The world’s largest hard disk drive (HDD) manufacturer has finally entered the solid-state disk (SSD) drive market with its first line of enterprise SSDs aimed at blade servers and general-purpose servers.

The first new drive, dubbed the Seagate Pulsar, uses single-level cell (SLC) technology and features a 3Gbps SATA 3Gbps interface. Pulsar’s peak performance is 30,000 I/Os per second (IOPS) on reads and 25,000 IOPS on writes, and 240MBps on sequential reads and 200 MBps on sequential writes.

The 2.5-inch Pulsar drive is available in capacities of 50GB, 100GB and 200GB.

Jim Handy, an analyst with independent research firm Objective Analysis, says the Seagate drives arer “on par” with other enterprise SSDs, and he gives the Pulsar a slight edge in write performance.

Handy adds that the Pulsar’s IOPS performance also compare favorably with other SATA-based SSD drives. In comparison, Intel’s Extreme SSDs support approximately 15,000 read IOPS and STEC’s ZeusIOPS line of Fibre Channel SSDs tout read speeds of 45,000 IOPS, according to Handy.

Teresa Worth, Seagate’s senior product marketing manager, says the first Pulsar drive is aimed at blades and general-purpose server applications. But, she says, it is the first SSD product of many in the pipeline at Seagate.

The company plans to offer additional drives under the Pulsar brand next year targeting entry-level RAID and high-end and midrange external storage applications.

“Solid-state disks are going to expand the overall enterprise storage market. The drives are ideal for improving the performance of IO-intensive transactions and effectively create a new tier of storage that expands the overall space,” says Worth.

According to analyst firm Gartner, the SSD market is poised for growth. The firm estimates that unit growth will double and sales of SSDs will reach $1 billion in 2010.

Worth claims that Seagate’s presence in the enterprise storage market and its OEM partnerships will give the company a leg up in its efforts to capture share in the SSD market.

“A lot of the vendors in the SSD market today come from a consumer background and aren’t equipped to support large, global OEMs for enterprise environments,” says Worth. “We have tightly integrated partner ecosystems with large OEMs and have all of the resources in place to walk them through the [qualification] process.”

Objective Analysis’ Handy says it’s too soon to tell how well Seagate will execute its SSD strategy, but he agrees that the company’s clout in the enterprise storage market makes it a formidable competitor.

One factor to consider, says Handy, is Seagate’s traditional business model and how it translates to the SSD space.

“One thing about the enterprise SSD market is that it’s much smaller than the markets Seagate typically serves. Seagate’s focus is on big volumes, so there may not be a match between Seagate’s business model and the SSD market,” says Handy. “Since enterprise SSDs tend to replace enterprise HDDs at a ratio of around 10:1, it’s possible that the enterprise SSD market will never be more than 1/10th the units of the enterprise HDD market.”

Seagate’s Pulsar SSDs are currently available to OEMs for qualification.