Aug 14 2008

Storage to Go

The latest storage gear adds speed and can pack more data for roving users.

Storage manufacturers are responding to the demand for energy efficiency, improved transfer speed and increased capacity by developing faster, greener disk drives that can store up to 1 terabyte of data in a notebook computer.

Seagate Technology has released the latest addition to its Cheetah drive series. The 15K.6 model is available in 146-gigabyte, 300GB or 450GB capacities, and reaches transfer rates of 164 megabytes per second. The 3.5-inch, 15,000 revolution-per-minute drives are equipped with a 16MB cache, have an estimated 1.6 million hours of  mean time before failure (MTBF), and according to the company, consume 39 percent less power than previous models.

Seagate says the dramatic power consumption decrease is the result of the company’s built-in PowerTrim technology, which allows for dynamic power consumption optimization by supplying power in accordance with the system's state of activity. These drives come in the Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) version and are aimed primarily at the server market. The American Super Micro Computer Company has already announced it will use the 15K.6 series in its SuperServers. Seagate Technology’s CEO, Bill Watkins, recently revealed plans to launch a 2TB hard drive in 2009, as well as the company’s first solid state drive (SSD).

Energy Savers

One of the leaders of the solid storage industry, SanDisk, recently introduced a series of 64GB SSDs. The products reach a sustained read rate of 67MBps and are dramatically more energy efficient. A 2.5-inch SATA SSD in the series consumes only half as much power as the hard drive — 1watt during active operation vs. 2.4W.

One of the more interesting products recently introduced by SanDisk is the Vaulter Disk, a small 8GB/16GB flash-based drive. The mini-PCIe module can be used to separately run all OS-related work and store frequently accessed files, while the hard disk remains dedicated to user-driven applications. According to the company, the Vaulter Disk boosts overall responsiveness while maintaining enhanced performance by working side by side with the HDD to optimize data transfer to the host.

Another interesting product launched by SanDisk this year is the FlashBack Adaptor, a notebook-dedicated ExpressCard backup solution that automatically backs up your mobile content to a SanDisk memory card. Any time data is altered in any file or folder that has been pre-selected by the user, the latest version is immediately updated on the card or even online, allowing the user to access the backed-up data from any other PC.

San Diego–based Iomega launched the 120GB REV Backup Drive earlier this year. The drive is equipped with a USB 2.0 for external use and SATA interfaces for internal use. REV removable hard disks, which are based on Iomega’s patented technology, are divided into two parts: The first is a drive bay, which stores sensitive read-write heads and electronics; the second is a completely isolated low-cost removable disk, which hosts the platter and a fluid-dynamic bearing motor.

The company says the biggest advantage of such unique design is speed because the disks let users backup and restore data up to 10 times faster than tape drives. Additionally, a REV disk requires no maintenance as it is sealed against contamination and integrates a virtual clean-room environment. This is supported by automatic head-cleaning, air filtration and two-stage error correction for automatic data verification.

Iomega says the new drive reaches transfer rates of up to 35MBps and has an estimated 30-year archival life, with approximately 1 million rewrite durability. This model is already shipping, and its ATAPI-interface counterpart is expected to follow soon.

“The new REV 120GB Backup Drive offers more native capacity, near instantaneous random access to files, faster backups and restores, and ruggedized cartridges — all at a much better drive price,” says Thomas Kampfer, president and COO of Iomega.  “In addition, REV drives offer today’s multimedia enthusiast a limitless storage solution for libraries of content with each 120GB REV disk holding approximately 48,000 photos, 2,000 hours of music or 12 hours of high-definition video.”

Small Size, Big Capacity

Samsung recently started shipping its new 2.5-inch 500GB hard drives for notebook computers. The drives consists of three 167GB platters. Samsung says two such disks can fit into most notebook computers, providing an impressive 1TB of storage capacity.

Other specifications of the Spinpoint M6, which is already available for purchase, include a 5,800 rpm spin rate, an 8MB cache and a 3 gigabytes-per second SATA interface.

Samsung is also working toward improving its Flash SSD technology. After having released 64GB and 128GB models, the company recently announced a 256GB drive with a read speed of 200MBps, faster than most conventional hard drives. Samsung aims its SSD products mainly at the notebook market, where users are willing to pay higher prices in exchange for a boost in performance, reliability and low power consumption.     

At the beginning of this year, Adaptec launched its Series 5 RAID controllers. The RAID controllers offer 28-port connectivity and allow up to 256 SATA or SAS drives to be connected to a single system, providing approximately 200TB of storage capacity. Adaptec says the new x8 PCI Express controllers are five times faster than those sold by their competitors, reaching speeds of 250,000 I/Os per second and throughput rates of up to 1.2GBps.

Recently, Adaptec unveiled a new family of entry-level Unified Serial RAID controllers, which are built on the company’s dual-core RAID-on-Chip architecture used in Series 5 controllers. According to Adaptec, these new Series 2 controllers provide significant performance enhancement and scalability to low-cost data storage systems. They offer a combination of advanced hardware RAID 0, 1 and 10, independent of the server and its operating system, a novel internal and external port architecture, and a strong resistance to viruses. Series 2 controllers offer compatibility with more than 300 SATA/SAS devices, including mid-planes, disk drives and tape drives.