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WD Red SMR Drive Compatibility with ZFS

morganL

Captain Morgan
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Okay, I wasn't paying attention and I also got bitten by this. What irks me is that I picked the WD60EFAX as an urgent replacement because I remembered this banner which is still on rotation in this forum:

View attachment 41814

Once I received the second replacement drive, got the same failures as the first replacement and realized the first drive didn't have infant mortality and *then* came back here looking for help did I realize that "The Preferred Drives of FreeNAS and TrueNAS" needs a big asterisk that says "except for the WD Red in this picture."
Hello Bollar, Apologies for any unintended confusion. We try to be very specific about the drives to use. The advert only has WD Red Plus and WD Red Pro drives as well as the Ultrastars we use in TrueNAS Enterprise systems. We only advertise the drives we have qualified with TrueNAS and ZFS.. which happen to all be the CMR variety and have all proven to be generally very reliable. There are other WD drives not in this picture.

We recommend TrueNAS users do NOT use the new "WD Red" drives that use DM-SMR technology. We took the WD Red out of the banner picture.

The DM-SMR drives are OK for PC workloads and simple NAS systems, so Western Digital have decided to keep them in the product line. We can't require vendors to make sure all drives are ZFS-optimized. There will be some information coming about making these drives safer and perform a bit better, but we still don't recommend TrueNAS users buy them when they have a choice. WD has been very good in their return policy for those people impacted.
 

Constantin

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Allow me to politely disagree. The banner advertisement is small enough on my screen to simply show as yellow and red labeled hard drives. Finer distinctions (such as plus and pro designation) are only really visible if I enlarge the ad.

I understand that you have a long-standing B2B relationship with WD and presume that someone came to you hat in hand to ask forgiveness. Perhaps WD is now offering a significant discount to continue to be iXSystems supplier of choice.

But, it’s also important to be a bit more explicit in the landing page that the ad goes to. Mentioning CMR vs. SMR without context with a small asterisk, in smaller type than the rest of the article for products aimed at entry level users isn’t providing the proper level of warning for neophytes.

I suggest updating the ad landing page to include a link to the DMSMR resource page that @Yorick put together. That also helps beginners understand the difference between DMSMR and other SMR drives, CMR, and so on. It further exposes the customers to the great forum horde here.
 

Constantin

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Yes, my suggestion would be to re-write that section of the mini and mini-Xl page to be more explicit re: DMSMR vs. CMR in FreeNAS, TrueNAS applications. This potential user base is unlikely to be as knowledgeable as the many Demi-gods here (of which i am not one!)

For example, you could note that while WD is the OEM supplier of choice at iXSystems that the following SKUs in WD Red’s line up should be avoided (ie everything EFAX between 2-6TB) Then offer the option to readers to go through @Yoricks’ excellent page for further insights re DMSMR vs. CMR, etc.

Nothing wrong with noting that the list may not be exhaustive, potentially won’t cover shucked drives, etc... but the key thing to convey is just how much hair-pulling may result from using current plain WD Red drives. Nor will it be apparent to folk who bought red drives two years ago that entry-level Reds are no longer endorsed for NAS use at IXSystems. So it’s important to convey that info lest the bad experience sully iXSystems’ good reputation.
 

morganL

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Yes, my suggestion would be to re-write that section of the mini and mini-Xl page to be more explicit re: DMSMR vs. CMR in FreeNAS, TrueNAS applications. This potential user base is unlikely to be as knowledgeable as the many Demi-gods here (of which i am not one!)

For example, you could note that while WD is the OEM supplier of choice at iXSystems that the following SKUs in WD Red’s line up should be avoided (ie everything EFAX between 2-6TB) Then offer the option to readers to go through @Yoricks’ excellent page for further insights re DMSMR vs. CMR, etc.

Nothing wrong with noting that the list may not be exhaustive, potentially won’t cover shucked drives, etc... but the key thing to convey is just how much hair-pulling may result from using current plain WD Red drives. Nor will it be apparent to folk who bought red drives two years ago that entry-level Reds are no longer endorsed for NAS use at IXSystems. So it’s important to convey that info lest the bad experience sully iXSystems’ good reputation.
Hi Constantin,

the Mini page is designed to help us market Minis to the general public, some of whom are not forum users. We don't use SMR drives in the Minis being sold and so have zero reason to bring up the SMR issue, but we did add a note to make sure the issue was not swept under the rug.

We need a lighter weight process than what you are recommending. The community forum pages are designed for disseminating technical information to TrueNAS CORE software users. A link would be appropriate and not impact the normal Mini customer who is look for an appliance that works and doesn't require detailed technical knowledge of all the components.

Hope you can understand that there are multiple audiences we must address.

Morgan
 

Constantin

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Again, allow me to politely disagree.

As long as iXSystems sells diskless Minis (and I was one such -XL customer) there is a good chance that a customer will try to marry DMSMR drives with a FreeNAS since WD continues to market drives into the NAS channel that they (and IXSystems) have identified as unsuitable for use with FreeNAS.

Please consider a more explicit warning on the Mini ad landing page and in particular for the diskless configurations. I understand that WD is likely exerting a lot of pressure on iXSystems, that working within the confines of a 3-way HDD OEM oligopoly is not easy, etc. but I’d also consider the impact on iXSystems for customers not getting warned adequately re: DMSMR.

Other industries do this as well - Trucks and cars have explicit stickers on fuel tank inlets designating the type of fuel that should be loaded (Ie “Diesel ONLY”). OEMs don’t apply these stickers because they’d be liable for a customer not reading the manual, filling the car with the wrong fuel, and having a learning experience. No, they do it because they do not want to associated with said learning experience.

If warning customers on your web pages re DMSMR drives is too controversial, perhaps iXSystems can include a informative flyer in the box with each diskless sale that is more explicit re the pitfalls of DMSMR (and not just at WD)? Perhaps feature a QR code to take diskless customers @Yorick’s resource page? Or a sticker on the chassis?
 
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JoshDW19

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If warning customers on your web pages re DMSMR drives is too controversial, perhaps iXSystems can include a informative flyer in the box with each diskless sale that is more explicit re the pitfalls of DMSMR (and not just at WD)?
I believe your concern is valid but the way it's framed is a fallacy because no one is arguing against providing a warning. That's why I personally added SMR warnings on the Mini, Amazon, and Documentation pages. We also removed WD Red adverts (DM-SMR), and @morganL is writing more in-depth recommendations on the subject for our more technical crowd. It sounds like you're saying make the warning stronger. I'll talk with @morganL and see what our options are. I'll take everyone's feedback into consideration in this thread and see if we can find a good middle-of-the-road solution.

I do want to point out that there hasn't been unilateral pressure from WD or anything of the sort. I get that the DM-SMR debacle is frustrating, and frankly, I would like to see a lot more transparency from hardware vendors in general. Do we need to have a healthy business relationship with our vendors? Absolutely! But when push comes to shove I can promise you we are working hard to improve industry transparency and communication.

Hope this helps... I just wanted to address a couple of your concerns and hopefully, I've done that.

Best,

Joshua
 

Constantin

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Appreciate the reply. Below is what I’m getting at:

22B7A33E-DBD5-4116-86F1-8963F91A21EC.jpeg


The warning re SMR features an odd asterisk, is in smaller type, does not provide context, nor a link to more information. I respectfully suggest making the type the same size as the surrounding type and adding a link to further elucidate interested parties.

Lastly, a sticker on the inside or outside of every metal enclosure may be a good reminder to buyers that peak HDD performance is precluded if non-CMR drives are used. That sticker could include a QR code to direct interested buyers to your HDD vend page and/or registration options.

Thank you for considering the community feedback and the skinny TrueNAS hoodie has already repelled my 13-yo with its geekiness. :smile:
 

morganL

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Thanks Constantin,

Agree that we should pro-actively warn users of TrueNAS Minis when they are adding new drives. Will look at how we can add to the documentation. We end up with Recommended Drives, "Please Avoid" Drives, and a general statement on the preferred attributes of other drives that can be used. We don't test all drives and some of them are very good and some are poor.
 

IOSonic

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The conversation has moved onto preventative measures since I last posted, i.e. saving unwitting users from buying into this mistake, but I do want to follow-up on my experience with getting the drives replaced.

First and foremost, it should be noted that the drives I had replaced were -EFRX models manufactured in 2018. The consensus seems to be that that all EFRX models are CMR and thus blessed for ZFS, but the WD 2nd-level engineer I spoke to concluded differently and initiated the RMA. If he was correct, this means that there are SMR drives among older EFRX models.

I tried to confirm this information with another WD technician unsuccessfully (informed and/or helpful technicians are apparently hit-or-miss around WD support, in my recent experience).

Can anyone confirm this to be the case or dutifully suppress this FUD?
 

zedfive

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Can anyone confirm this to be the case or dutifully suppress this FUD?
From my experience with WD and a replacing process I would say "one hand doesn't know what the other does".

Though it isn't so simple to say "All WD Reds are SMR and All WD Red Plus are CMR" - my replaced disks have a special refurbished label and are labeld "WD Red" w/o "Plus" but the modelnumber confirm to the information as for example you can find here:

https://www.ixsystems.com/blog/wd-red-plus-drives/

Also you can look for the WD Datasheets for "WD Red" and "WD Red Plus" and you will find that they are conforming to the information linked above:

WD Red
WD Red Plus

BTW the Red Plus explicitly mentions that they can be used with ZFS.
 
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Johnnie Black

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If he was correct, this means that there are SMR drives among older EFRX models.
No evidence to support that, all indications are that all EFRX models are CMR, likely just not a very knowledgeable support guy.
 

Constantin

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No point to spin conspiracies here, just test the drives. The likely quickest way to test is to do a badblocks continuous write. If the write speed repeatedly drops from ~160MB/s to peanuts and then shoots up again (think square wave pattern), there is your confirmation re: SMR. If the speed stays continuous, it’s CMR.

If watching a drive churn through a badblocks test is too much like watching paint dry, simply time a known CMR drive of the same capacity undergoing the same operation and compare the length it takes for each drive that you got from WD to do the same. If memory serves, the time delta measured by STH for a SMR resilver vs. CMR resilver was on the order of 4x or more.

Since running badblocks or whatever your flavor of full-disk stress test is a good idea anyway, you can also confirm the CMR status of the drive as a bonus.
 
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