WD talks about its affected Red-series SMR HDDs, provides changes and support

WD finally addressed the issue specific to NAS-specific Red series SMR HDDs.  As reported earlier, WD switched to CMR (conventional magnetic recording) with the second variation of the Red series NAS HDDs. Despite this issue only affecting the CMR-based HDDs, some company personnel said this is not a problem and affected users should just talk to customer care. The lack of information and communication brought heavy criticism and outrage. The lack of information in its detailed specification didn’t add fuel to the fire. The only way they could have found the change of recording technology was through NAS’ diagnostic tool.

Pros and Cons of SMR

SMR gave the ability to HDD makers or increasing storage capacity. But it came at a cost of decreasing speed on a certain workload. For those who use mechanical hard drives for storage, this is not a problem. It mattered to the SMR HDDs based WD Red owners as it threw random errors rebuilding its RAID arrays and ZFS formatting., NAS users believed the slower random write speed affected these specific workloads, stoping the NAS from completing these tasks, making it unusable. WD claimed otherwise.

Western Digital’s newer response

All is not that bad thanks to the official response with the required acknowledgement, details, changes and information. The company said:

The past week has been eventful, to say the least. As a team, it was important that we listened carefully and understood your feedback about our WD Red NAS drives, specifically how we communicated which recording technologies are used. Your concerns were heard loud and clear. Here is that list of our client internal HDDs available through the channel:

CMR/ SMR specific mechanical HDDs
WD Red WD Red Pro WD Blue WD Black WD Purple
3.5″ 1TB or below CMR CMR CMR CMR CMR
2TB – 6TB SMR CMR SMR / CMR CMR CMR
8TB and above CMR CMR CMR
2.5″ 500GB or below CMR CMR
1TB CMR SMR SMR
2TB SMR

WD Red with SMR USED EFAX  lettering in its model number, while the CMR version used the EFRX lettering. The EFRX is discontinued. But WD is still adamant that SMR is not the reason for this issue, even though the affected users have the EFAX models. Western Digital provided reasons behind its stance :

DMSMR is designed to manage intelligent data placement within the drive, rather than relying on the host, thus enabling a seamless integration for end-users. The data intensity of typical small business/home NAS workloads is intermittent, leaving sufficient idle time for DMSMR drives to perform background data management tasks as needed and continue an optimal performance experience for users.

WD Red HDDs have for many years reliably powered home and small business NAS systems around the world and have been consistently validated by major NAS manufacturers. Having built this reputation, we understand that, at times, our drives may be used in system workloads far exceeding their intended uses. Additionally, some of you have recently shared that in certain, more data-intensive, continuous read/write use cases, the WD Red HDD-powered NAS systems are not performing as you would expect.

Acknowledgement and necessary changes

On the bright side, the company made changes to its marketing literature. Meanwhile, it asked affected users to customer care about the issue. WD recommends people to consider Red Pro and Gold for more intensive workloads. WD didn’t say if the affected users exceeded WD Red’s intended workload or operated beyond its intended storage capacity within the NAS Array. Alas, it requires WD to narrow down by addressing issues on a case-to-case basis.

WD’s plan of action?

It is not sure how would WD address the problem with affected users. From our perspective, it may not sound different from the initial response. But an official acknowledgement is a step that’s needed from WD. Time will tell if they will release a new firmware for the affected NAS HDDs. Its also not sure if WD will have another variant with the issue fixed. We’ll just have to wait for people to go to that process and write their findings on Reddit.

Source: WD Blog