RealTime IT News

First 2.5-inch SATA Drives On the Way

Fujitsu Computer Products of America (FCPA) has grand designs for its small form factor hard drives these days, and now the subsidiary of the Japanese technology giant is pressing forward with its 2.5-inch hard drives for mobile products such as laptops and consumer electronics devices.

Mike Chenery, vice president of advanced product engineering for San Jose, Calif.'s FCPA, said Fujitsu is pushing to become first to market with 2.5-inch mobile drives based on Serial ATA technology, with its new Fujitsu MHT-BH.

The technology is being created for storage markets that can take advantage of higher performance, higher capacity and smaller footprint hard disk drives.

Similar to the logic of employing thin blade servers to power computing resources, the idea for smaller form factor disk drives is rooted in the ongoing trend to conserve space, power and costs in a data center. The trick is to make them smaller, while at the same time ensuring that the drives can handle enterprise-class data.

Chenery said early iterations of the little drives, dubbed SATA Extended Duty Mobile 2.5-inch drives, are being offered to original equipment manufacturers of laptops for testing. But ultimately, the engineer said he hopes his drives will power high density applications such as storage blades, video servers and compact RAID systems in the next few years.

Two main features of the mobile drives include native Serial ATA II interface support and native command queuing, which provides a 30 percent bump in performance by allowing 32 instructions to be queued and reordered by the hard disk controller. Ideally, laptops would boot up one minute faster than current times.

Fujitsu MHT-BH was developed with the support of Marvell Semiconductor, whose single chip Serial ATA SOC eliminates the need for a bridge chip providing the benefits of a Serial ATA interface. Qualification samples will be available in April 2004.

Serial technology-based products are broadly replacing their parallel brethren for a number of reasons, including cost, performance and speed.

Fujitsu competitors in this increasingly competitive space include Seagate, Toshiba and Hitachi and while each have different shares of the large market, Chenery said Intel holds the true key to the SATA space.

The chipmaker is currently developing "back-to-school" timed chipsets for notebooks and other devices that can handle serial technologies. Those are slated for release in August or September of 2004.