Consumers have been wondering for some time now what traditional mechanical hard drive manufacturers would do to combat the threat represented to their industry by solid state drives (SSDs). SSDs, at least at the higher end, offer significant speed increases over rotating magnetic drives at the cost of reduced storage capacities. They’re a bit of a game-changer in the storage markets because unlike standard hard drives, the majority of which are made by a handful of large manufacturers, SSDs can be made by anyone who makes flash memory, RAM, heck, even chip-maker Intel is getting in on the action. Up until now, hard drive manufacturers haven’t had all that much to say about future plans; rumors suggest that Western Digital is working on a 20,000-RPM update to their Raptor line of speedy drives, and everyone is working to increase their storage densities.
Today, Seagate announced that they are entering the solid state market, and it looks like they’re going to be doing it in a new way. Rather than going after consumers, many of whom are already convinced of the benefits of solid state storage technologies, Seagate is vying for the affection of corporate clients, and the IT managers who run their servers. While it would be nice to see a major player enter the consumer arena (thus driving down prices for us), this is still a good thing. As skittish as the corporate world can be, it means that Seagate will be working very hard to ensure compatibility. Gradually as the technology is proven and more companies pick up on it (Seagate is hoping), the drive maker will bring out consumer lines of drives for different market segments.
Seagate won’t be making the individual flash chips for the drives themselves; that’s no surprise, given that they don’t own any manufacturing plants suited to the task. It will be interesting to see if their experience over the years in traditional storage will give them any noticeable advantages over all of the newcomers to the industry.