Feeds

Western Digital sees future written on disks, not clouds

SVP gets real

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Interview Western Digital (WD) listens more than it speaks. The company's roadmap is rarely revealed and it sails serenely on saying nothing, while flash solid state drives (SSD) challenge hard disk drives and cloud backup squares up to WD's external backup drive business. We don't know whether it's in a state of denial or knows things we don't know and these upstart technologies have less substance than we suppose. Should we get real, or should WD?

WD would have us, politely, get real.

Flash

Flash is not the holy grail. It's just another storage medium and it's not going to take over the world. Hard drives store the bulk of the world's online digital data today and they will do the exact same thing tomorrow and the day after that. I paraphrase - this isn't Western Digital (WD) speaking directly. It's my spin on the WD position after talking to Richard Rutledge, WD's SVP for marketing. See what you think.

Richard said: "We see NAND flash having two areas of value. There is very cheap storage, below hard disk drive (HDD) capacity, such as USB flash drives, digital camera cards and mobile phones. You can get an SD card for $19.99 whereas a hard drive costs $50 or more. This flash is a very low budget purchase."

Then: "There is very, very, high-performance flash, the STEC products. In between the value of a hard drive is pretty difficult to beat." He characterises DRAM as the fastest storage with read/write speeds in the nanosecond area (10 to -9 seconds). Flash is in the microsecond area for reading (10 to the -6) but millisecond area for writes (10 to the -3), and hard drives are in the millisecond area for both read and writes. That's three neatly defined tiers.

WD's view is that the SSDs delivered in 2007 were re-purposed camera cards. The technology to speed flash writes - to make multiple flash chips operate concurrently - came from high-end camera cards. Early digital camera users wanted to take pictures quickly one after another, as they could with film, but couldn't with single-chip camera cards. So high-end cards were devised with up to four NAND chips, written concurrently. This led to SSD technology. STEC SSDs now have eight or more chips, hence the Mach 8 name.

How does WD know all this? Because it was one of the original investors in SanDisk in the late eighties and brought controller technology to SanDisk. WD owns some of the original SSD patents and Irwin Federman, SanDisk's vice chairman, is an ex-WD director.

Rutledge also wants us to know that the bulk of shipped netbooks, Asus Eee-type machines, use hard drives and not flash. It's as if he wants us to understand that flash is not walking over any HDD market.

Small form-factor drive developments

What kind of things might WD do to strengthen its HDD offering? Is a 15K rpm Velociraptor feasible? (WD currently ships a 10K rpm 2.5-inch drive called Velociraptor.) "15K is feasible," Rutledge said. "The market for 15K drives is predominantly servers ... We don't do products for every market. SSDs in the enterprise space challenge 15K rpm drives." The impression I took from this is that WD is unlikely to introduce a speeded-up Velociraptor drive.

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Next page: Cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Docker kicks KVM's butt in IBM tests
Big Blue finds containers are speedy, but may not have much room to improve
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Gartner's Special Report: Should you believe the hype?
Enough hot air to carry a balloon to the Moon
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Dell The Man shrieks: 'We've got a Bitcoin order, we've got a Bitcoin order'
$50k of PowerEdge servers? That'll be 85 coins in digi-dosh
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.