Smaller Drives to Rev High-End Efficiency

High-end servers and storage will use less power, run quieter, scale higher and be more physically reliable.

High-end servers and storage will use less power, run quieter, scale higher and be more physically reliable, thanks to new 2.5-inch hard drives due in the first half of next year, officials industrywide said last week.

The trend is a result of 3.5-inch drives nearing their physical limits, with just two generations of doubled specifications beyond current 73GB, 15,000-rpm and 147GB, 10,000-rpm units, experts said.


Enterprise drives today:

  • 3.5-inch form factor
  • SCSI or Fibre Channel
  • 73GB, 15,000 rpm/147GB, 10,000 rpm
  • Just two fit in 1U rack shelf
    Enterprise drives in the future:
  • 2.5-inch form factor
  • Serial-attached SCSI or Fibre Channel
  • 300GB or 600GB; more rpm not a priority
  • Six could fit in 1U of shelf space
Fujitsu Computer Products of America Inc., of San Jose, Calif., will build 2.5-inch SCSI and Fibre Channel drives initially at 73GB, costing about the same as 300GB, 3.5-inch units, also due in the first half of next year, Chief Technologist Chuck Nielsen said.

In the 3.5-inch drives, "I cant imagine that wed go beyond 600GB," Nielsen said. As for the 2.5-inch units, "this is an interesting trend. ... Its not being generated by push from the [hard drive] manufacturers but by pull from the OEMs," he said.

While prices remain undecided, there are other advantages for users who switch, said Maxtor Corp. officials, in Milpitas, Calif.

For example, the drives will draw less than 10 watts each versus 14 to 18 watts in comparable 3.5-inch units, especially useful for rack-mounted servers, officials said. Maxtor has not yet announced its full product specifications, but six drives will fit in a 1U (1.75-inch) shelf, and airflow will be improved because of serial SCSI cabling, they said. However, storage array customers will be slower to adopt the denser systems because of the limited capacities, they said.

Smaller drives weigh less and are a bigger part of enterprise systems mass than people think. For large data centers with raised floors, thats vital, a storage administrator at a major trucking company in the northwestern United States said.

"Weve got IBM [Enterprise Storage System] Sharks. When theyre full to capacity, those things are very heavy," the administrator said. For a storage area network, "if you do the math ... the area is going to reduce significantly. Were exceeding rating. Its at the point where we have to be careful where we put stuff," he said, asking not to be identified.