Hitachi has jumped ahead of IBM and Seagate in the race for higher capacity server disk drives, launching a 147.8GB, 3.5-inch hard disk at the Comdex exhibition in Las Vegas this week. The drives will only be for sale through OEMs in Europe, and will be available in servers from the middle of next year.
Hitachi and IBM are competing to offer larger drives, while applications like virtualisation and large Web servers are making increasing demands on the speed that data can be delivered from the disk, causing interfaces such as 320MB per second (2.5Gbit/s) Ultra320 SCSI, and 2Gbit/s Fibre Channel to emerge for servers.
A little further back from this leading edge. IBM used Comdex to spruce up its desktop IDE drive line, launching a 120GB model, the Deskstar 120GXP, with a rotation speed of 7200 revs per minute (rpm). The company's leading server drive remains the Ultrastar 36Z15, which has a speed of 15,000rpm, but a capacity of only 36.7GB.
Meanwhile Seagate announced that its Cheetah X15-36LP, which it claims is the fastest drive in the world (ie the first Ultra320 SCSI to actually be delivered) will be used in LSI Logic's Ultra320 SCSI RAID arrays.
"Advances in disk drives have to take place in step," said Mac Motraghi, product marketing manager at Hitachi UK. "Higher densities per unit area couple with higher revolution speeds to make data come off the disk a lot faster, so interfaces have to get faster to keep up. A 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel is on the horizon to cope with faster data rates," he said.
Hitachi's DK32EJ, which the company says is the highest capacity 10,000rpm enterprise-class drive, has an areal density of 30GB per square inch, and will be available, with Ultra320 SCSI and 2Gbit/s Fibre Channel interfaces, next year. It can transfer data at 500Mbit/s.
IBM's announcement of "pixie dust" is just a catchy name for the anti-ferromagnetically coupled (AFC) media which all companies in the field use, said Motraghi. "Japanese companies are not so good at coming up with catchy buzz words," he admitted.
Similarly, he poured cold water on IBM's other media darling, the 1-inch Microdrive. "It is expensive, at $400 for a 1GB drive. People don't really need that much data in that kind of package. For a notebook, a gigabyte is inadequate, as most people want 10GB or 20GB.
The companies also locked horns in the area of notebook drives, with IBM producing higher capacity units -- at the expense of a larger size. IBM's new Travelstar 60GH and 40GN have 60GB and 40GB capacities.
Hitachi's DK23DA only holds 40GB, but Motraghi points out that it is only 9.5mm tall, while IBM's notebooks are 12.5mm. "The trend is for notebooks to be thinner and lighter," he said. "Today's notebooks can't accommodate a 12.5mm drive. Even some of IBM's own Thinkpads require a 9.5mm one."
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