HDDs Break the 1 TB Platter Barrier

Arthur Cole

Hard disk technology may not be the data center darling it once was, but it still has the chops to deliver capacity at a time when enterprises are struggling to keep up with data loads.

The big news of recent weeks is the development of the 1 TB platter, a technology that is already pushing both professional and consumer external storage systems into the 4 TB range.

Hitachi GST was the first to ship a 1 TB platter, the Deskstar 7K1000.D. The device is available in both the Deskstar and Cinema Star lines where it can be matched with a 6 G SATA interface, a 32 MB cache buffer and power management tools that can shave about 23 percent off of idle power consumption. At the same time, Hitachi, now a unit of Western Digital, has ported the technology to the 4 TB G-Drive, a professional-grade external drive featuring eSATA, Firewire 800 and USB 2.0 connectivity. For Mac users, the company envisions a pair of G-Drives in a RAID O configuration once a Thunderbolt interface is added, probably by the end of the year.

The G-Drive is largely seen as a counter strike against Seagate's forthcoming GoFlex drive, which is also a 4 TB external drive powered by four 1 TB platters. Aimed at both professional and consumer users, the GoFlex ships with Dashboard backup and management software and a USB 3.0 adapter. It also spins at a power-saving 5400 rpm and features a 32 GB cache.

The Seagate and Hitachi drives were made possible by new TrueStore storage ICs from LSI Corp., which allowed for areal densities to hit the 625 Gb per square inch mark. The SoC/preamp devices also provided 40 nm read channels and low-density parity check (LDPC) decoding that helped streamline the data path. LSI also developed a new height-sensing and control mechanism that increased bit density and improved reliability.

All this comes at a time when demand for slow but steady storage is on the rise. IHS iSuppli reported this week that HDD shipments are expected to rise 3.4 percent in the third quarter with Western Digital and Seagate each taking about a third of the pie. Note, however, that both leading manufacturers are seeing
smaller margins as storage prices continue to drop.

With the diversity of solutions that have permeated all levels of the enterprise, the idea that one technology will immediately send another into obsolescence has grown quaint. Data centers are tasked with managing multiple layers of data, each with their own speed, capacity and processing requirements. Hard disks may not represent the bleed edge anymore, but they will continue to play a vital role for some time.

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