Inside Western Digital’s New Enterprise Push

As enterprises’ need for quick access to data continues it inevitable march onward, Western Digital is moving to capture its own share of the market.

Enter WD’s new S25 SAS-connected drive, serving up 300 GB of high-performance storage for mission-critical and high I/O enterprise storage applications, as well as datacenters and large data arrays. The S25 can send data to its controller up to 6 Gb/s and the disk spins at 10,000RPM.

Western Digital’s (NYSE: WDC) entry into the enterprise sector isn’t without a good deal of preparation: After having focused in large part on the desktop and notebook space, the company three years ago made the decision to go after its largest untapped market.

“It takes a lot of underpinning, testing, verification, and validation because you are going into the ultimate mission critical applications with this type of a drive, and you have to do it right the first time,” Tom McDorman, vice president and general manager of WD’s enterprise storage solutions business unit, told

“We decided years ago that to grow WD, we need to penetrate the enterprise. In the past, the dominant market we served was the desktop; as we launched into mobile, we became the largest mobile drive supplier. Now, as we look out over the next one to four years, we believe that 10k SAS will be the largest growth segment of traditional enterprise space.”

WD aims not only to garner market share, but to improve its profit margins as well. Other drive makers generally enjoy their best margins in the traditional enterprise by selling SAS, SCSI and fiber-channel drives for datacenter and storage array applications.

In essence, the S25 is an upgraded, robust version of its SATA cousin, known as the VelociRaptor, which has been well received by both the server and gaming communities.

By starting with a mature product, WD leverages its existing manufacturing process and adds the SAS interface. In doing so, it can better ensure that it’s delivering a field-hardened product to the enterprise.

Also, the drive fits into an adapter, in the industry known as a “sled” or “icepack,” which not only adapts the S25 into a 3.5-inch slot but also provides a heatsink to keep the drive cool, enabling its generous 1.6 million MTBF necessary for an enterprise designation.

While Western Digital has yet to indicate whether it would make the VelociRaptor available in the latest SATA flavor, now called SATA 6G, McDorman did drop some hints.

“We aren’t doing a one-trick pony show,” he said. “The 6 gigabit/second SAS will ultimately transition to other products, but we don’t announce those products until they are ready to ship.”

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