Updated 5/06/10 12:30PST to reflect Seagate comments on pricing.
Yesterday Seagate announced their new FreeAgent GoFlex line of external drives, which is actually more interesting than it sounds. Instead of a standard 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SATA drive with a SATA-to-USB controller inside, a GoFlex drive wears its controller on the outside. The GoFlex drive is not much more than a hard drive with a minimal plastic sheath and a SATA port, into which the drive controller itself is plugged. This allows you to change out drive controllers when you upgrade your system, plug the bare drive directly into a dock (like the GoFlex Net network-storage device or GoFlex TV HD media player, or (hopefully) just plug it into your rig for SATA speed with no overhead.
The GoFlex has modular cables, so today's USB 2.0 drive can become tomorrow's USB 3.0 drive easily.
In what's being described as an "industry first," Seagate has partnered with Paramount to preload a selection of 500GB FreeAgent Go ultra-portable hard drives with Paramount movies.
“Seagate and Paramount Pictures are delivering major motion pictures to consumers in a unique and innovative solution. For years Seagate hard drives have been powering the devices that allow consumers to enjoy their digital libraries. Today, we are simplifying content delivery by giving consumers the ultimate flexibility in how they enjoy their movies all in a convenient package,” said Dave Mosley, executive vice president, Sales, Marketing and Product Line Management, Seagate.
Consumers who pick up a specially marked FreeAgent Go package will be able to activate Star Trek (2009) for free. These FreeAgent drives will also come preloaded with 20 other movies that can be unlocked through the online purchase of a license key. Some of the bigger name titles include Beowulf, GI Joe, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
If you don’t need a lot of storage, Seagate’s diminutive BlackArmor NAS 220 can be tucked into a bookshelf or the even the corner of your desk where it will quietly serve the needs of a small office or workgroup with as many as 20 PCs. The NAS 220 has two drive bays and can purchased with either one or two terabytes of capacity; we reviewed the 2TB model, which is street-priced at $279. Note that since the drives come from the factory in a mirrored configuration (RAID 1), usable capacity is actually 1TB.
The NAS 220 is housed in a steel enclosure painted gloss black (keep a feather duster at hand if you’re the fastidious type). Remove three very small Phillips screws and pull off the three-sided cover to access the 7,200RPM drives, which are user-replaceable, but not hot-swappable. Unlike Western Digital’s WD ShareSpace, you’re not limited to using Seagate drives. But since the NAS 220 doesn’t support online RAID expansion or migration, most people will never access the drives unless they fail.
Finishing our look inside the box, we see Marvell’s 800MHz 88F6192 system-on-chip on the motherboard, paired with 128MB of soldered-on DDR2 SDRAM. The chip integrates a two-port SATA controller, a two-port USB controller, and a Gigabit Ethernet controller. This processor handles most of the compute workload, including running the RAID software. As mentioned earlier, the NAS 200 comes from the factory in a RAID 1 configuration, but the system also supports RAID 0 and JBOD.
Despite a strong showing by Western Digital, Seagate can continue chanting "We're No. 1!," according to the latest figures from market research firm iSuppli.
Hard drive shipments were up 8 percent overall in the fourth quarter of 2009 with 49.9 million units destined for new homes. Seagate, still on top, controls 31 percent of the market, while Western Digital's strong performance has the HDD maker nipping at Seagate's heels with 30 percent of the market.
The results are somewhat of a surprise, says iSuppli analyst Fang Zhang, who said many expected Western Digital would leapfrog in front of its rival. But even though WD is right there, Zhang says Seagate will likely hold onto its top spot in the current quarter.
Don't go digging a grave for the hard drive market, even as SSDs start to come down in price and move towards the mainstream. According to a recently published report by The Information Network, hard drive makers managed to make it through the recession by showing growth in 2009.
The double digit growth nearly topped 11 percent on a unit basis, and if TIN's predictions come true, it will grow by another 11 percent in 2010.
"The market for 2009 was about product mix," noted Dr. Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network. "Seagate leads in the desktop and the enterprise markets, which are down for 2009, while Western Digital has focused on non-desktop applications, primarily 2.5-inch form factor for mobile and CE, which are up in 2009."
Once again, Seagate led the charge as the market leader with shipments of 174.8 million drives, edging out rival Western Digital, which shipped 165.2 million drives.
Seagate on Tuesday said it has begun shipping what it claims is the "world's highest-capacity, most reliable small form factor enterprise drive," the Savvio 10K.4 HDD. As the model number suggests, this one spins at 10,000 RPM, but don't get too excited desktop denizens, this 600GB drive is destined for servers.
"Our customers face challenging storage needs requiring the most efficient use of space and power while maintaining the highest performance possible," said Howard Shoobe, senior manager, Dell Storage Product Management. "The new 2.5-inch 10K-rpm 600GB capacity point allows a doubling of capacity within the same rack space of current 3.5-inch 15K 600GB drives while increasing overall system-level performance and decreasing power usage."
The Savvio drives also come with either a 6Gbps SAS interface with dual-port communication, or a direct 4Gbps Fiber Channel connection. Other specs include 16MB of cache, a 4.6W power draw when idle, and various data protection and power saving features Seagate claims "can reduce the total cost of ownership to IT organizations and administrators."
Solid State Drives (SSDs) have the potential to break the mold for data storage, but so far their development has been focused on portable computing. If the market’s going to expand, there’s going to have to be a suitable desktop option. One possibility, which takes advantage of a desktop’s better throughput, is a SSD on a PCIe card, such as Fusion-io’s ioDrive. An announced partnership between Seagate and LSI suggests more of the same is on its way.
PCIe has the advantage of being a bit quicker and easier to integrate into the enterprise computing environment. According to the announcement: “LSI is expected to deliver board-level products that integrate LSI™ SAS and PCIe technology with Seagate solid-state drive (SSD) technology.”
Jeff Janukowicz, a research manager for the market research firm IDC, says, “Solid-state drives remain in the spotlight as a technology and an area of growth in the storage market.” According to IDC, SSD revenues in enterprise computing will reach $2 billion by 2013, with PCIe-based solutions responsible for a significant chunk.
Unfortunately, the announcement only revealed the collaboration of LSI and Seagate. There was no mention of any particular products, when them might be available, or what they might cost.
Seagate this week reported financial results for the quarter ended January 1, 2010, noting an impressive 49.9 million disk drive unit shipments, $3.03 billion in revenue, net income of $533 million, and $1.03 in diluted earnings per share.
"Our strong financial performance in the December quarter was the result of our ongoing progress in driving operational efficiencies, our leadership position in high capacity, high performance products, an improved product mix, and the overall strength of demand for digital storage," said Steve Luczo, Seagate CEO.
On that last note, Seagate said it shipped some 96.2 million disk drives for the six months ended January 1, 2010, which accounted for revenue of $5.69 million and a net income of $712 million.
Bill Watkins, the ex-Seagate CEO who served 12 years with the hard drive maker, jumps out of the unemployment line to serve as CEO of LED lighting company Bridgelux. Not by accident, Watkins has been researching green technologies ever since cutting ties with Seagate and became fascinated with the LED sector.
"There's a $100 billion opportunity, a whole new disruptive technology with LEDs, and an installed base that owns the market but doesn't have good solutions. You don't see that very often, but that's how new technology can make an impact," Watkins said this week.
Watkins is thinking on a global scale with his new position and said he plans to help his company grow by developing its manufacturing and expanding internationally, CNet reports.
"The whole world is basically going to embrace this technology," Watkins added.
When Seagate told us it would be shipping the first 6Gb/s SATA hard drive, we were a little surprised. And when we found out it wasn’t going to be a solid state drive, but a 7,200rpm Barracuda drive, our skepticism increased. Sure, we’d been waiting a long time for Seagate’s 2TB 7,200rpm drive, and it’s nice to see the SATA 6Gb/s spec ship on a real-world product, but putting a 6Gb/s controller on a mechanical hard drive is like putting a Formula 1 airfoil on a golf cart. The vehicle just ain’t ever going to go fast enough to warrant the accessory.
In order to test the Barracuda XT on a level playing field, we built a new rig: a 2.66GHz Core i5-750 and 4GB of DDR3 RAM on an Asus P7P55D-Premium motherboard, which has an onboard Marvell SATA 6Gb/s controller as well as an Intel 3Gb/s SATA controller. The rig runs Windows XP SP3 and 64-bit Vista Home Premium from a 300GB WD Raptor. We tested both the Barracuda and its closest competitor, the 2TB WD Caviar Black, on both the Marvell and Intel controllers.