The Hattis & Lukacs law firm has filed a lawsuit amendment to its class-action lawsuit against Western Digital for including SMR technology in WD’s Red Line of NAS drives. The amendment added five more named plaintiffs from five new states, and included important additional technical details.
If you are not up to date on the SMR saga, this is part one of an ongoing series. Short version: SMR-Shingled Magnetic Recording — is a new hard drive recording technology that allows high data density. It does this by placing circular tracks on the ground—like roof pegs—with a writing head that is wider than the reading head. Unfortunately, this technology makes overwriting existing disk sectors slow in most cases—overwriting a 4KiB sector would mean needing to both read and rewrite the entire 256MiB area.
The original American class-action suit (there’s a Canadian one as well) had a single named plaintiff, Wisconsin’s Nicholas Malone. The remake features five new plaintiffs, each from a different state, and tells each plaintiff’s story in detail. New York plaintiff Steve Gravel’s story is particularly wince-inducing—he wasn’t just using the drives for photo and movie storage; you have an iSCSI target on your QNAP NAS, and performance drops when you replace CMR drives with SMR, as you might expect, terrible.
What makes Hattis & Lukacs’ class-action suit against Western Digital interesting is that the firm is not just looking for money — it’s looking for an injunction to prevent Western Digital from advertising SMR drivers as appropriate for NAS devices or RAID in any way. In fact, this seems to be the major relief that the lawsuit is seeking, as it also states that the plaintiffs are not currently seeking compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.
The suit relied heavily—in fact, almost exclusively—on alleged false advertising by Western Digital. Although it is an angry case about the inappropriateness of the Red drives, this is only the basis to make the real case of the company, which is that Western Digital violated the California Consumer Law Amendment Act, the False Advertising Act, the Unfair Competition Act, and the Protection Policy User. The suit makes the case that all plaintiffs should be able to sue under California law (where Western Digital is headquartered) but makes a provision to fall back under the plaintiffs’ home states as well, if necessarily
If this suit is successful in obtaining a permanent injunction barring Western Digital from advertising SMR drives as suitable for NAS use, it will set a strong precedent for the rest of the storage industry as well.
More on Western Digital SMR from ServeTheHome
In related news, tech site ServeTheHome has followed suit with an addition explanation about both Western Digital’s own understanding of where SMR technology should and should not be used, and how vendors who resell Western Digital Red drives have responded. In our previous coverage, we noted that perhaps WD had tested traditional RAID as seen in consumer NAS devices, but failed to test or understand ZFS.
In the video above, however, HGST engineer Manfred Berger describes a European OpenZFS conference and describes how the SMR driver-management technology used in the new Red drives is not suitable for ZFS use because “unexpected or reduced performance,” especially when not in new-out-of-the-box condition. Berger works for the HGST division, not the division that designs or manufactures the Red line—but we’re still looking at a Western Digital hard drive engineer who clearly knows about both ZFS and the SMR mismatch of drive management for it.
ServeTheHome also points out that both Synology and ixSystems now list SMR-equipped Red drives as incompatible with their storage devices—and says that neither vendor knew before the time Western Digital introduced it. SMR into the Red line, leaving them to discover and react for themselves.