Seagate announces its first solid-state drive

Seagate bided its time before entering the market

Seagate Technology LLC today announced its first solid-state disk drive and said the product is aimed at the booming general server and blade server marketplace.

Seagate's new Pulsar SSD is a 2.5-in., enterprise-class drive that uses single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash chips. The Pulsar will offer up to 240MB/sec. sequential read speeds and 200MB/sec. sequential write speeds or peak performance of up to 30,000 read IOPS and 25,000 write IOPS, according to Seagate. The company is backing the drive with a five-year limited warranty.

Seagate is among the last of the big disk drive manufacturers -- a list that includes Fujitsu, Hitachi and Western Digital -- to enter the SSD market. Seagate originally tested the NAND flash technology waters with the introduction of a hybrid laptop disk drive that combined disk storage with flash memory two years ago, but it found little success. The 2.5-in. Momentus 5,400-rpm drive featured 256MB flash cache memory and was supposed to only spin up the hard disk about 10 per cent of the time.

Western Digital entered the SSD market with its acquisition of SiliconSystems in March.

Seagate said it was waiting until the market and customers indicated the time was right.

"Seagate comes out with solutions when it makes business sense to do so, when our customers tell us that they're ready," said Teresa Worth, a senior product marketing manager at Seagate. "We've seen lower adoption than what's being hyped in the market. Now with SSD approaching a $US1 billion market in the next calendar year, it makes sense for us to enter the volume market."

"We've been the undisputed worldwide market leader for enterprise storage for 15 years. We're the first enterprise hard drive vendor to enter the enterprise solid-state drive market," she added.

Seagate said that, whereas other hard drive manufacturers purchased the SSD technology they are offering, the Pulsar will be a Seagate-manufactured product.

Rich Vignes, senior product line manager at Seagate, said the Pulsar is also the name of the company's entire new line of SSD products, which will eventually target other market segments with offerings such as external storage arrays. "We have a large number of engineers who are working on firmware, controller technology and memory technology," he said.

The Pulsar SSD, which has been shipping to systems vendors since September, will not be offered via direct sales and is being used in the manufacturing of generalized servers and blade servers.

Worth said Seagate would not disclose a suggested retail price for the drive, since equipment manufacturers will have to determine the retail price.

The drive uses a SATA 2.0 specification 3Gbit/sec. interface. Like SSD products from Intel Corp. and other manufacturers, Seagate's Pulsar SSD uses a multichannel internal architecture to increase throughput. Vignes said the drive has 16 channels to the flash storage. In comparison, Intel's X25-E enterprise-class SSD has 10 channels.

Seagate said its SSD uses 50 per cent less power than its traditional hard drives. Like other SLC-based flash memory products, the Pulsar is rated for about 100,000 read-write cycles. Seagate said its drive has a 0.44 per cent annualized failure rating. As an additional safeguard, Pulsar is equipped with Seagate's power loss data protection technology to ensure against data loss in the event of a power failure.

Worth said Seagate doesn't expect SSDs to have a significant impact on its hard drive sales.

"We understand enterprise storage, and have been leading the standards bodies for decades... and we have a global presence in manufacturing," Worth said. "Seagate's perspective is that solid-state disk and hard disk drives will co-exist for the long term and our portfolio will include both types."

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