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Seagate Goes Super Thin and Solid State

Seagate, the world's largest hard drive vendor, is expanding into new territories with the announcements of solid-state drives (SSDs) and a revamp of its mobility drive business to include the smallest drive yet.

Seagate has been cautious about entering the market, giving it time for the flaws in the technology to get shaken out before going forward with its Pulsar line of SSD drives for mid-range enterprise servers.

The Pulsar will be targeted at mostly blade and rack-mounted servers in non-mission critical environments but eventually Seagate plans to move up into those areas in the future, according to Richard Vignes, senior product line manager for Seagate.

"We absolutely see there is a fit for SSDs in the enterprise marketplace. They will be used in I/O intensive workloads. That's where the best fit will be and we see the use case long-term," he told InternetNews.com.

However, it won't diminish the hard drive business at all, he adds. "It's a very complimentary business to hard drives. There will be room for both solutions in the marketplace and we will have a market expansion of petabytes. It won't be about one replacing the other," Vignes said.

Solid-state drives (SSDs) have been in vogue for a few years now. The drives are simply a large collection RAM that can hold the contents when the computer is powered down. SSD drives started out as a laptop phenomenon because they were lighter, generated less heat and drew less power, all appealing qualities for a laptop.

SSDs find a home in the enterprise

But their high price proved a turnoff to the mobility market, which is rather price sensitive. In the world of enterprise servers, with six-figure price tags are routine, the market could handle that premium price, and the past year has seen interest in SSD really take off for enterprise usage as a replacement for 15,000 RPM drives.

The Pulsar drives come in 50GB, 100GB and 200GB capacity in a 2.5 inch form factor. It has an annualized failure rate of 0.44 percent, which translates into a Mean Time Before Failure rate of two million hours. Most hard drives are measured by the MTBF rate, with the average drive lasting around 600,000 hour and some exceeding one million hours.

The Pulsar uses the standard SATA interface but still clobbers platter-based hard drives, particularly in random input-output per second (IOPS) tests. Against a 10,000 and 15,000 RPM drive, the Pulsar is 100 times faster at random reads. With sequential reads, that advantage drops to just a 50 percent improvement, but it's still a lot faster.

Pulsar has been in the hands of OEMs like IBM (NYSE: IBM) and HP (NYSE: HPQ) since September, who are in the process of qualifying it for their servers. Each one has a slightly different release schedule but expect to see commercial availability in the first half of 2010, said Vignes.

Page 2: A Momentus, thinner line of drives for laptops