Good news storage fans, the motors are revving up again

Subject: General Tech, Storage | November 8, 2011 - 10:54 AM |
Tagged: thailand, nidec, hdd

While Western Digital is still nowhere near the point where they can think about cleaning up their factory and getting started on the road to recovery there is good news for other HDD manufacturers from Thailand.  Nidec, a company which provides about 75% of the global supply of motors for HDDs, also has quite a bit of their manufacturing capacity in Thailand, in the neighbourhood of 62% according to DigiTimes.  Two of their Thailand based plants are back in business and they are redistributing quite a bit of workload to their Philippines manufacturing plants, in the hopes of increasing the supply of these critical motors.

Seagate, Fujitsu and other major HDD manufacturers desperately need these parts in order to help meet the demand from the market before we can even think to see prices begin to return to previous levels.  This is not going to be a quick return since Western Digital and its subsidiaries accounted for about 50% of the HDD market and they have much more work to do in order to repair their factories than Nidec.

spindles_transp.gif

"Nidec currently has 10 production bases in Thailand with eight of them have been damaged by the floods. As water started to recede, Nidec announced its Rangsit plants, which stopped operation on October 13, already resumed production on October 25, while Ayutthaya plants also started operating normally on November 4.

Nidec's two plants in Philippine will also see their monthly capacity rise from 15 million units originally to 25 million units with capacity in China plants also increase from 10 million units to 15 million units. However, the total capacity in the fourth quarter will still drop close to 30% from 140 million units in the third."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: DigiTimes

Of hens teeth and hard drives

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2011 - 11:42 AM |
Tagged: hdd, thailand, flooding, western digital, Samsung

According to SemiAccurate both Western Digital and Samsung will cease shipping hard drives to suppliers and retailers because of the devastating flooding in Thailand.  Both companies need to find a new source for head stacks and drive motors and Western Digital will need temporary manufacturing facilities while they wait for the flood waters to recede and repairs to start on their damaged factory.  Expect to see this have large effects on the industry as major suppliers like Dell, Acer, ASUS and HP do not tend to keep large supplies of hard drives lying around in storage which means that only the models with SSDs inside will be able to be manufactured and shipped out.  That reduction in production in turn will effect motherboard, GPU and CPU manufacturers as the demand for their products drop.  While you will not convince the 11,000+ Thai people who have been displaced by the flooding that the fate of Western Digital's factory is the biggest impact of this disaster, for many in the western world it is the only reason they are paying attention to this story.

WD.jpg

"According to sources that we have spoken with in the Taiwanese market both Samsung and Western Digital have decided to suspend shipments of disk drives to PC makers in Taiwan due to a parts shortage."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: SemiAccurate

A*STAR is making a name for themselves in storage

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2011 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: A*STAR, hdd, STT-MRAM

A*STAR Data Storage Institute was in the news two weeks ago with the results of their experiment of doping hard drive storage medium with salt allows a 6 fold increase in storage density thanks to much tighter sputtering of magnetic grains on the platter.  They are back in the news with another development in a different kind of storage medium altogether.  With Micron partnering in the development they are working on a new type of resistive RAM, which will bring speeds better than you can get with flash and in a non-volatile form.  The technology is referred to as spin transfer torque magnetic random access memory or STT-MRAM.  Drop by The Register for a look at what they are up to, as well as what the competition is working on to bring us the next generation of NAND.

STTRAM.png

"NAND suppliers and technology developers are anticipating this by developing follow-on technologies centred around the idea of non-volatile, resistive RAM (RRAM), which is faster to access than flash and has a longer working life. There are a variety of ways of altering the resistance of a memory cell and Micron is entering into a joint research and development agreement with Singapore's A*STAR Data Storage Institute (DSI) to develop spin transfer torque magnetic random access memory or STT-MRAM."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Hard Drive Prices Spike on Thailand Flooding

Subject: General Tech, Storage | October 27, 2011 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: wdc, shortage, Seagate, Samsung, hitachi, hdd, Hard Drive

Chances are good you have heard about the recent flooding in Thailand - as Yahoo puts it: "The country's worst flooding in half a century, caused in part by unusually heavy monsoon rain, has killed 373 people since mid-July and disrupted the lives of nearly 2.5 million."  Obviously this is a horrific disaster and we feel for the people affected by it.

But there is a tech angle to the story that has been showing up in many of our discussions as late and is the impact this disaster has had on the production of spindle-based hard drives.  Looking for a 2TB hard drive today on Newegg.com this is what I found:

price01.png

Prices for hard drives have sky rocketed in the last week or so due to the pending shortage of them across the world.  Many of the top manufacturers have facilities based in Thailand for production as well as partners that are responsible for supplying companies like Western Digital, Seagate, Samsung and Hitachi with the parts they need to produce platter-based drives. 

While we used to talk about finding 2TB hard drives in the $89 price range, the best prices we could find on comparable units today start at $129; and this is for the slower units.  Western Digital Caviar Black drives are starting at unit prices of $229 now!

price02.png

Pricing graph from Pricegrabber.com for Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB

If you are careful and shop around, you can still find drives like this for the $149 price point at sellers like Amazon are bit slower to update their prices.  (Scratch that, after publication this was already at $199!)  But don't just blindly purchase drives at this point - do your research!

WD drives aren't the only ones affected.  When doing a search for a Seagate 2TB drive, these were our results:

price03.png

When asked for comment, a representative of one of the affected manufacturers expressed concern for the people of Thailand first, but when pressed, said:

"The entire hard drive business is affected. Two of our factories are inundated with water, which supports 60% of our output. But a ton of suppliers that the entire industry uses are also flooded so we are all impacted."

While looking over at WD's press center we found this comment from John Coyne, President and CEO:

In mid-October, to protect our employees and our equipment and facilities, we temporarily suspended production at our two factories in Thailand, which have been inundated by floodwater. In addition, many of our component suppliers have been impacted, leaving material for hard drive production considerably constrained. We are working with suppliers to assess the extent of their impact and help devise short- and long-term solutions. This is a complex and dynamic challenge that will require extensive rebuilding for the Thai people and government, and present unprecedented obstacles to the hard drive industry for multiple quarters.

Obviously with a majority of the facilities affected we can only expect these prices hikes to increase and to linger.  That fact that Coyne specifically notes "multiple quarters" indicates that users likely won't see a return to the pricing we were used to until at least mid-2012.  With competition from solid-state drives heating up, this could be bad timing for companies dependent on spindle drives as the driving revenue source: comparing a $300 SSD to a $90 standard drive is a much different decision than that same $300 SSD and a $240 standard drive of high capacity. 

According to this report from Xbit labs, the industry has "two to four weeks" of hard drive inventory available.  The author claims that this points to the situation not being so dire, but with the WD's CEO stating the effects will be seen for "multiple quarters", I am guessing we will see a major buy-up of inventory from system builders like HP and Dell that will cause drive shortages much more quickly than anticipated.  

PC Perspective will keep tracking the effects on driving pricing and if any player in the business has other input they want to offer us.  Stay tuned!

Salt + electrons = 6x increase in HDD platter density?

Subject: Storage | October 14, 2011 - 05:21 PM |
Tagged: hdd, Hard Drive

With all of this SSD talk lately, let's not forget where storage stuff originated from - the HDD. Here's your spinning rust... ah-hem, Hard Drive lesson for the day:

Hard drives store bits by changing the magnetic alignment of magnetic 'grains' which have been 'sputtered' onto the surface of an extremely flat surface, or platter. Here are some grains created with current tech (lesson after the break):

HardDrivesGrainsSEM100nm.jpg

Due to the random arrangement, storing bits on the above requires each bit to span across several grains as to ensure it is properly written.

The Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), based in Singapore, does all sorts of experimentation with, well, materials research. They had the bright idea to mix in a pinch of table salt into the sputtering process. This, combined with the use of electron-beam lithography, allows much greater control over grain creation - namely they can actually 'draw' them.

etched.jpg

E-beam-etched grains formed with IMRE's new process.

Not only does this enable them to have more control over grain size, but it also allows them to create them in defined tracks. This lets the drive store one-bit per grain. Combine smaller grains with a better ratio of bits to grains and you've got potential for increasing magnetic storage by nearly an order of magnitude. IMRE has already tested the process at densities of 1.9Tb/in2, and they've created platters at up to 3.3Tb/in2. Consider current HDD's run at ~0.5Tb/in2, we're talking 6x the capacity - just when we thought HDD's were leveling off.

IMRE claims the new tech can be easily implemented with existing manufacture lines. The only potential catch I see is that with current HDD's, they make the platter and form tracks onto it once it's already fully assembled. This new tech creates the tracks in the middle of the process. This makes for potential alignment issues when going for a perfect 1-bit per grain density. Think of it as writing to a CD or DVD - the tracks are already there, so your drive's laser has extra components to help it keep the beam locked onto the track during writing (to account for any wobble, etc). HDD's using this new tech may need to employ a similar method, adding complexity to what is likely already the most complex part of these drives.

This development will not only enable higher capacity drives, it should help drop the price of current capacities. I guess SSD's will have to wait a bit longer before taking over the world.

Hitachi Releases 1TB per Platter Deskstar and CinemaStar Hard Drives

Subject: Storage | September 6, 2011 - 10:12 PM |
Tagged: hitachi, hdd, deskstar, cinemastar, 1TB Platter

Hitachi GST (Global Storage Technologies) today announced that the company is beefing up their product line by moving to 1 TB per platter technology. With an aerial density of 569 Gb/in^2 (569 Gigabits per square inch) for desktop drives, both Deskstar and CinemaStar product lines will be infused with the new platter technology and will range in capacities from 250 GB to 1 TB. We are currently awaiting an update as to whether the lower capacity drives are using older technology or fractions of the 1TB per platter drives, so stay tuned for an update. This will be important for the performance of the lower capacity drives because the improved aerial density of the 1TB per platter technology brings a healthy performance boost over the older technology due to the amount of data that is able to be read at a time.

The Deskstar lineup is for consumers and enthusiasts while the CinemaStar drives are low power drives best suited for A/V work in streaming HD video and/or writing HD streams to the disk. Such applications include security cameras, IPTV, and DVRs. The new Deskstar drives are available for purchase now; however, the CinemaStar hard drives will not be available until later this fall.

The Deskstar drives come in two flavors, the higher performance 7200 RPM 7K1000.D and the low power 5K1000.B hard drives that employ Hitachi’s Coolspin technology. Both models feature 32MB of cache, SATA 3 (6 Gb/s) interfaces, and power savings versus their predecessors. The HVERT and 8th generation power management technology has allowed Hitachi to claim 15% idle power savings on the 7K1000.D. On the other hand, the 5K1000.B sees a 23% idle power savings versus its predecessor.

DS7K1000.D_top_HR (1).jpg

The CinemaStar drives also employ 32MB of cache and the SATA 3 (6 Gb/s) interface. Hitachi claims that 90% of demand (for AV oriented hard drives) lies in single disk hard drives between 250 GB and 500 Gigabytes in capacity. Just like the Deskstar variants, the CinemaStar lineup is also broken up into faster 7K1000.D and low power, slower spinning 5K1000.B products.

While Hitachi is moving to 1 TB per platter, they are slated to be acquired by Western Digital in Q4 2011. The company will continue to ship the drives until “their logical end of life.” The important bit; however, is that Hitachi GST product warranties will continue to be honored after the acquisition. Have you used Hitachi drives lately, or have you moved on to the larger manufacturers?

Source: Hitachi GST

Western Digital's cool and quiet 3TB AV-GP WD30EURS hard drive

Subject: Storage | July 11, 2011 - 02:24 PM |
Tagged: western digital, WD30EURS. 3TB, hdd

If you are building an HTPC or even a file server which is focused on quiet operation in a small area, picking up a Velociraptor isn't your best choice.  Since the plan also includes a drive with a huge amount of storage space, you might use an SSD for your OS but it is a little expensive to pick up an SSD(s) large enough to keep all of your media.  Western Digital's AV-GP WD30EURS is a 3TB HDD which will operate between 5400-7200 RPM and is designed for use in consumer electronics, hence the Audio/Visual part of the name.  It is different from the normal Green Power series as it utilizes ATA streaming commands with optimize the drive for multiple, large and sequential accesses at the expense of data integrity, and it tends to run a little hotter as well.  Make sure you are running Vista or Win7 and a UEFI based motherboard before picking the drive up.  TechARP's full review is here.

TARP_drive_diagonal_big.jpg

"Today, we will look at Western Digital’s largest capacity AV-GP hard disk drive - the WD30EURS. This hard disk drive is not only quieter and cooler than regular hard disk drive, it also packs a whooping storage capacity of 3 terabytes! Let’s take a look!"

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: TechARP

Western Digital's take on the Green Monster, a 3TB Caviar Green HDD

Subject: Storage | June 10, 2011 - 12:15 PM |
Tagged: hdd, western digital, caviar green, 3tb

Before you go running out and buying the Western Digital Caviar Green 3 TB HDD, there are a few caveats to remember.  You will not be able to just pop this into a WinXP machine and expect to use it at full capacity, you need to have a motherboard with UEFI in order to boot from it and finally the implementation of Advanced Format Technology is still stuck in 512-byte emulation mode. 

On the plus side, the drive spins at about 6600 RPM and is SATAS 6Gbs which makes it faster that it's smaller predecessor.  Only the non-AFT version of the 2TB Green drive can beat it for throughput.  Check out the full review at TechARP.

WD_3TB_Green.jpg

"Western Digital divides their internal hard drives into three distinct families - the WD Caviar Blue for their basic hard drives, the WD Caviar Green for their quieter, cooler hard drives and the WD Caviar Black for their performance-grade hard drives.

According to Western Digital, Caviar Green hard disk drives offer an average power saving of 4-5 watts over their competitors, a feat that they claim is equivalent to reducing CO2 emissions by 13.8 kg per year. Of course, that’s a mere drop in the ocean but if you can help save the environment while you work or play on your computer, why not?

Today, we will look at the improved Western Digital Caviar Green 3 TB hard disk drive - the new Western Digital WD30EZRX with Advanced Format Technology and 6 Gbps interface. Let’s find out how well this drive performs!"

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: TechARP

PCPer v4.0 Giveaway: Thermaltake Max 5G USB 3.0 Hard Drive Enclosure

Subject: General Tech, Storage | April 22, 2011 - 03:24 PM |
Tagged: thermaltake, hdd, giveaway, contest

As you can no doubt tell, PC Perspective got a HUGE and much needed facelift last weekend to what we are internally calling "PC Perspective v4.0".  I know there are still some kinks to work out and we are actively addressing any feedback from our readers in this comment thread.  

But we want to celebrate the launch of the new site in style!!  Some of our site sponsors have very generously offered up some prizes for us to give out throughout the coming days...

The fifth set of prizes is a pair of Thermaltake Max 5G USB 3.0 external hard drive enclosures!

max5g.jpg

It has lights, it has fans AND it runs at USB 3.0 speeds.  What do you have to do to win this wonderful piece of hardware?

Couldn't be easier: post a comment in this post thanking Thermaltake for its sponsorship of PC Perspective as well as your plans for using such a cool USB 3.0 external drive dock.  What other features would you like to see on external enclosures like this? 

You should probably have a registered account or at least be sure you include your email address in the appropriate field so we can contact you!

We will pick the winners tomorrow and move on to the next hardware that finds its way to PC Perspective offices.  Good luck and thanks for reading!!

Source: Thermaltake

Seagate and Samsung, the defragmentation of the storage market continues

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2011 - 11:51 AM |
Tagged: Seagate, Samsung, sale, partnership, hdd, 1 billion

 

While it is not a true merger or sale, it seems that the operations side of Samsung's HDD branch is being pruned off and sold to Seagate for over $1billion of cash and shares.  The reports inidicate this will be more of a partnership, with Samsung continuing to develop technologies for HDD and retaining full ownership of its flash based storage assets.  Drop by The Tech Report for more.

samsung-seagate-logo.jpg

"Seagate and Samsung have announced a "broad strategic alignment," as part of which Seagate will take over Samsung's hard-drive operations in exchange for a cool $1.375 billion (paid half in cash, half in stock). The deal also involves a NAND flash memory supply agreement as well as "expanded cooperation" on enterprise storage."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk