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High-performance storage: From flash drives to server hard drives (April 2018 edition)

A tour of the best storage solutions available for professionals, covering everything from flash drives you can pop into your pocket to behemoth server-grade hard drives.
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Topic: Storage
OWC ThunderBlade SSD
1 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

OWC ThunderBlade SSD

The ThunderBlade is a sleek, stylish, yet rugged ThunderBolt 3 enabled external hard drive. Inside the unit are four M.2 SSDs, with capacities up to 2TB each, with total ThunderBlade capacities ranging from 1TB to 8TB.

And it's fast storage too; with up to 2,800MB/s read speeds and 2,450MB/s write speeds. And using OWC's SoftRAID software, two ThunderBlades can reach read speeds up to 3,800MB/s, making it the perfect choice for media professionals who have to deal with large amounts of data, especially 4K, 5K, and 8K video.

The ThunderBlade features dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, allowing the user to daisy-chain up to six devices (which in total would offer a whopping 48 TB of storage!), and configure the drives for RAID 0, 1, 4, 5, and 1+0 (span and independent drives are also supported).

This is a premium product, and as such the prices are premium, with prices ranging from $1,200 for the 1TB option, all the way to $5,000 for the 8TB unit.

Nimbus Data ExaDrive DC100
2 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Nimbus Data ExaDrive DC100

Need a lot of space? The new 100TB Nimbus Data ExaDrive DC100 might be the drive for you.

The ExaDrive DC100, which is built around 3D NAND flash, packs the 100TB of storage into the standard 3.5-inch form factor of a regular hard drive, which means that it can act as a plug-and-play replacement for existing server and storage platforms.

But having the world's largest capacity isn't the only accolade the ExaDrive DC100 claims. It's also the world's most energy efficient SSD, drawing as little as 0.1 Watts per TB, which is about 80- to 90-percent lower than the competition.

This reduced power consumption translates into power, cooling, and rack space savings of as much as 85 percent per terabyte compared to SSDs from the competition.

That 100TB capacity also means that a single 3.5-inch drive can offer eight times more capacity than the current largest hard drive.

The ExaDrive DC100 will be generally available in summer 2018.

Samsung 860 EVO
3 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Samsung 860 EVO

The 860 EVO builds on the success of the 850 EVO, the world's first consumer SSDs to make use of V-NAND 3-bit MLC technology, and the update brings with it 64-cell layer V-NAND and an all-new MJX controller.

One of the reasons why it's hard to get excited about SSDs, especially when it comes to performance, is that manufacturers have pretty much saturated the bandwidth offered by the SATA 3.0 standard of 600 MB/s (remember, the SATA 3.0 standard is a decade old). Despite this, Samsung has worked hard to remove the data speed bumps that were found in the 850 EVO to deliver a product that is faster -- albeit only a little bit faster.

Another way that Samsung has been able to squeeze out more performance from the 860 EVO is by using Intelligent TurboWrite. TurboWrite was a feature that Samsung first introduced with the 840 EVO, and it boosted performance by creating a high-performance SLC write buffer in the SSD.

Intelligent TurboWrite, which debuted on the 960 EVO, took this further and allowed the drive to intelligently define an SLC buffer based on the data workload the drive was experiencing.

Seagate BarraCuda Pro
4 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Seagate BarraCuda Pro

The Seagate BarraCuda Pro is a new drive from the Seagate Guardian Series line aimed at "the growing data needs of large enterprise business, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and creative professionals."

  • 7200 RPM
  • Large onboard cache (256MB)
  • BarraCuda Pro 12TB draws only 7.8W, making it one of the lowest-power 3.5-inch drives on the market
  • SATA 6Gb/s interface
  • Up to 250MB/s maximum sustained transfer rate
  • 5-year warranty
  • 2 years of data recovery included (Seagate Rescue)
Seagate IronWolf Pro
5 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Seagate IronWolf Pro

For everything NAS, there's IronWolf Pro, the perfect solution for "always on and always working" situations. IronWolf is enhanced with AgileArray technology for optimal reliability and system agility. Multi-user technology and extreme workload rates allow IronWolf to perform and scale up with your enterprise.

  • Optimized for NAS with AgileArray
  • IronWolf Pro hard drives are built with dual-plane balancing and RAID optimization in multi-bay environments with the most advanced power management
  • IronWolf Pro provides high-cache options allowing your NAS (256MB)
  • Built with a workload rate of 300TB/year
  • Designed for always on, always accessible 24×7 performance
  • 1.2 million hours MTBF, 3-year limited warranty
Viking Technology UHC-Silo 3.5-inch SSD
6 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Viking Technology UHC-Silo 3.5-inch SSD

The Silo SSD, which is part of Viking Technology's Ultra High-Capacity (UHC) family of products, enables significant data center space and power reduction compared to HDDs, while offering the same 3.5-inch form factor and standard SAS interface, which eases the migration to flash.

If 50TB seems too extravagant to you, Viking Technology have a more modest 25TB offering.

The UHC-Silo SSDs have been specifically designed with energy efficiency in mind, and offer idle power consumption under 10 watts and active power usage of only 16W, which greatly increasing overall storage capacity per rack while decreasing power per terabyte.

  • 25 TB and 50 TB raw capacities
  • Planar MLC NAND
  • Dual-port SAS 2.x compliant interface
  • 3.5-inch industry standard form factor
  • Up to 60,000/15,000 IOps (4 KB) reads/writes
  • Up to 500/350 MBps (256 KB) reads/writes
  • 16W typical power consumption
SanDisk microSDXC UHS-II card
7 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

SanDisk microSDXC UHS-II card

If you're looking for the world's fastest transfer speeds, this is the card for you.

  • Capacity: up to 128 GB
  • Read Speed: up to 275 MB/s
  • Write Speed: up to 100 MB/s
  • Video Speed: Class 10 (C10) and UHS Speed Class 3 (U3)1
  • Form Factor: microSDXC
SanDisk Ultra USB-C flash drive
8 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

SanDisk Ultra USB-C flash drive

This super-thin USB-C flash drive is designed specifically for next-generation devices with the new low-profile USB Type-C port.

  • Capacity: 128 GB
  • Read Speed: up to 150 MB/s
  • Interface: USB Type-C / USB 3.1
OWC Mercury Elite Pro Quad
9 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

OWC Mercury Elite Pro Quad

Compatible with 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives for total flexibility, the Mercury Elite Pro Quad's four universal drive bays let users pack up to a massive 48TB of storage. With this level of capacity and drive flexibility, you will not have to compromise when it comes to your storage.

  • Works with all USB systems, Thunderbolt 3 compatible
  • Up to 48TB
  • Up to 947MB/s
  • RAID Ready
  • RAID 0 / RAID 1 SoftRAID engine
  • Four universal drive bays for 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives
  • 3 Year OWC Limited Warranty
Naztech Xtra Drive Mini
10 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Naztech Xtra Drive Mini

Did you know that you can extend your iPhone or iPad storage without having to resort to a screwdriver?

The simplest option is an external flash drive, such as the Naztech Xtra Drive Mini which allows you to turn the Lightning port on you iPhone or iPad into a microSD card slot, enabling you to offload photos, videos and other documents onto cheap microSD cards.

SanDisk iXpand flash drive
11 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

SanDisk iXpand flash drive

This one is for iPhone and iPad users. I just use the SanDisk iXpand flash drive which offers me an extra 128GB for photos and media. As an added bonus I can use this as a regular high-speed flash drive on my Mac or PCs.

OWC Envoy Pro EX
12 of 12 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

OWC Envoy Pro EX

The OWC EnvoyPro EX is a ruggedized Thunderbolt 3 portable SSD. The Envoy Pro EX features Thunderbolt 3 paired with an M.2 (NVMe) SSD to provide transfer speeds up to 1800MB/s and capacities up to 2TB.

With no moving parts and MIL-STD810G drop test compliance, this drive is ready for whatever you can throw at it.

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