Once upon a time, the idea of a terabyte drive was so remote that it seemed as distant and as large as another galaxy. But on Thursday, Seagate announced it has begun shipping a 250-GB hard drive that stores its data on a single platter inside a 3.5-inch format -- a key stepping-stone for Seagate's planned line of terabyte drives for the enterprise.
The Scotts Valley, California-based company also said its new Barracuda 7200.10 is the world's highest areal density desktop drive, at 180 Gbits per square inch. Areal density refers to how tightly data can be packed on a disk surface.
The internal drive, which the company said is the result of second-generation perpendicular magnetic recording technology, has a 3-Gbps SATA interface. Seagate said that the drive establishes new benchmarks for power consumption, acoustics, and performance.
Terabyte Drive 'A Milestone'
Brian Dexheimer, Seagate's chief sales and marketing officer, said that the new product's leading areal density demonstrates the company's leadership in "the hard drive's pivotal transition to perpendicular recording technology." Perpendicular recording enables magnetic charges to be stored vertically on a platter. The technology has been in development for years, and only recently has been used in products.
Seagate's move from a two-platter to a one-platter 250-GB drive won't initially change a lot for consumers, said John Rydning, research manager for hard drives at industry research firm IDC. "It is a slightly shorter form factor," he noted, so that there is a little more room to provide airflow for the drive inside a computer.
He added that terabyte drives, which such companies as Hitachi and Philips also have created, are "certainly a milestone for the industry," and could be useful in business and personal markets. Companies with large databases to manage or individuals with large media collections always have a need for more storage, he added.
In fact, there are reports that Seagate's labs are working on drives that could store nearly 40 terabytes. Those huge storage devices are not expected to reach the market until sometime in the next decade.
Hitachi's terabyte drive is a five-platter drive of 200-GB each, so Seagate's terabyte drive could be 25 percent larger in capacity or have fewer platters, making its external dimensions a bit smaller.
Hard Disk vs. SSD
The growing capacity and falling price-per-gigabyte of traditional hard drives underscores a continuing advantage that hard drives have over solid state drives (SSDs), which have recently been creating quite a buzz, with several new models being shown at the Computex computer trade show currently taking place in Taiwan.
SanDisk, for instance, introduced a 64-GB SSD this week at Computex, which, in 1.8-inch UATA and 2.5-inch SATA sizes, is designed as a drop-in replacement for hard drives in most notebook computers. SanDisk officials have said they can produce higher-capacity drives, but that they are too expensive at the moment, so they are concentrating on the "sweet spot."
While the price of its 64-GB SSD has not been announced, SanDisk's earlier 32-GB SSD runs about $450. This is compared to the $400 price tag for Hitachi's one-terabyte hard drive.
No pricing has been announced for the new Seagate 250-GB Barracuda.