Drive manufacturers boost capacity, data rates


By Heidi Biggar

At last week's Comdex show, hard-disk-drive manufacturers demonstrated the latest improvements in drive technologies. Among those introducing new products were IBM, Quantum, and Seagate.

IBM, for example, demonstrated the Ultrastar 73LZX-the company's fifth-generation 10,000rpm Ultrastar drive. In announcing the drive family, IBM claims to have overcome its time-to-market problems. "The product is proof that our drive business is back on track," asserts Greg Piligian, program director for IBM's server hard disk drive business.

The 73LZX touts significant improvements in both capacity and performance over previous generations. IBM says it has increased processing speed by 20%, improved read/write channel performance by 50%, and reduced idle power by 20%. An Ultra320 SCSI option will double interface speeds to 320MBps.

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The company is also working with Agilent Technologies to qualify Agilent's 2Gbps Fibre Channel host bus adapter for use with the drive. An announcement is expected by the end of the year.

IBM says it will begin shipping 73LZX evaluation units early in the first quarter, a year after it belatedly ramped production of the previous generation drive. Full volume ramp is expected by mid-year. The drive will be available in four capacities: 73GB, 36GB, 18GB, and 9GB.

Meanwhile, Quantum says its Atlas 10K III drive announcement will target both performance-critical and cost-sensitive high-end applications as well as catalyze 10,000rpm drive adoption.

"Atlas 10K III takes over for 7,200rpm and expands the 10,000rpm market," says Ralph Dickman, program marketing manager for Quantum's high-end storage division.

The drive is available in three capacities (18GB, 36GB, and 73GB), has a 4.5ms access time, and will be available with Ultra160 SCSI or Ultra320 SCSI connectivity. Quantum also claims to have improved areal densities and data rates by more than 2x over 10K II drive levels. Volume shipments are expected in the first quarter of 2001. The 73GB drive will list for $1,450.

Of Seagate's four product announcements, its Barracuda 36ES drive stands out. Recognizing the role that 7,200rpm ATA drives are expected to play in server markets through 2003, Seagate unveiled plans to ship this low-cost SCSI drive late this year (see October Special Report). Pricing has not been determined, but a significant reduction is likely.

"A lot of growth is projected for the appliance-server market," says Michael Green, enterprise product marketing manager at Seagate. The Barracuda 36ES is designed to go after some of this market, he explains. Target applications include entry-level servers, workstations, entry-level audio/visual, multi-drive/multi-user environments, and entry-level RAID.

The 7,200rpm Barracuda 36ES will be available in 18GB and 36GB capacities with an Ultra SCSI or Ultra160 SCSI interface.

As for Seagate's other new drive offerings, the Cheetah 36XL is a 10,000rpm drive that will be available in 9GB, 18GB, and 36GB capacities with an Ultra160 SCSI interface. The drive will be available through distribution channels only.

Higher up the performance/capacity ladder, the Cheetah 73LP packs 36GB or 73GB into a one-inch-high form factor with either Ultra160 SCSI or Fibre Channel connectivity, depending on drive capacity.

And lastly, for capacity-hungry applications such as data warehousing, data mining, and e-commerce, Seagate announced the Barracuda 180. The 180GB drive is reportedly the highest-capacity drive announced, with an areal density of 15Gb/in2.

Seagate will roll these drives out in phases beginning in late January.

This article was originally published on November 01, 2000