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Disc burn-out rates are higher than suppliers say

Antony Savvas

Disc drive failure in datacentres contradicts the reliability rates promised by suppliers.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in the US examined disc drive component failure covering 100,000 discs in large-scale IT installations, and discovered failure was becoming an increasing problem ahead of the disc’s expected lifecycle.

The researchers analysed disc replacement data from a number of large production systems, including high-performance computing sites and internet services sites.

The data included SCSI, Fibre Channel, and SATA-based discs. The mean time to failure (MTTF) of those drives, as specified in their supplier datasheets, ranged from one million to 1.5 million hours, suggesting a nominal annual failure rate of, at most, 0.88%.

But the researchers found that in the field, annual disc replacement rates typically exceeded 1%, with 2%-4% common, and up to 13% observed on some systems.

It was also found that there was little difference in replacement rates between SCSI, FC and SATA drives, suggesting disc-independent factors, such as operating conditions, affect replacement rates more than component specific factors.

Related article: High-end storage considerations

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