WD Doubles Up on High-Speed SATA for Enterprise

With double the storage, double the interface speed and double the cache, Western Digital’s new VelociRaptor hard drive lineup promises to deliver a solid step forward from its previous 10,000 RPM high-performance model announced two years ago.

The company this week began shipping the new VelociRaptor drives in both 450GB and 600GB capacities and a 2.5-inch form factor for the enterprise or 3.5-inch for the PC enthusiast.

The VelociRaptor isn’t the fastest drive out there: That is the territory of the solid-state drives. Nor can it compare with high-capacity 2TB drives. But WD’s VelociRaptor line fills an important gap between the two options: solid 24×7 datacenter performance, high throughput and low latency while maintaining a good dollar-to-gigabyte ratio. And as the world’s fastest SATA hard drive, it’s earned some bragging rights.

Darrin Bulik, product marketing for WD’s enterprise storage solutions, said the drives are targeting two key markets.

“There are two main places that this product adds value. One is in the high-performance PC, to accommodate applications like gaming and video editing,” he said. “The other one is server, whether it is blade servers or high-performance storage applications where the key factor is price per gigabyte.”

The specs are impressive: The new VelociRaptor line utilizes the latest SATA interface of 6Gb per second, which makes transfer to the doubled 32MB cache more efficient. The drive also maintains reliability in high-duty cycle environments: According to WD, it is rated at 1.4 million hours mean time between failures (MTBF), the highest rating among high-capacity SATA drives.

Those are key metrics for the enterprise SATA market, which has been growing considerably due to a number of reasons.

Bulik cited “social networking sites, regulations forcing longer requirements for data retention and more online backups. Even primary storage on SATA has been growing in the enterprise.”

Traditionally, enterprise storage has been dominated by fast and more robust interfaces such as Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) and Fibre Channel. SAS, for example, allows for advanced features like direct port access, full-duplex transfers and even dual porting for improved mission-critical reliability — but these factors don’t always trump higher capacity per dollar.

“What we are seeing in a lot of the social network applications is that they may not be as interested in local RAID and dual-port capability, because in a lot of cases, they have the data replicated throughout the world,” Bulik said. “They may not run RAID within a specific server, but in their mind they have almost RAIDed systems because they have the same data in California, in Washington and Dallas, and, if needed, data they can easily replicate and move around.”

So, while SAS can boast high I/Os per dollar and reliability numbers, WD is betting there is still a place for a reliable SATA drive that can withstand the rigors of a datacenter as well as a trip to the LAN party meeting.

The 3.5-inch form factor “IcePack” VelociRaptor models WD4500HLHX and WD6000HLHX are available now at select distributors and resellers. Meanwhile, the WD VelociRaptor 2.5-inch hard drives (models WD4500BLHX and WD6000BLHX) are under evaluation with OEM customers and will be available through select commercial distributors within this quarter, Western Digital said.

Suggested retail pricing for the WD VelociRaptor 450 GB model WD4500HLHX is $299, while the 600 GB model WD6000HLHX is $329.

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