November 29, 2000

Review: Quantum Atlas 10K II Ultra160

Author: JT Smith

- By Jeff Field -

As you probably know, Linux runs pretty well on low-end hardware. You can get it running pretty well on a 500- to 1000-megabyte hard drive. On the other end of the spectrum, you can run it on enormous drives with gigabytes upon gigabytes of storage running at 10,000 RPM. In this article I review the Quantum Atlas 10K II Ultra160 SCSI hard drive, one of Quantum's latest entries into the SCSI server/workstation hard drive market.

The drive

The 73.4 gigabyte model of the Atlas 10K II from Quantum stores quite a large amount of information. I came late into the game with computers, and my first machine only had a 40 megabyte Seagate hard drive. Move ahead to the present, and we have hard drive manufacturers playing leapfrog more than AMD and Intel do. Recently many new drives have been announced, including the enormous (both in size and (presumably) cost) Seagate Barracuda 180 gigabyte model. Still, that particular drive has only been announced, and drive in the area of 73 gigabytes are at the top of the line now.

When considering a drive, there are many factors, including drive speed and effeciency, and the physical dimensions of the drive, the temperature at which it runs, and the amount of noise it produces. Now, if you are looking for a quiet drive that runs cool and fits in a low profile case, you probably don't want this drive. First, it's a 10,000 RPM hard drive, which means that besides being horrifyingly fast, it is also quite loud when being used heavily. The noise isn't too bad, and is something that can be drowned out fairly easily by music, a TV, or anything else that makes a more pleasant sound than the high-pitched chattering of a hard drive.

As for the temperature, the drive does run hot to the touch, but with proper ventilation the heat should not be an issue, although this is not a drive you want to stack tightly together into drive bays.

As for the physical dimensions of the drive, the drive is a 1.64-inch high half-height drive, as opposed to the usual 1-inch tall drives. This means that it will take the space of two normal drives. However, with a drive of this size, increased size is to be expected, to account for the size of the 10 7.3-gigabyte platters that make up the 73.4 gigabytes. This might make it difficult to fit into smaller cases, but I wouldn't recommend using a drive like this in a smaller case than a full tower, because midtowers and smaller might not provide enough ventilation for the drive.


Atlas 10K II 73.4 GB
Size 73.4 Gigabytes
Rotation Speed 10,000 RPMS
Avg Seek Time 5.2 ms
Internal Data Rate 280 to 478 Mb/sec
Sustained Throughput 24 to 40 (MB/sec)
Interface Ultra160 160MB/sec
Onboard Buffer 8 megabytes


As with most hard drives, installation was fairly simple. Most SCSI hard drives come set for SCSI ID 0, and this one was no different. However, because it was the only SCSI drive in the system, no change was needed. Had it not been the only SCSI hard drive, the change would only need to have been made with a jumper, as with most hard drives, SCSI or IDE. Mounting the drive was simple, and it was mounted away from any other drives to allow maximum air flow around the drive.


In order to test the performance of this drive, I used two Linux-based benchmarks. The first, Bonnie++ 1.00f, which does quite a few operations on the drive. To save space and time, I will simply provide a link to the Bonnie++ readme.html. Bonnie++ does several I/O tests in order to determine the performance of hard drives. For my other, and less extensive test, I used the utility hdparm, most likely included with your Linux distribution, to test the cached and uncached (but still buffered by the drives onboard buffer) throughput of the drive. In order to test a device with the software disk cache enabled, use the command 'hdparm -t devicename.' To test the uncached (but buffered) throughput of the drive, use hdparm -T devicename. Where bonnie++ simulates several real-time situations, hdparm simply attempts to figure out the drive's maximum throughput.

System specifications

AMD Athlon 750
128 Megabytes PC133 SDRAM
FIC SD-11 AMD Irongate-based Mainboard
3COM 3C905TX-B 10/100MB NIC
3DFX Voodoo 3 3000 AGP 16MB Video Board
Adaptec 29160 32-BIT PCI SCSI Controller
Western Digital 10gb 7200 RPM WD102BA IDE HDD (boot/OS) (ReiserFS)
Linux Mandrake 7.2 with Kernel 2.2.17
Quantum Atlas 10K II Ultra160 connected to Ultra160 chain (ReiserFS)

hdparm Cached
WD102BA IDE 145.45 MB/sec
Atlas 10K II 148.84 MB/sec
hdparm Uncached
WD102BA IDE 4.44 MB/sec
Atlas 10K II 40.00 MB/sec

While the cached speed of the drives is the same, which is to be expected since it really doesn't depend all that much on the drive, we see a real difference in the raw throughput of the Atlas 10K II. It can output data at a maximum 40 MB/second uncached, which is pretty amazing. This is due largely to its 8-megabyte buffer and its low seek time.

Drive Per-Character Block Rewrite
Atlas 10K II 6333 K/sec, 96% CPU 36865 K/sec, 59%
13065 K/sec, 20% CPU
WD102BA IDE 3172 K/sec, 49% CPU 5774 K/sec, 20%
2401 K/sec, 22% CPU
Drive Per-Character Block Random
Atlas 10K II 6441 K/sec, 92% CPU 35546 K/sec, 21%
167.4 Seeks/sec, 1% CPU
WD102BA IDE 2876 K/sec, 60% CPU 3783 K/sec, 32%
76.8 Seeks/sec, 6% CPU
Drive Create Read Delete
Atlas 10K II 7410 /sec, 96% CPU none 8028
/sec, 98% CPU
WD102BA IDE 8806 /sec, 93% CPU none 12301
/sec, 96% CPU
Drive Create Read Delete
Atlas 10K II 6637 /sec, 99% CPU none 8094
/sec, 99% CPU
WD102BA IDE 9056 /sec, 100% CPU none 11182
/sec, 98% CPU

Bonnie++ is an interesting benchmark in that it reports the CPU utilization during the procedures. Now, mind you, these don't strictly relate to disk usage, as some of the CPU is used by whatever pattern Bonnie++ is using to read/write. This makes Bonnie++ good to use to test where your bottleneck might be on something like database access, which is what Bonnie++ is targeted toward. In this case, we find that in many, but not all, operations the Atlas 10K II manages to outperform our baseline Western Digital IDE drive. However, somewhat surprisingly, the WD102BA does take the Atlas in the tests related to file creation. Why this would happen I'm not completely sure, but it's interesting nonetheless. It is, however, much faster in input and output than the baseline hard drive used for these tests.

About Quantum
Founded in 1980, Quantum is a manufacturer of storage devices for personal computers and networks, from IDE and SCSI hard drives to SNAP plug-in network file servers. Quantum is a public company listed under the symbols DSS (DLT and Storage Systems) and HDD (Hard Disk Drives).


The Atlas 10K II is an excellent drive, from a reputable manufacturer. It has all the features needed for those interested in creating a higher-end server or workstation. Speed, size and a reputable manufacturer. However, many of the people I know who work with high-end systems would rather have a few smaller drives than one large drive. This is for various reasons, but if you are looking for one big drive, or several big drives, the Atlas 10K II is definately a drive to consider. The only real downfall is that the lowest price I could find it for was $1,009 on Pricewatch. However, when you are in the market for high-end drives, that's the sort of price tag you'll get.


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