Bigger and Better Disk Drives

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Flash memory may be crowding out the smaller disk drives found in handhelds and other portable devices, but it's causing a renewed focus on the full-sized devices that populate the laptop, desktop and server communities.


One by one, the major drive vendors are giving the boot to their 1- and 1.8-inch drive operations as new NAND flash chips prove to be less costly and just as effective for portable electronics applications. The trend is being led by Hitachi and Fujitsu, which both claim that the larger 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives offer a price/performance advantage for PC and server use. Fujitsu appears to be exiting the market altogether, giving up on a two-year project to develop 1.8-inch drives with Cornice, while Hitachi says it will offer existing units for a little while longer, no doubt to recoup as much as possible of the $2 billion it paid for IBM's disk business in 2002.


Meanwhile, Samsung just announced a new 3.5 SATA drive said to deliver up to 1 TB across three platters spinning at only 7200 rpm. The Spinpoint F1R (F1 RAID) drive is aimed at data-intensive environments such as databases, e-mail and Web servers and warehousing. It offers a 3 Gbps SATA interface, a 175 MBps transfer rate and a 32 MB cache.


And Seagate is making some noise in the removable drive market. The company has joined the iVDR (Information Versatile Disk for Removable usage) consortium and has been quietly showing a concept device that would likely compete with existing drives from ProStor and Iomega. The consortium is calling for devices ranging from 1.8 to 3.5 inches, although there's no reason to suspect that flash technology won't affect the removable drive market as well.


New drive technologies are always welcome news in that they generally push the performance envelope another notch even while driving the cost of earlier (but still useful) storage devices down. Increased attention to the larger drive formats can only be good news for enterprise users.