and the consumer channel alike were kept in the dark - this is not how you build trust with your customers!
  • The firmware responses you allude to are the fundamental issue that Mr. Berger alluded to as to why DM-SMR drives are not compatible with NAS applications - When the drive hides the underlying SMR technology from the host, the host is neither aware (HA-SMR) nor can it manage (HM-SMR) aspects of these drives. Hence, Backblaze won't use them and Dropbox likely only uses the HM-SMR variety that we cannot get in the usual consumer channels.
  • As for the bandaids you propose, I lack the technical expertise to comment on them. However, the whole point of SMR was to add 20% storage capacity at essentially zero cost. Start adding SLC or other flash and the whole economic justification to offer SMR drives goes out the window.
  • Besides, special VDEVs / SLOGs / L2ARCs / etc. are the "honest way" to boost performance as opposed to integrating a buffer into the drive that may fake impressive performance under no or light load, followed by cratering performance under load. The uneven performance of a NAS as it oscillates between normal responsiveness and no response due to a CMR-SMR cache transfer of any one drive in the array (!!!) likely drove a lot of users nuts once they hit that wall.
 
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morganL

Captain Morgan
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I have couple of WD40EFRX drives that have returned sporadic IDNF errors, and recurrent read, write and checksum errors from new, in a ZFS mirror. No other SMART errors apart from the few IDNF errors. I suppose this is just bad cabling/controller and nothing to do with the SMR issue? Can I reasonably be sure of this?
The WD40EFRX drives are not SMR..
 

Evertb1

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May 31, 2016
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Arwen and Constatin,

Sometimes I wish my command of English was way better because it's hard to express myself the way I would in Dutch. But here goes.

You both have good points. But why would we even bother to think about SMR drives? To me it is simple: until proven otherwise I consider SMR drives not suited for my needs. I am a software developer not a hardware specialist. If drives are offered for NAS applications I need to be able to trust that they indeed are suited for that. I did not go trough the trouble of buying hardware that is good for use in my FreeNAS application only to have WD pull this sh..... It's like changing the rules in the middle of the game.

WD dropped the ball. And while they offered some clearity with the new plus brand and a "clear" overview of their current offerings in the RED line, they still caused a lot of unneeded and unwanted confusion. And after years of establishing a real good brand with the RED drives they jeapordized that. To me WD RED is not automatically the way to go anymore if I need new drives.
 

Yorick

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You are right: SMR drives aren't suited for your needs. I can see an HA-SMR or HM-SMR drive in a (cold) storage application. Giving ZFS the logic to address such drives was proposed in 2015, and the response that Matt Ahrens had during the discussion, if I recall the video correctly, was "well, if there's a corporation that wants to pay for the development work, we're not opposed to having the code in ZFS".

So far, that particular use case - cold storage on ZFS with HA/HM-SMR drives - has not materialized. I think largely because the web scale players that use HM-SMR drives, don't use ZFS.

And yes, WD dropped the ball. The resulting loss of trust is entirely their own doing.

I will continue to use (shucked) WD drives because I like the lower rotational speeds for home use. I care about heat and noise. And, I think that defaulting to N300 or Ironwolf is an understandable response to WD's actions here. I dodged a bullet when I built my NAS because I went with 8TB shucked, but the thought that I might have gone 6TB and ran squarely into SMR is unpleasant.

I foresee that I'll only buy drives to replace failed ones, going forward. I have 18TiB free, assuming 75% max pool utilization. I don't see myself adding more than half a TiB yearly, there aren't that many 4k BluRays I actually want to own. Which means this pool will last me for the next 20-40 years. That's my remaining lifetime.

I'd have to find a whole new use case, beyond media storage and PC backup, to need more than I built. That may well happen. I don't see it from here. Maybe 8k becomes a must-have thing in my lifetime, but I'm not seeing that either.
 
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rogerh

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Yorick

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But one gets a bit paranoid
No need to. Every tech reviewer is looking for the next "sneak SMR" scoop. WD was foolish to introduce SMR into their Red line; they're not going to triple down on that mistake by now also putting it into Red Plus, after explicitly vowing that Red Plus will be CMR only.

Do be cautious and know what you are buying. There's no reason for paranoia, though.
 

rogerh

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No need to. Every tech reviewer is looking for the next "sneak SMR" scoop. WD was foolish to introduce SMR into their Red line; they're not going to triple down on that mistake by now also putting it into Red Plus, after explicitly vowing that Red Plus will be CMR only.

Do be cautious and know what you are buying. There's no reason for paranoia, though.
Fair enough. But I bought mine before the scandal broke so it is not impossible they were experimenting. I won't divert the thread into my troubleshooting, but I'll just get new drives and if the errors recur a new machine. So SMR is only idle speculation on my part, in case anyone else had suspicions about some EFRX drives.
 

Yorick

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so it is not impossible they were experimenting
No, but highly unlikely. Small DM-SMR drives with 64MB cache? Not likely. EFRX drives that are DM-SMR, after WD explicitly stated they are CMR? Also not likely.
 

joeschmuck

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I agree they're not supposed to be. But one gets a bit paranoid ...
Fair enough. But I bought mine before the scandal broke so it is not impossible they were experimenting. I won't divert the thread into my troubleshooting, but I'll just get new drives and if the errors recur a new machine. So SMR is only idle speculation on my part, in case anyone else had suspicions about some EFRX drives.
I have to agree with @Yorick as I too doubt the EFRX model has an SMR variant. It's okay to be a bit paranoid but don't let it take over you life. I just had a friend replace a WD Red under warranty. He was concerned as well that they would ship him an SMR drive but they did not. He's testing the drive this weekend to ensure it's a solid performer and then he will install it into his NAS. and he uses a Synology NAS so it's not just the FreeNAS works who knows about WD and what they did. I'm very happy that I have a place to come to find out all these types of concerns and issues. Love this forum!
 

Newfoundland.Republic

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putting it into Red Plus, after explicitly vowing that Red Plus will be CMR only.
Does anyone have the link to this? Is it from WD or something that was "discovered" (again :confused:)?
 

Yorick

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Newfoundland.Republic

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Duhn!!! Misread what you wrote: "they're not going to triple down on that mistake"... Amazing what not reading "not" will do. That said, sad that I was willing to think that WD was putting SMR in the Plus line and that's sad.
 
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