Seagate to launch smaller disk drives

Seagate is working on a 2.5-inch disk drive which, it says, will help companies save on TCO.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- At last week's Storage World Conference 2003, most corporate speakers stopped short of announcing new products. But Seagate Technology's Gary Gentry was one of those who hinted at specific new technology that's in the works.

In his speech Wednesday, Gentry, Seagate's vice president for strategic marketing and planning, offered a forecast for how a new, more physically compact enterprise disk drive could save companies money, mainly by saving on real estate.

In an interview with SearchStorage.com, Gentry elaborated, saying that the product Seagate is planning is a very slim 2.5-inch drive. A user would be able to put six of these drives into a single 1U rack, as opposed to only two of today's 3.5-inch drives. That means the smaller drives would allow for RAID 5 capability in a 1U server.

"It's particularly focused around getting more performance out of a given cubic foot," Gentry said. "Our customers are saying, 'We need to shrink the amount of space that we take up for disk.' At the same time, customers are saying, 'We've got to get more out of this. We've got to see more performance, more workload, more everything.' These things kind of seem contradictory. The answer is, something's got to change."

Some additional statistics Gentry mentioned in his keynote are that systems using a new "small form factor" drive would require 70% less rack height, compared with those that use standard 3.5-inch 10K rpm drives. They would also achieve a 240% increase in "performance density," which means more I/Os per second coming out of a given space, he said. The smaller drives will also save 40% on power.

Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Seagate is about one year from being able to offer these smaller drives, Gentry told SearchStorage.com. Interviewed Friday, a Seagate spokesman added that the company will have a significant announcement related to this technology in about one week.

The idea of a smaller drive was only part of Gentry's focus last week. He also briefed attendees about what he calls the increasing momentum of 15K rpm drives compared with 10K rpm drives. The benefit of 15K over 10K is similar to what customers would see with a smaller, 2.5-inch drive, Gentry said: It offers stronger performance in a physical space that's the same size or smaller.

The market is reflecting growing demand for this type of advantage, Gentry told attendees.

Specifically, he said that three of Seagate's "key OEMs" are shipping increased numbers of 15K rpm disks. Compared with six months ago, these three OEMs, whom he declined to name, saw increases of 70%, 80% and 120% in the number of 15K rpm drives they ship.

Additionally, between 30% and 40% of all the enterprise drives Seagate ships today are 15K rpm drives, as opposed to 10K, Gentry said. That's up from 15% to 20% in 2002. Gentry said he expects the percentage to be greater than 50% by 2004.

Seagate ships about 55% of all enterprise drives, between 2 million to 3 million each quarter, but Gentry added that other disk drive makers are also seeing increases in sales of 15K rpm drives. In the total enterprise market, he said, the industry is shipping 60% more 15K rpm drives than it was six months ago.

The driver behind this trend, and behind Seagate's 2.5-inch drive strategy, is the same: Customers want more power in smaller spaces.

"We see tremendous adoption coming this year" of 15K rpm drives, Gentry said. "We think that's a really big deal. We think that something complementary to that is going to be this small drive. It's all about lowering total cost of ownership for our customers."

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