NAS users unhappy with bait-and-switch WD Red HDDs

Many users were discussing random errors with EFAX variation of the WD Red NAS series HDD, Afer exchange of communication with people at WD, they eventually confirmed it shipped these Red series NAS hard drives with Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR). This was a problem as the older variation used CMR. WD also did not mention this change in its spec sheets. Understandably, users felt this is a switch-and-bait. As with everything, once discovered, It leaves a bad impression and erodes trust.

The key difference between HDD recording technology

Unlike the conventional magnetic recording (CMR), SMR technology enables HDD manufacturers to increase storage capacity at a cost of slower write speeds. This would make sense for those who need larger storage and a cheaper cost. But WD Red series is a Network-Attached Storage that’s meant to provide a reasonable level of compatibility, ability to rebuild arrays and reliability for up to 8-bay units. This affects all WD NAS drives from 2TB to 6TB HDD capacity. The specific WD Red model with SMR was EFAX, while the EFRX Red series HDDs used CMR. However, this creates a problem for NAS HDDs. SMR HDDs cannot successfully rebuild RAID and ZFS arrays, eventually throwing random errors after a few hours.

Those who complained about random issues were those with workload-specific requirements that originally meet WD Red features and specifications. The affected users comprised of University researchers and data archivers. These WD NAS HDDs rebuild ZFS arrays which would potentially lead to data loss. Some DMSMR NAS hard drives didn’t work the way it is intended. They even failed to work when added in existing RAID Array bays.

Conflicting information from Western Digital

According to a Western Digital UK’s channel sales manager,  the only SMR drives Western Digital made are the 20TB enterprise HDDs which is not rolled out through the usual sales channel. He also mentioned that if WD did make such RED NAS HDDs, it would be mentioned. The only useful information from WD’s website is that it can be stacked up to 14TB, specifically built up to 8-bay NAS units. This didn’t make sense as

While WD did not mention its EFRX variations used CMR, it is a well-known fact attributed with these NAS HDDs. NAS units can differentiate SMR from CMD. That was the case with Synology NAS which reported the EFAX prefix Red NAS HDDs uses SMR.

As it was stacked with indisputable evidence contradicting channel manager’s response, an official clarification was needed. Eventually, Western Digital spokesperson said the following:

“All our WD Red drives are designed meet or exceed the performance requirements and specifications for common small business/home NAS workloads. We work closely with major NAS providers to ensure WD Red HDDs (and SSDs) at all capacities have a broad compatibility with host systems. Currently, Western Digital’s WD Red 2TB-6TB drives are device-managed SMR (DMSMR). WD Red 8TB-14TB are CMR-based.”

The spokesperson further said that Western Digital did not find any rebuilding issues with SMR-built NAS HDDs but are happy to work with customers on the issues they may have.

The aftermath

Naturally, Redditors with these drives are not happy. One redditor said, “Problem here is that WD was being duplicitous about this because they knew the target market largely wouldn’t notice, even if they put the correct labelling on them. Why they’re bullshitting people I don’t know, but just because most of the target audience didn’t know any better, and you do indeed get what you pay for, that doesn’t mean WD are justified in their bullshit.”

Anandtech added this finding to its HDD guide viz. published a few days ago, advising against the WD Red series NAS drives. For now, there is no clarity from Western Digital on how they will resolve this issue- or if they will. Affected users should contact WD support and see what they can do on a case-to-case basis.

VIA: Blocks & Files