Dell Bets Its Small Drives Will Be Big

Anticipating that enterprises will want smaller disk drives bearing the same capacity of today’s 3.5-inch drives, Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) is releasing a new NAS product featuring 2.5-inch drives that require less space and provide strong performance.

Dell MD1120

Dell MD1120

Source: Dell

The PowerVault MD1120 houses 24 of the small-form-factor drives that Dell said require 70 percent less space and up to 50 percent less power than models featuring 3.5-inch drives.

The product provides more than twice the input/output speed per rack unit over traditional 3.5-inch drive enclosures, according to the vendor.

While a 2.5-inch drive isn’t a new form factor, as it’s been around for a few years, adoption has been slow given its current maximum capacity of 146 gigabytes. Seagate is close to producing a 2.5-inch drive with 300-gigabyte capacity, and Dell is banking that adoption will be big.

“It’s about smaller, faster, cheaper,” Howard Shoobe, senior manager, storage product management at Dell, told

“Customers want the larger capacity and also want efficiency, and we’re listening to the customer,” Shoobe said.

The Seagate innovation, which Shoobe called the “knee in the curve” with 2.5-inch form factor adoption, is expected later this year. Dell is pushing out the NAS now to get enterprises prepped for the change.

“The 3.5 drive has been the traditional form factor, but as the smaller drive will now have the same capacity we anticipate customers will want the smaller drive,” he said.

Given increasing storage demands, as well as efficiency mandates, enterprises are looking for ways to save money and reduce storage operating costs. New drives that provide greater performance for less money are enticing, according to one industry watcher.

“A lot of companies are dealing with issues about how to get more compute power into a smaller space,” Charles King, principal analyst, Pund-IT, told

“If you can increase the density all the better,” King added. “This is a strategic move on Dell’s part,” he said, noting that Dell’s product launch approach is similar to how EMC brought SATA disk technology into the market.

“They were the first to bring data archiving via SATA with Centera, and they got some push back,” King recalled, as the traditional approach was to use Fibre Channel technology. One year later every vendor was pushing out SATA products, King noted.

The PowerVault MD1120, which is designed to provide more storage for Dell’s PowerEdge servers, shares a common disk drive with select Dell servers, which means simpler management and reduced cost of stocking spare parts, according to Dell.

It can scale to six enclosures and house up to144 drives when attached to Dell’s PowerEdge RAID Controller.

“This product is reflective of Dell’s long-term view of an approach to market, and the length and breadth of that vision,” King said.

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