It's like Legos for the working man
Way back in January of 2015 at CES we were shown a new line of accessories from Lenovo called ThinkPad Stack. The company is targeting the professional user on the go with a collection of four devices that can be used together in a stackable form that offers up some impressive capability and function in a small package, though it does come with a business-user markup.
Last week Lenovo sent us a full set of the ThinkPad Stack devices including a portable router, external USB 3.0 hard drive, Bluetooth speaker and external battery. With a price tag totaling nearly $400 for the entire set, there is a pretty high expectation for functionality, build quality and usability that Lenovo needs to hit, and they do a better job than I expected (honestly) to hit it. You don't have to buy all of the available Stack accessories, and that is part of the charm of the new product line - you can customize them to your own needs.
Though it's not for everyone, I do find myself enjoying the idea of Lenovo's ThinkPad Stack products and how it enables the mobile professional. Let's take a look at what it is, how it works and if it's something you need.
Subject: Storage | November 2, 2014 - 12:10 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: toshiba, sata 3, hdd, Hard Drive, 7200 rpm, 5TB, 4TB
This week, Toshiba introduced 4TB and 5TB hard drives to the consumer space. Coming from Toshiba's Digital Products Division, the new drives are part of the company's PH3*00U-1I72 series and are the first four and five Terabyte 3.5" consumer hard drives sporting 7200 RPM spindle speeds (though enterprise and NAS focused drives have been available prior to these new drives).
The new 4TB and 5TB HDDs are 3.5-inch desktop drives with four and five platters respectively. Toshiba is using Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) and Tunnel Magneto-Resistive (TMR) technologies to hit 1TB per platter. The 7,200 RPM spindle speed allows Toshiba to hit an average seek time of 10.5ms, and the 128MB of cache stores frequently accessed data. The new drives are paired with a SATA 3 6Gbps interface. Toshiba has included NCQ (Native Command Queuing) support along with shock sensors and ramp on/off loading safety features.
The 4TB drive has an MSRP of $299 while the 5TB model has an MSRP of $399. Fortunately for digital hoarders, the drives are currently selling at prices below the MSRP. The 5TB model is being priced around $320 while the 4TB model is priced between $220 and $240 at the time of writing depending on your retailer of choice.
Subject: Storage | June 2, 2014 - 11:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: wireless storage, ios, Hard Drive, computex 2014, Android, airplay
Today Corsair annouces the Voyager Air 2, a wireless hard drive with 1TB of storage which can connect to iOS and Android devices, as well as PCs and Macs.
The Voyager Air 2 is battery-powered and rechargeable (Corsair estimates 7-hour battery life from the high-capacity rechargeable lithium-ion battery), and the included software syncs with Dropbox and Google Drive and supports AirPlay streaming to an Apple TV. It supports 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connections for multiple users within a 90 foot range, and can stream 720p high-definition video to up to five devices at once.
And the Voyager Air 2 has quite a bit more functionality than just streaming content over Wi-Fi. It can serve as a wireless hub to share internet access via wireless passthrough, and it also functions as a USB 3.0 drive for fast data transfers when connected to a computer.
The Voyager Air 2 will be available this month with a suggested price of $179.99.
Subject: Storage | April 9, 2014 - 03:22 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Seagate, sata 6Gbs, SAS, Hard Drive, enterprise, 6tb
Seagate's latest enterprise class hard drive offers up to 6TB of space in a 3.5" form factor. The Enterprise Capacity series drive comes in both SATA III 6Gbps and 12Gbps SAS interfaces. Seagate was able to achieve an impressive 1,000 Gb/inch or about 1.25 TB per platter with the drive's five total platters adding up to the 6TB capacity. Perhaps even more impressively, Seagate was able to offer up a 6TB, five platter, 7,200 RPM drive without using helium.
The 6TB Enterprise Capacity hard drive comes with a 128MB DRAM cache. It is rated at 216 MB/s for sequential transfer speeds and an average latency of 4.16 milliseconds. The drive also supports 256-bit AES encryption and an instant secure erase function which overwrites data multiple times. Seagate further claims the drive is rated for 24/7 workloads at 550TB/year with a MTBF of 1.4 million hours. The drive comes with a five year warranty.
The drive will come in several variants depending on the storage interface. LaCie has already committed to using the new drives in its dual bay external storage products. Seagate has not released pricing on the new 6TB drive, but stated that it would price the drive at the same $/GB as last year's 4TB model. Expect the price to be around $650 MSRP before contract and bulk order deals.
It is a neat drive for sure, and I hope that the technology trickles down to the consumer space quickly, as 4TB has been the maximum single drive capacity for far too long!
For now, the drive will be used in the datacenter, production house, and security/surveillance markets (particularly in the datacenter market where rack space is at a premium).
Subject: Storage | April 3, 2013 - 10:26 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Seagate, 1TB Platter, 4TB, Hard Drive, storage
Seagate recently took the wraps off of a new 4TB hard drive. The new drive uses the company's 1TB platters, and the ST4000DM000 uses four 1TB platters. Other characteristics include a 7,200 RPM spindle speed, 64MB cache, and support for the SATA III 6 Gbps interface.
According to the company, the 4TB drive boasts an average read/write data rate of 146MB/s (which is good for a mechanical hard drive), max sustained transfer speed of 180MB/s, and sub-8.5ms and 9.5ms average seek times for read and write operations respectively.
The drive is compatible with Seagate's DiskWizard technology, allowing the full 4TB to be used on legacy operating systems. At 4TB, this drive is perfect for digital pack rats and media enthusiasts.
The 4TB Seagate drive can be found for around $190 USD online for the bare-bones drive, or approximately $205 for retail packaging. You can find more information on the 4TB mechanical hard drive on this Seagate data sheet (PDF) or the drive's product page.
I have to admit that I'm tempted by this, despite not having filled my 2TB drive yet.
Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2013 - 02:14 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: storage, isuppli, Hard Drive
Analytics firm IHS recently released its iSuppli Storage Space Market Brief. According to the report, 2013 does not look good for hard drive manufacturers who may see up to a 12% decline in revenues. In 2012 the hard drive industry brought in $37.1 billion, but IHS estimates only $32.7 billion in 2013. Further, revenue in 2014 is estimated at a mere $32 billion.
In response to new hard drive technologies and pressure from solid state drives, IHS predicts hard drive selling prices will fall 7%. Thanks to this price erosion, the report suggests that hard drive manufacturers across the board will experience declines in gross and operating profit margins. The hard drive industry will have to contend with cheaper solid state drives as well as competition within the industry. Seagate and Western Digital will continue to battle it out for market dominance with new technologies and a continued price war that will see margins becoming thinner than ever as $/GB metrics continue to fall rapidly.
Reportedly, the hard drive makers will also have to contend with smartphones and tablets (that use solid state storage) making inroads into the PC market. Sales of traditional PCs are said to be somewhat cannibalized by mobile devices, and those reduced sales will affect the hard drive component manufacturers negatively.
On the other hand, it is not all bad news for the HDD makers. Hard drives still have per-drive capacity and $/GB on their side. Hard drives may be losing ground to SSDs, but for cheap consumer computers and large storage arrays used in the enterprise space hard drives are still the way to go. Consumer PC sales may no longer be growing rapidly, but big data is still a growing market so that will help the hard drive market.
All in all, 2013 will be beneficial for consumers as they will be getting cheaper and more-dense hard drives. This year is not looking good for the hard drive manufacturers, however.
Image of hard disk drive courtesy Walknboston via Flickr Creative Commons.
Subject: Storage | September 19, 2012 - 03:27 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: western digital, WD, patter density, hitachi, hgst, helium, Hard Drive, 6tb
Western Digital-owned Hitachi Global Storage (HGST) recently announced that it is pursuing the mass production of helium-filled hard drives. The culmination of six-plus years of research and development, Hitachi’s engineers have come up with a workable solution to craft a sealed enclosure to contain the helium and internal drive hardware over the long term and in a way that can be mass produced. While the company is not ready to talk specifics or announce individual products, HGST (Western Digital) is going on record in stating that its helium-filled “hard drive platform” will offer up performance, power efficiency, and capacity improvements in a 3.5" form factor (with up to seven platters) sometime in 2013.
Don't try this at home folks, it won't actually work :).
The current crop of hard drives have small holes on the top to allow air pressure equalization, as the drives are not a fully-sealed design (and is why dunking them in oil is a bad idea). The proposed helium-filled hard drives would change that design, by being fully sealed from the outside environment after being filled with the noble gas. Steve Campbell, CTO at HGST stated the following in the company's press release:
“The benefits of operating a HDD with helium fill have been known for a long time. The breakthrough is in the product and process design, which seals the helium inside the HDD enclosure cost effectively in high-volume manufacturing,”
But why exactly is helium better for hard drives? In short, the gas is one-seventh (1/7) as dense as the air around us. This reduction in density allows for the platters to spin faster, or at the same spindle speeds at today's drives while experiencing less resistance and turbulance from versus an air-filled hard drive. Thanks to the reduced drag force, Hitachi can pack the platters closer together, which means that it can place more platters into the 3.5" hard drive form factor than ever before – up to seven with the current design. Further, the motor does not have to work as hard to drive the platters which results in quieter operation and more power savings. HGST also claims that using helium allows for better thermal conductivity, and allows the helium-filled hard drives to run up to 4°C cooler than an equivalently-configured air-equalized drive. Granted, 4°C is not that much of an improvement when looking at a single drive (or even a few in a desktop system), but it can add up to some decent cooling savings when these drives are utilized in datacenters.
Hitachi Global Storage does not yet have any specific products to announce publicly, but the company did offer up a few performance numbers that certainly seem promising – an in line with the company's goal of reducing the "total cost of ownership," or TCO. In addition tot he temperature improvements, the company claims up to 23% power reduction versus air. And when HGST factors in its seven-platter design, they have managed to bring the Watts-per-Terabyte (W/TB) 45% versus current drives. Assuming the helium-aided hard drives use the same (or more) amount of platter area as the company's previous drives, Hitachi/Western Digital could offer up to 7TB hard drives when combined with the company's 1TB per platter areal density improvements.
It has the potential to get even better, however. Should the engineers be able to integrate Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) – similar to what Seagate is pursuing – helium hard drives could offer up approximately 85TB 3.5" drives thanks to the additional two platters. Previously, Seagate envisioned up to 60TB HAMR hard drives in the 3.5" form factor. Those numbers are fairly far off in the future (and theoretical), however. On the other hand, Seagate believes that 6TB HAMR hard drives are reasonably close to public consumption, and if a HAMR drive could also benefit from the extra platters, potential spindle speed improvements, and power savings of using helium, I think 8TB+ is not out of the question while using less power than a traditional air-equalized (not sealed) 6TB HAMR-equipped hard drive.
Extremetech does bring up an interestng point about pricing, though. Mainly that helium is much more expensive than simply using the air around us! And as it is used up, it will only get more expensive, which are likely costs that will be passed onto consumers. Fortunately, it should not be too much of a premium that customers would have to pay (over a traditional hard drive) because a 3.5" hard drive will need only a small amount of the helium gas to realize the benefits, according to PC Perspective's resident storage guru Allyn Malventano.
What do you think about the prospects of a heluim-filled hard drive? Will we see such devices within our lifetimes, and just how much will these things cost? I suppose we'll have to wait until next year to find out!
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Storage | September 10, 2012 - 09:50 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ultrabook, ssd caching, ssd, Hard Drive
Western Digital has been sampling 5mm-thin 2.5” hard drives designed for Ultrabooks. They have currently announced partnerships with Acer and ASUS to include these drives in future ultrathin laptops. Western Digital has currently only listed capacities of 500GB for the spindle portion of the drive but no word how much MLC flash will be included to cache most used files. The product will be discussed during the company’s investor day on the 13th of this month.
At this stage SSDs are pretty much the missing link to a fast and responsive computer.
Prices have dropped to under one dollar per gigabyte ($1/GB) a few months ago with some models reaching 70c/GB – and those are the good ones too. The massive drop in price is still about an order of magnitude more expensive than spindle hard drives and consumers are using whatever space they can get. Several solutions exist to balance the speed of SSDs with the storage effectiveness of HDDs.
One solution is to include both in a single drive and keep the most used data in the SSD cache. Western Digital has just released samples of 5mm-thin hybrid hard drives for OEMs to put in extremely thin laptops.
I wonder if they're feeling chip-er...
Users who purchase laptops often have the mistaken assumption that a faster processor directly leads to increased response. That is certainly the case when comparing an Intel Atom to an i5 – but an i3 will probably spend just as much time idle and awaiting instructions from the hard drive as an i5 would.
Western Digital has not broken the SSD market despite their long success with spindle storage. It makes sense that Western Digital will push into the market with the starting point from which they are most comfortable. Western Digital has been shipping SSDs for over two-and-a-half years at this point but never really gained any traction.
It looks like Western Digital is realizing that they need to mix SSDs with what they know best and do something innovative to get a unique hook in the market – buying just a little more time.
The drive which has been announced today will contain a storage capacity of 500GB with an undisclosed amount of MLC NAND flash memory caching the most used data. The hook to differentiate themselves from other hybrid hard drives is its size: 5mm compared to the more common 9.5mm.
The Ultrabook market could be a lucrative wave to ride for the time being and give them even more capital to invest future SSDs. Hopefully they will not wait for solid state storage to creep up on them twice. Fool you once…
Western Digital is expected to discuss and showcase this product more at their Western Digital Investor Day on this Thursday, September 13th, 2012.
Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2012 - 02:23 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ssd, Seagate, LaCie, Hard Drive, controlling interest
Earlier this year, it was revealed that hard drive manufacturer was interested in acquiring a controlling interest in LaCie. LaCie is a manufacturer of high-end desktop drive and NAS enclosures. The company announced that it planned to purchase shares from LaCie CEO and Chairman Philippe Spruch and an unnamed partner. Doing so would give Seagate 64.5% of outstanding shares. It is further offering shareholders as much as $5.09 USD for their shares should Seagate acquire 95% of outstanding shares and voting rights within six months of the deal closing.
After getting the necessary go ahead from various governmental anti-trust bodies, Seagate is ready to move forward with the acquisition. Both Seagate Technology PLC (public limited company) and LaCie S.A. (annonymous society) have announced the buyout is official. Seagate has indeed purchased all shares owned by Philippe Spruch and his partner for €4.05 (approximately $5.01) per share, giving Seagate 64.5% of outstanding shares and a majority interest in the company and more votes than the remaining investors combined. Should Seagate acquire 95% of shares within six months, the check made out to the LaCie chairman and his unnamed affiliate would increase 3% due to the price per share paid increasing to €4.17/share (approximately $5.16).
The merging of Seagate and LaCie logos (hehe).
Beyond that, Seagate wants to completely buy out all outstanding shares of the company. It will offer an all cash offer to the remaining shareholders. While Ricol Lasteyrie & Associes is still the independent expert that was announced previously, Seagate has increased the price per share that they are willing to offer shareholders. Should the independent experts okay the offer (by making sure that LaCie shareholders would be getting an appropriate amount of money per share based on an independent valuation), Seagate is prepared to pay up to €4.50 per share, or approximately $5.57. With the new offer, there is no contingency offer like the 3% increase to Spruch should Seagate get 95% of shares. The €4.50 is as much as Seagate is looking to pay.
With all the talk lately of Seagate acquiring an SSD manufacturer, the official acquisition of LaCie is interesting. Seagate may well still be looking for an SSD manufacturer, because although LaCie does have some flash USB key storage experience and products, they do not have SSD experience. Also, the intention to buy LaCie has been known for much longer than the rumor that Seagate would acquire OCZ has been making the rounds on the web. As far as the combination of Seagate and LaCie goes, Seagate is getting a high-end enclosure product lineup that the company can then integrate its own drives into.
While not the announcement that people were hoping for, it is likely a positive move to Seagate to acquire LaCie. Is it OCZ or Fusion IO’s turn next?
Here, you can find more information on the deal.
Introduction and Internals
I'm going to let the cat out of the bag right here and now. Everyone's home RAID is likely an accident waiting to happen. If you're using regular consumer drives in a large array, there are some very simple (and likely) scenarios that can cause it to completely fail. I'm guilty of operating under this same false hope - I have an 8-drive array of 3TB WD Caviar Greens in a RAID-5. For those uninitiated, RAID-5 is where one drive worth of capacity is volunteered for use as parity data, which is distributed amongst all drives in the array. This trick allows for no data loss in the case where a single drive fails. The RAID controller can simply figure out the missing data by running the extra parity through the same formula that created it. This is called redundancy, but I propose that it's not.