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New WD HDs with up to 3 TD of storage capacity

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July 12, 2012

Western Digital has introduced a new line of hard drives with 1, 2 and 3 TB of storage capacity in a 3.5-inch form factor on with a 6 Gbit/s SATA interface that are designed to be installed in 1 to 5-bay NAS systems.

IDC says that the SOHO (small office, home office) market segment is one of the fastest-growing parts of the HDD market. As one of the leaders in the industry, Western Digital doesn't give away the actual spin-speed of the new drives, merely saying that they are using Intellipower so we can assume the speed is about 5,400 to 5,900 RPMs.

Previously, users and suppliers building such systems could use desktop drives that don't have the reliability needed but that are low-cost, or they could re-class enterprise drives, which do have the reliability required but are quite expensive.

The new drives are now being positioned for multi-bay drive units with 6 to 8 bays for SME applications, 8 to 12 bays for enterprise use and more than 4 bays for surveillance applications.

Western Digital says it's incorporating all the reliability needed, while ensuring the new drives are still more affordable than the old ones. It's calling them "NAS-ware technology" and these include 3D Active Balancing, clamping the drive spindle at both top and bottom for better balancing and vibration damping.

The company says that the new drives run at a lower temperature than competing products, which increases its long-term reliability.

WD also tuned timing parameters so that the new drives are much less likely to drop out of a RAID group through being unresponsive.

The new drives feature DDR2 RAM used for its 64 MB cache, which are faster than DDR RAM. They are designed for 24x7 operation and have a 1 million hour MTBF rating.

No pricing information is available as of yet. We will hopefully see 4 and 5 TB hard drives in the same configuration available in the coming months.

WD is moving away from its Caviar and Scorpio brands, saying that these new hard drives will be the primary devices from now on, with potentially both 2.5-inch and 3-5-inch form factor drives included soon.

Ian Keene, Western Digital's senior sales director, dropped a hint that hybrid drives, a combination of disk drive and SSD cache are coming soon, with possibly 64 GB and 128 GB flash caches.

The technology might appear in tablet drives- ie, thinner models with a 7 mm height and probably just one single platter.

In other hi tek news

Disk storage maker SMART has introduced a new SSD (solid state drive) that can do up to fifty full drive writes a day for no less than 5 years using consumer-grade MLC flash technology. That's almost 90,000 P/E cycles and a 50 times boost from the raw NAND rate.

The new product is the Optimus Ultra Plus, a 2.5-inch, 6 Gbit/s SAS SSD that features the same performance numbers at about 500 MB/sec.

The new SSD also features dual-port read and write bandwidth, 1 GB/sec wide port bandwidth, 100,000 random read IOPS and 60,000 random write IOPS. This compares to the original Optimus SSD which can do one full drive write a day.

SMART says that raw consumer-grade 2-bit MLC NAND can do less than one full drive capacity write a day for five years. Let's do some math here. One drive write/day for five years is 1,780 program/erase (P/E) cycles. Fifty drive writes/day for five years is almost 90,000 P/E cycles, well up with single level cell (SLC) flash.

Part of SMART's marketing message is that you can replace costly SLC flash drives with its lower-cost extended life MLC flash drives.

Its Guardian Technology platform uses some digital signal processing techniques to get this extended endurance. Let's extrapolate the idea here a bit and think what SMART could do with shorter life 3-bit flash (TLC).

It's not a linear extrapolation so we'll apply a 35X endurance improvement to the raw TLC instead of a 50X one, and arrive at 35 x 1,250 = 43,750 P/E cycles for 3Xnm (39-30nm) process technology TLC and 35 x 750 = 26,250 for raw 2Xnm (29nm-20nm) process TLC. That equates to roughly 25 and 15 full drive writes/day for five years respectively.

Seagate is developing a TLC flash controller that can run at 10,000 P/E cycles, less than half our computed number for SMART's technology applied to 2X nm TLC. Perhaps our extrapolation of a 35X improvement is just way off base.

Source: Western Digital.

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