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Western Digital sees future written on disks, not clouds

SVP gets real

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Could WD supply a SAS Velociraptor? "Today we supply Velociraptor as a 2.5-inch SATA drive. We only announce products when they are available. ... The 6Gbit/s SAS standard is in good shape. The industry will adopt it over the next twelve months." Straining hard to read between the lines here I think we might reasonably expect a SAS Velociraptor.

The focus for WD is not to go head-to-head with flash. NAND products will win in the very low-budget storage market and look strong in the very high-performace enterprise market, where WD does not have products. Flash is challenging in the netbook and notebook space, but HDDs have the better cost/capacity profile here and in desktops and bulk enterprise storage. WD will keep on increasing the areal density of its products so as to retain this advantage.

Rutledge said: "Our industry tends to double capacity on a two-year cycle." There are three underlying technologies: perpendicular writing and tunnelling reading in the head, and the media itself. He reckons WD will be doing more work on the media than the head.

The impression received here is that WD sees no unbeatable technology obstacles to moving on from today's best areal densities of around 400Gbits/sq in to the 1Tbit/sq in and beyond level.

Cloud backup

WD is the market leader in externally-attached hard drives for consumers, it being a one-and-a-half billion-dollar revenue earner for the company. Here services like EMC's Mozy and Carbonite are offering automated backup to the cloud. Would WD consider adding a cloud backup service to its external drive offerings?

Rutledge said that once consumers get used to doing backup one way they do it that exact same way pretty much forever. They write to CD or DVD, they backup to an external drive: "There is no one solution. We need to deliver the best backup solution we can. Whoever provides a better experience and peace of mind to consumers will have a good business. People want easy to use backup - KISS - keep it simple, stupid." More than once Rutledge mentioned iTunes as a marker for a good consumer experience.

He said that USB is simple and well-understood, and that: "The Holy Grail backup quest is less to argue about where the data goes and more about how to get more people doing it."

My impression? Don't expect a WD cloud backup service anytime soon.

So ... is WD in denial about flash and cloud storage, or are the flash and cloud proponents stuck on Fantasy Island? Certainly WD does not believe in having feet in two camps. Unlike Seagate it has no SSD product strategy and no i365 cloud services on offer. WD is doing what has served it so well so far, and sticking to its HDD knitting. Knit one, purl one, purl another, and another, and another. Why stop doing what works? ®

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