Custom Systems Best Sellers: Hard Disk Drives


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Higher capacity, lower power consumption and more SAS have become the top drivers of hard disk drive sales through the custom system channel.

System builders are seeing strong sales of recently-introduced 1-Tbyte SATA hard disk drives for customers looking to keep their server and storage array costs low, and look forward to higher-capacity SAS drives for customers who need increased performance.

"We have a new storage enclosure with 16 slots," said Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Nor-Tech, a Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder. "We can now offer customers 1 Tbyte, 2 Tbytes, up to 16 Tbytes of storage. It's nice to be able to put in those kind of capacities."

For customers looking for better reliability over raw capacity inside their servers, however, Swank said a more common configuration is three 500-Gbyte RAID edition hard drives configured at RAID 5, giving a total of 1 Tbyte of RAID-protected capacity.

Joe Toste, vice president of marketing at Equus Computer Systems, a Minneapolis-based custom system builder, said he also sees strong demand for 1-Tbyte SATA hard drives. However, Toste said the demand is also building for larger-capacity SAS drives as well.

Toste and his peers are in luck. Best-selling vendor Seagate Technology LLC, Scotts Valley, Calif., in April unveiled a new member of its Barracuda ES SAS drive family with a capacity of 1 Tbyte, the first SAS drive of that size, said Henry Fabian, executive director of enterprise marketing for the drive vendor.

Performance of the new 1-Tbyte SAS drives is up by 135 percent compared to 1-Tbyte SATA drives, but the power consumption is up by only 1 watt, said Fabian. That results in an increase in performance per watt of power consumption of 38 percent over SATA, he said.

"A lot of integrators and system builders are putting together SATA systems with an interposer card in order to add full duplex capabilities (to get SAS-like performance)," he said. "So while SAS drives consume 1 watt of power more than SATA drives, with the interposer card, the SATA drives actually draw more power than SAS. So when we bring in 1-Tbyte SAS drives, it doesn't make any more sense to use SATA."

Cutting power consumption has become a critical issue, especially with ever-more government mandates toward that end, said Matt Rutledge, senior director of marketing at Western Digital Corp., Lake Forest, Calif.

Western Digital started selling its GreenPower line of SATA drives last Summer, and those drives are now available in 500-Gbyte, 750-Gbyte, and 1-Tbyte capacities.

"On the enterprise side, data center people are adopting cost/kilowatt-hour plans," Rutledge said. "They know that if they switch from high-power consumption equipment, it results in substantial savings."

Everybody is talking about lower power consumption hard drives in the same breath they are talking about cutting processor power use, said James Huang, product marketing manager at Amax Information Technology, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder.

"It's all part of the green trend," Huang said. "Customers are requesting it and we provide it."

Nor-Tech builds many high-availability computing devices where energy consumption is an important part of a customer's specifications, Swank said. "It can result in a loss of performance as customers power-down drives to cut power consumption," he said. "For customers doing racks and racks of servers, low power consumption is a concern. But for users with individual servers, it's not such a concern."

Another big push for custom system builders is ruggedized hard drives. Huang said those drives, sold typically to the military, are smaller in capacity and higher in price. "But for some markets, they're selling like crazy," he said. "People want them for mobile devices and for appliances such as home entertainment systems for their cars."

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