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HDD failures: an alternative Google point of view

Carnegie Mellon University researcher Dr. Bianca Schroeder has published her own study of hard drive failures. Recall that some time ago the same problem was discussed in a material published by Google.

It was Schroeder’s work that won the FAST’07 Best Paper award in the category “Academic Scientific Computer Research”.

The material was about 100 thousand hard drives, including those installed in the clusters of Los Alamos and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, as well as from several Internet service providers.

Here are some of the key findings of Schroeder’s analysis.

There was an extremely small difference in the failure rate of drives equipped with SCSI, Fiber Channel and SATA interfaces, in other words, between “industrial” and “consumer” drives.

“Infant mortality” of discs, according to the researcher, is not an underestimated problem. This is where the report differs from Google’s perspective. Drive failure rates, according to Schroeder, rise with their lifespan. The report believes that the “infant mortality rate” of the drives is estimated fairly correctly by the manufacturers, while the main problem is actually the early wear and tear of hard drives, that is, a significant increase in breakdowns after a year of operation. Currently, the IDEMA (International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association) standard provides for failure rates for disks that have been used for 1-3, 4-6, 7-12 and 13-60 months. The current standard, according to the researcher, does not take into account the constant increase in the number of breakdowns starting from the second year of the disk’s service, and needs to be improved.

Average annual disk failure rates range from 0.5% to 13.5%. The weighted average breakdown rate was 3% annually (declared by HDD manufacturers – 0.88%). The researcher concludes that the MTBF claimed by the manufacturers in the amount of, on average, a million hours, is not true. In reality, this figure is 300 thousand hours.

Schroeder noted that in the event of failure of one of the disks in the array, the likelihood of failure of a medium that duplicates the same information significantly increases.

Unfortunately, data on HDD manufacturers in this report, as well as in the Google research, was not provided.

Source: USENIX

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