Seagate has announced a new set of 12TB hard drives for desktop and NAS drives. The new 12TB volumes are part of the BarraCuda Pro, IronWolf, and IronWolf Pro product families. The BarraCuda Pro family of drives all spin at 7200 RPM and carry five-year warranties; the new 12TB drives are a straightforward extension of the previous 10TB hardware.
Like all BarraCuda Pro drives over 4TB, the 12TB drive offers 256MB of disk cache, though its listed sustained sequential transfer rate of 250GB/s is slightly higher than the 220MB/s on earlier drives. The improvement is unlikely to make a major difference in real-world tests. Synthetic tests tend to pick up gains in sequential read/write performance much more obviously than desktop applications. In theory, the BarraCuda Pro can burst up to 6Gbps, but that’s unlikely to have an impact on observed performance. In short, this is a well-warrantied drive with 12TB of storage that won’t necessarily be much faster than what you’re using now, but definitely holds about 20% more porn data than previous drives.
The gap between the IronWolf and IronWolf Pro NAS drives is somewhat smaller. Both drive families rotate at 7200 RPM, with a three-year warranty on IronWolf products and a five-year warranty on IronWolf Pro. Data recovery service (for two years) is included with the IronWolf Pro, which is a nice additional feature to see on a professional drive, even though ideally you’ll never need it. Amazon shows a list price on the BarraCuda Pro of $ 525, according to PCMag, with the IronWolf variant at $ 487 and the IronWolf Pro at $ 530.
Hitting these high storage volumes without breaking the back is increasingly important to the HDD market, even if $ 525 is a great deal of money by desktop storage standards. That works out to roughly four cents per GB, which is in line with historic HDD pricing at much lower capacities. The gap between SSDs and HDDs keeps shrinking, however–1TB SSDs are now as little as $ 259. While that’s still about 6.5x more expensive, there’s a point of diminishing return at which a given SSD capacity will simply be “enough” for most people’s use.
We’ve gotten to the point where it’s possible to look forward and observe that while a 12TB SSD might offer far more storage per dollar for photographers, video editors, and the like, most consumers would be fine for a 1TB SSD at a bit more than half the price. Obviously there are exceptions, but this explains some of why the hard drive industry has been pushing so hard to focus on other markets. NAS backups, cold storage, surveillance, and enterprise databases will still be relevant markets long after the consumer space has migrated to SSDs.
One more thing worth noting: While we’ve focused here on discussing these 12TB drives, there are significant differences between Seagate’s BarraCuda and its BarraCuda Pro family. First, the BarraCuda family uses 5400 RPM drives, or at least it seems to–Seagate practically does backflips to avoid stating that in its own product documentation and omits it from its PDFs. BarraCuda drives also offer a shorter warranty (two years versus five), higher error rates, and are only rated for 55TB/year as opposed to 300TB/year. While there’s nothing wrong with offering lower-performing drives at a commensurately lower price, we’re not a fan of companies hiding spindle speeds. The only reason for Seagate to obfuscate this information is to fend off customers who would presumably be grumpy if they found out they were buying a hard drive for regular usage that rivaled the performance of a 1980s tape deck.