Capacity Issues Raised As Seagate Plans 3-TB Hard Drives

Seagate is readying the introduction of two new types of hard drives, including a pair of 3-TB enterprise hard drives that will not work with today’s systems and a hybrid drive with built-in flash memory to eliminate the need for a separate SSD in mobile PCs.

Channel sources indicate that Seagate is planning to introduce both SAS and SATA versions of its upcoming 3-TB hard drive as part of its enterprise-class Constellation ES family, which would make them the storage industry’s largest drives in terms of total capacity.

Seagate’s Constellation ES family currently tops out at a maximum storage capacity of 2 TB.

A Seagate spokesperson confirmed that the upcoming 3-TB hard drive would be for the enterprise business.

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However, such a large capacity drive could pose problems for storage OEMs and systems builders because of a capacity limit imposed on hard drives back in the days when breaching the 100-GB capacity mark was still mainly a dream.

Barbara Craig, a senior product marketing manager at Seagate focused on the nearline enterprise storage market, without admitting that Seagate will offer a 3-TB drive, blogged recently on her company’s site that system builders need to be aware of this new capacity point when considering adopting larger drives in the future.

Craig wrote that the original computer architecture included a number of limitations, including a 2.1-TB LBA (logical block address) limit on hard drive capacity.

While 2.1 TB at the time was more than enough capacity per drive, that limit in today’s operating systems, BIOS controllers, hard drive controllers, and device drivers is a wall against users’ growing stores of digital content is pressing, Craig wrote.

She called for the industry to adopt Long LBA (LLBA) as a way to allow access to drive capacities of over 2.1 TBs. ’If high capacities are in your future, I highly recommend you check with your software and hardware suppliers on their plans for implementing Long LBAs today,’ she wrote.

System builders confirmed that The 3-TB hard drives are slated to ship around September or October of this year.

Next: System Builders Say It’s Time To Get Ready For New Drives

One system builder, who requested anonymity, said one SATA version of the new drives will have a 6-Gbit-per-second interface. ’This will help drive the adoption of 6-Gbit SATA technology, which has been a little slow to start,’ the system builder said.

Another system builder, who also requested anonymity, said there will be a lot to do to get ready for the new drives.

’We gotta make sure the infrastructure is ready,’ the system builder said. ’The controllers, the HBAs, the apps all need to be updated. The code for today’s hard drives was written in the 1970s.’

In the meantime, Seagate is in the process preparing to release a hybrid mobile drive which combines a traditional spinning hard drive and a small amount of flash memory to serve as a solid state drive (SSD).

One custom system builder said the hybrid drives could be released as early as next week, and will be available in a 2.5-inch mobile drive format.

That would allow them to be used in notebook PCs in such a way that normal everyday data would be stored on the spinning drive while boot data would be stored on the SSD portion in order to allow fast bootups of the PC.

That would eliminate the need for a separate hard drive and SSD to achieve the same effect, the system builder said.

HWbox, a Greek-language technology Website, last week reported on the new hybrid drive which it called the Momentus XT.

That drive will be available in capacity points of 250 GB, 320 GB, and 500 GB, and include 4 GBs of SSD capacity and a 32-MB cache. It supposedly will also be available with USB 3.0 and eSATA interfaces.