Surviving Death Valley and Reef Bottom: Seagate Quality Assurance

7 min


Remember the old joke about the fact that the clock on 19 stones lacks two: put on one, hit the other? But what is humor for ordinary users, for equipment manufacturers – a serious approach to testing and quality control. Crash tests, rigorous testing, high and low temperature experiments bring devices to the market that won’t be surprised if they find themselves in the ocean, on Mount Everest, in a sandstorm or in a hot desert. Simply because they are obliged to work with the owner wherever he is.

During testing, Seagate engineers looked much more restrained, but emotions were about the same

Today we will tell you how we approach working with product quality.

Every product has a life cycle and claiming that something is forever is at least dishonest. However, it is up to the manufacturer to ensure that the product is of high quality and reliability throughout the entire life cycle.

The products of our company are used for storing data both in the corporate market and among private users, which means that the devices can theoretically end up anywhere: not only in an office laptop or in a huge data center, but also in more exotic places – on an underwater submersible. in hot and humid tropics, at an arctic research station, etc. Regardless of scenarios and places of use, they have one thing in common: people trust storage devices the most precious thing – data; whether it be research results, important commercial information or unique photographs – no one wants to lose even a small piece of their information.

Therefore, today we will talk about quality control, especially since for us this is not an empty phrase and not a one-time procedure. The company’s solutions undergo more than 160 rigorous tests, and some products overcome an obstacle course of more than 500 tests before entering the market (a number of indicators are measured literally from concept to end of life). For example, disks – you can read about their tests in our blog on Habré – back in 2016 there was a post-tour of the Seagate quality control laboratory. We have adjusted the layout of the publication, although since then there have been many changes in our production.

Quality control. How does this happen?

In several stages:

  1. The first thing Seagate engineers ask themselves is the key question: Is the technology mature enough to make millions of these products? This is not a rhetorical question or vain pathos: scaling up production is a serious matter and a huge responsibility. Therefore, the product is sent to production only when the answer to the question about the elaboration of technologies is positive.
  2. After that, a decision is made about the realistic design and the Seagate team proceeds to design.
  3. Then – multiple cycles of revision and processing, where without it. Market demands and customer perceptions translate into clear criteria that must be met – numerous tests during component design allow you to understand what works and what needs to be improved. It is at this stage that the products go through more than 160 various checks. From understandable “household” tests – six-week reliability testing to determine the mean time between failures, temperature measurements in different operating modes, voltage, corrosion, shock loads and vibrations, noise level, and so on.

    The discs are tested in different conditions of humidity and temperature (including temperatures up to 75 ° C – this is more than Death Valley, where the record is 56.7 ° C). Checks under these conditions can identify risks of corrosion, contamination and helium leaks. There are also altitude tests – to make sure that the disk remains intact at an altitude of 12,000 m above sea level (for comparison, the height of Everest is 8848 m).

    At this stage, about 20,000 disks are tested, which takes about 5,000,000 hours in total.

  4. If customers have special needs (for example, due to some external factors), then the technical requirements can be changed or modified. Two illustrative examples: for the humid and warm climates of Asian countries, a different disc packaging is used, which protects against corrosion and other negative influences. It would seem a trifle invisible to an outside observer, but we cannot ignore it. The second example is more ambitious: global warming is affecting the business of cloud service providers who are moving towards greener and less energy used for cooling, which means drives will have to withstand higher operating temperatures, which changes quality requirements. Already, Steven Crochiere, senior director of materials science and contamination control at Seagate, says that in anticipation of this development, the company could change the minimum requirements from, say, 85 ° C to 100 ° C (the corresponding equipment is ready).

Only after all the tests are the products delivered to the wide corporate market and retail.

In general, data security begins even earlier – before the disk is produced:

  • Design-level security: Seagate’s drive design process is completely closed to everyone except authorized, verified employees;
  • all device components are supplied by reliable suppliers;
  • each node is assembled at a guarded facility;
  • Seagate Secure devices are shipped only by verified partners;
  • Despite all the technical complexity of devices, it is simple and understandable to deploy a storage infrastructure on their basis, the risk of errors is minimized;
  • Instant Secure Erase allows you to erase all data in seconds for quick and painless decommissioning.

These are all just part of the Seagate Secure suite of solutions.

Data that cannot be lost

Reliable data storage systems are primarily important for the corporate sector, which uses them for big data, video surveillance systems with artificial intelligence on board, the Internet of things, deployment of complex loaded applications, analytics systems, and more. These are the tasks that many Habr users probably face on a daily basis.

But besides the corporate sector, there are also private users, creators, and scientific organizations who trust Seagate no less. We have collected some examples for you from a “live”, non-corporate environment.

Researcher and his reliable assistant. By the way, during the study, for the first time in 30 years, a new species of coral was discovered.

Oceanologists use the data to protect Australia’s endangered Great Barrier Reef. Sections of this reef die from overheated seawater – global climate change has already reached there. Scientists use external drives to collect and analyze data from an international research expedition. The data collected on the disks provide insights into where, how and why corals survive (or not). This offers a chance to answer some fundamental questions and save coral reefs.

The collected data is enormous: every day, scientists take more than 20,000 high-resolution photos, shoot gigabytes of video from underwater cameras and aerial drones (reef mapping), and record data. Information must be collected, processed and safely stored – on the researchers’ ship, network storage (NAS) is used for these purposes QNAP TS-1231XU-RP-4G 12 compartments. This system is filled with 12 disks Ironwolf pro a capacity of 12 TB for a total of 144 TB of memory. This large-capacity NAS makes it easy to collect, analyze, share data and collaborate with a large group of people. The research team also uses the disc Seagate DJI Fly Drive for drone surveys and a mobile drive to support field research. Obviously, I would not like to lose such data.

Photo by Nick Raines, a renowned photographer who also uses Seagate storage solutions and believes that keeping data safe is the right paranoia.

Photo by Jonathan Irish from a trip to 59 parks in the USA

Losing a valuable shot is a tragedy for every photographer. Jonathan Irish has shot in 59 US National Parks (link to the site about this cycle) – each of his photographs is a unique combination of the moment and the view of the author-photographer at him, a frozen impression that needs to be preserved and conveyed to the viewer. So, during one of his trips to the United States, the author took no less than 248,000 photos! In addition to his Fujifilm X-T1 camera and some lenses, Jonathan also took two discs with him. LaCie Rugged for storing images in the field – the reliability, ruggedness and small form factor are ideal for storing data when traveling. “I’ve never had a LaCie drive failure, which I can’t say about other brands.“, – the photographer left a review. At the end of a huge trip to national parks, he had 16 TB of images and videos.

Seagate Quality Principles

In fiscal 2020, Seagate shipped 409.9 EB (exabytes, 10eighteen or quintillion bytes), while a year earlier the release was equal to 347.4 EB. Middle the volume of the device sold was 3.7 TB, which is more than in 2019 (2.5 TB). Such indicators oblige the company to guarantee the corporate sector and private users a high level of reliability. Seagate has several important principles in this regard.

  • Seagate works in context Industry 4.0 – the fourth wave of the industrial revolution and, in particular, in the context of IT 4.0 – a concept based on the idea of ​​an automated data infrastructure. We build this infrastructure at all levels: from customers to design, production and logistics. It is in the context of IT 4.0 that real-time data exchange takes place between customers, designers, suppliers and the factory.
  • IT 4.0 has another important advantage. We have the ability to analyze the performance of our drives in client systems in real time and, based on this analytics, advise the client on how to optimize our solutions for their operating conditions. This optimization helps reduce the cost of ownership of solutions by using them more efficiently.
  • Continuing the analytics theme, it’s important to say that Seagate takes advantage of artificial intelligence, deep learning, and advanced analytics to detect and fix anomalies. Seagate has a big data infrastructure deployed that includes telemetry metrics, manufacturing data management, vendor data, and more. We use end-to-end analytics to make decisions based on data and the value of our customers.
  • There are many quality criteria for Seagate, but customer service remains one of the main metrics: the company is committed to providing users with a product that consistently meets their expectations. This trust is extremely important for two reasons: firstly, there are very few manufacturers of disks and devices of this level and it is important not to disappoint the consumer, not to leave him without decisions that are important for his work and hobby; secondly, trust is the cornerstone of further business development.
  • We find the key to quality in a comprehensive understanding of the client. We study everything from temperature, humidity and device workloads to popular applications, use cases, critical customer requirements. All collected information forms an analytical basis for the development of internal requirements for drives. Thus, Seagate offers solutions that can resiliently operate in a wide variety of environments.

Why are we writing about this on Habré? Partly to talk about product reliability, but more to draw the attention of the entire IT industry to the issue of quality management.

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Alas, as nothing is eternal, so there is nothing perfect: there are claims to Seagate – just like to all other companies. If there is some kind of production miscalculation, then we urgently make a decision within the company, but quite often the cause of a breakdown is completely barbaric exploitation – so merciless that none of the 160 inspections dreamed of; for us these are lessons and ways of further development. It is important to remember that even the Earth and the Sun have a hypothetical ultimate strength and service life 🙂


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