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Seagate flings twirling terabyte platters at world

Floods won't halt Barracuda refresh, we're told

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All change on the Barracuda front: despite the disastrous floods in Thailand, Seagate will ship its terabyte-per-platter Barracuda desktop drives this month. At the same time it's phasing out its slower rotating Barracuda Green drives and says it will transition the Barracuda XT to hybrid flash and hard disk technology.

Back in May Seagate said it was going to ship 1TB/platter Barracudas by the middle of 2011. Production difficulties, which cropped up before flooding threatened Seagate's component suppliers, sparked delays - but now that is all over and the new drives are close to being shipped. Seagate has taken the opportunity to clear out dead wood from the Barracuda range, meaning that the Barracuda Greens, spinning at 5,900RPM to save power, are being phased out. The power saving per year, twenty cents Seagate calculates, was derisory.

The new Barracuda range spans a 250GB to 3TB capacity spectrum with one, two or three platters, each spinning at 7,200RPM. They use either 6Gbit/s or 3Gbit/s SATA interfaces. The 6Gbit/s SATA products with 1TB or greater capacity have an areal density of 625Gbit/in2 and a dual-stage Tunnelling Giant Magneto-Resistive (TGMR) head, while the 3Gbit/s SATA products have a 345Gbit/in2 density and a single-stage head.

The current 3TB Barracuda has five platters and ten read/write heads. These new Barracudas will have fewer components and should therefore have a lower cost, other things being equal.

The one-platter model comes at 250GB, 320GB, 500GB, 750GB and 1TB capacity points. Each one has a 16MB cache, except the 750GB and 1TB models which have a 64MB cache. A 1.5TB model has two platters and a 64MB cache. The 2TB and 3TB variants have three platters and the same 64MB cache.

The present Barracuda XTs will become performance kings by having a flash cache added to them, Momentus XT style, although there are no details on timing or the amount of flash.

Which other hard drive vendors have terabyte platters?

Hitachi GST has two Cinemastar drives, the 7K100D and 5K1000D, with 1TB/platter technology using 569Gbit/in2 areal density. They spin at 7,200 and a presumed 5,200RPM respectively. These are for digital video recorder-type applications.

Western Digital does not yet have 1TB/platter drives, although it is on track to buy Hitachi GST by year-end, subject to regulatory body approval.

It's clear that a four-platter 4TB Barracuda is feasible. Also, looking at the Constellation ES range, we see this is currently topping out at 3TB with five platters spinning at 7,200RPM. We think it's highly likely that this product line will be refreshed with a move to 1TB/platter technology resulting in fewer platters, lower manufacturing costs and/or higher capacities. A five-platter Constellation with 1TB/platter technology would have a 5TB capacity, a new high water mark.

A Seagate spokesperson said: "We're planning to introduce a 4TB desktop drive though no word on timing yet, and you can expect that same technology to migrate to Constellation."

It is ironic that when Seagate first announced this technology in May it was industry-leading in the 3.5-inch disk area, and Seagate saw it as a way of regaining market share. Production difficulties prevented this happening during the summer and autumn but now flooding in Thailand is affecting WD and may well prevent it bringing out any planned terabyte platter-based Caviar and WD-AV drives, giving Seagate a second clear opportunity to regain lost market share.

The new Barracudas are, we're told, shipping now; online retailers expect to get them within the first two weeks of November. Suggested retail prices were $71.99 for 1TB, $105.99 for 2TB, and $179.99 for 3TB drives. ®

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