Monday, 21 March 2016 11:24

Seagate reveals its core Drive strategies


Hard disk drives (HDD) have long been the staple of computing devices – from notebooks to data centres. Recently Flash NAND or solid state drives (SSD) have made inroads.

Seagate’s Senior Field Applications Engineer Sam Zavaglia presented a very useful media briefing. This article attempts to put some of that into context.

Seagate Technology is an American data storage company – its current mantra’s are ‘Storing the world’s digital content’ and ‘The company that the world trusts to store our lives - our files and photos, our libraries and histories, our science and progress’. It was incorporated in 1978 as Shugart Technology.

While Seagate was primarily a ‘spinning’ disk-based company it has started producing SSD and SSHD – solid state hybrid disks offering the speed of Flash and the cost benefits of HDD. It has also moved to Helium filled 3.5” drives for data centres and putting even higher capacities into 2.5” mobile and external drives.

One thing is for sure – IDC says there is more data than ever with Big Data/Analytics, Machine to Machine (IoT), Surveillance, gaming, video and still photography, cloud and mobile driving storage needs of 44 Zettabytes by 2020. Demand for storage will exceed all providers combined – it is a good business to be in.

On the consumer front, 300 hours of video is being uploaded to YouTube every minute. Cloud storage (vast network storage largely consumed on a user pays basis) account for 70% of storage and big data will grow at 30% per annum.

Whatever the outcome HDD will remain, for the foreseeable future, the best value per Terabyte.

Seagate is investing in new technologies. Some build on previous technologies and some are new. From current to the future (in order) these include:

  • CMR: Conventional Magnetic Recording (Perpendicular) - current
  • SMR: Shingled Magnetic Recording – overlaps tracks for up to 25% storage gain
  • TDMR: Two-Dimensional Magnetic Recording
  • Helium: for increased drive accuracy and areal density
  • HAMR: Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording. Lasers spot-heat disk media when writing, enabling smaller bits
  • HDMR: Heated Dot Magnetic Recording
  • BPM: Bit-Patterned Media or BPMR (Bit-Patterned Magnetic Recording). Multiple heads improve signal-to-noise allowing higher data density

Seagate is ramping technologies such as SMR and HAMR to continue scaling areal densities (the amount of data per square inch on a disk drive platter). It is also working with the Photonics Electronics Technology Research Association of Japan on the Kinetic Open Storage Project to develop optical interconnects for use in data centres, and hopes to make the tech commercially viable for large-scale deployment in future exascale systems.

New uses are placing new demands on HDDs. Video recording and surveillance, Network attached storage (NAS), Compute (using SSD, Flash Accelerator Cards), NVMe SSD (Non-Volatile Memory Express), and 10,000 and 15,000 RPM HDD. Zavaglia said it was important to match the drive to the use – desktop, surveillance, archive, NAS, Enterprise NAS and enterprise capacity.

There is no doubt that Flash is driving the expectation of speed - especially in consumer devices where almost ‘instant on’ is expected. The SSHD (using 32GB of Flash) drive gives up to a 35% faster boot, a 600% faster application load, and 200% faster games performance.

Earlier in March Seagate demonstrated a 10GB/s SSD to meet open compute project (OCP) specifications making it ideal for hyper-scale data centres looking to adopt the fastest flash technology with the latest and most sustainable standards. The 10GB/s unit is 4GB/s faster than the previous fastest SSD. OCP storage specifications are being driven by Facebook to help reduce the power and cost burdens traditionally associated with operating at this level of performance.

In the surveillance market the speed and size of the drive is determined by the number of cameras, the data transfer rate – at the desired resolution, the length of storage, and its use in video analytics.

For example, at a recent Netgear presentation, the Arlo security camera shoots in 720p generated about 800 kb/s. If you recorded for 24 hours that one camera would generate nearly 9GB of data! Imagine that for a whole city! When you analyse it, the data is cached and copied adding considerably to storage needs. Now look at the trend to record in 1920 x 1080 HD and you can see where this market is going. Surveillance drives are built for 24/7 streaming, 180TB of data a year (three times a desktop drive rating) and Seagate’s 8TB model will support up to 64 HD cameras.

Similarly, Enterprise NAS requires huge workloads – 550TB/year, faster read and write, and use less power.

Zavaglia stressed,” Put the right drive in the right place.” Thanks, Seagate.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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