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Get ready for 4 TB SATA drives

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, now part of Western Digital, today launched the first 4 TB enterpris hard drive.

The Ultrastar 7K4000 is a 3.5-inch 7,200 rpm SATA drive with a 2 million hours mean time between failure (MTBF) and five-year warranty. Current SATA enterprise drives top out at 3 TB, and HGST’s main enterprise drive rival Seagate has not yet released a 4 TB drive.

HGST VP of product marketing Brendan Collins said he sees the larger drives as a boon for big internet companies and cloud providers because they allow organizations to pack in 33% more capacity than they can now while reducing power by 24%.

“If you’re a massive data center running out of space and you have to react to petabyte growth, one way of doing that is replacing 3 TB drives with 4 TB,” he said.

OEM partners are qualifying the drives, and Collins said he expects them to ship in volume around the middle of the year. But some vendors may hold off shipping due to the transition to the new Advanced Format 4K hard drive sectors. In moving from 512-byte sectors to 4,096-byte sectors, Advanced Format handles large files more efficiently and improves data integrity. However, server and storage vendors must rewrite their software to support the new format.

The Ultrastar 7K4000 is known as a 512e (emulation) drive because it is configured with 4,096-byte sectors and 512-byte firmware that allows software written for the older format to work with the new drive format. However, there will be performance degradation during the translation process and Collins said some storage vendors might wait until native 512-byte versions are available later this year before shipping the drives.

“Storage system vendors design their own file systems,” Collins said. “Some are ready [for 4K] and can drop it in immediately with no impact. If they’re not ready, they can wait for the native [512-byte] version.”

Collins expects the largest storage vendors to use the 512e drives. He also said HGST will likely have a SAS version of the 4 TB drive later this year.

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