Sizing up storage

An exciting year ahead for storage with the arrival of the terabyte drive, as well as hybrid hard drives aimed at reducing storage power consumption in notebook computers.

2007 looks set to be an exciting and challenging year for the storage makers, and size, it seems, still matters to those who have an insatiable appetite for more data storage capacity.

As demand for data storage capacity from both enterprises and consumers increases, the terabyte drive will eventually attract users who need more storage capacities, according to Doug Pickford, director of market and product strategy at Hitachi Global Storage Technologies.

A single terabyte drive--which comprises a trillion bytes, or a million megabytes, or 1,000 gigabytes, as measured by the hard-drive industry--takes up less space than four 250GB drives, and can contain approximately 330,000 3MB photos or 250,000 MP3s, according to Hitachi.

Hitachi announced earlier this month that it will launch 3.5-inch-diameter 1 terabyte drives for desktops in the first quarter this year, and 3.5-inch terabyte drives for digital video recorders in the second quarter.

Rival Seagate Technology has also said it will launch its first 1 terabyte drive in the first half of 2007.

Outlook.07

What's hot
Terabyte hard drives and hybrid hard drives will make their debut this year.

Bottom line:
The terabyte drive can store up to 1,000GB worth of data and takes up less space than four 250GB drives, while the hybrid hard drives will offer benefits in areas such as power consumption and reliability in notebooks.

Another development to watch out for is the emergence of a new category of storage--hybrid hard drives (HHD).

The Hybrid Storage Alliance, including major hard-drive makers Seagate, Hitachi, Samsung, Fujitsu and Toshiba, claims that the falling cost of flash memory chips in recent years is making them cheap enough to be included in hybrid drives without increasing the price dramatically.

The hybrid drive consists of both traditional magnetic platters, such as those used in standard hard drives today, and flash memory chips. The flash chips are used to store certain data that were typically written to disk, so that it can be accessed quickly, without having to wait for the hard drive to spin up.

Early this month, the alliance announced that they will team up to promote and develop hybrid drives.

Nur Hayati, a market analyst for personal systems at IDC Asia-Pacific, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that the success of HHD "will greatly depend on the PC OEMs (original equipment manufacturers)". That is because hybrid hard drives are not a requirement of [Microsoft Windows] Vista but they can only be used with Vista.

Nur Hayati said that the greatest impact of hybrid drives will be seen in the notebook market, where the drives are targeted at.

The notebook market is "where the improvements that hybrid hard drives offer in power consumption and perhaps reliability will make the most impact to everyday use", Nur Hayati explained. The spinning hard disk drive, she added, uses up about 10 percent to 15 percent of the power in a notebook battery.

HHD adoption should get a boost next year. "This is because after June 2008, PC makers will be required to use HHDs if they want to attain the 'Vista Premium' logo on their notebooks," she noted.

The rise of flash
SanDisk has announced plans to develop a hard drive based solely on flash chips, which will add US$600 to the cost of a laptop.

According to SanDisk, flash memory drives are less vulnerable to breaking down, they consume less energy and can retrieve data faster. Unlike traditional hard drives, flash drives do not contain moving parts and can survive drops from great heights.

Doreet Oren, director of product marketing for SanDisk, said that the company's flash drive can increase battery life by about 10 percent. The storage maker claimed that in its own tests, the Sandisk flash drive was able to boot-up Windows Vista in 35 seconds, a half-minute faster than the 55-second boot-up time required with a conventional drive.

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