Standard hard drive manufacturers are really feeling the heat these days when it comes to competition. Attacked on all sides by the prospect solid state disks offer consumers, Western Digital is taking a different step: taking traditional hard drives, and making them as dense and as fast as possible.
Currently, there is no timeframe offered for the introduction of the drive, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it offered at a price point similar to the current $300 VelociRaptor.
The 10,000-RPM 300GB VelociRaptor drive. Credit: WD
The problem facing traditional hard drive manufacturers is that the development of solid state disks allows non-traditional entities in the long-term storage industry, like Intel, to bring products to market. The nature of SSDs lets essentially anyone with chip fabrication equipment to join in on the fun. Western Digital knows this, and is bringing its considerable knowedge of rotating magnetic drives to bear by going in the completely opposite direction.
Instead of embracing SSDs, a very costly proposition, WD is making their traditional drives and making them very fast. The recent entry of the VelociRaptor, their latest in the Raptor line of sizzlingly fast drives, more than holds its own against the majority of SSDs — and with its size and price point, it’s a very worthy alternative. In that vein, rumor has it that they’re now developing a 20,000-RPM version of the drive with a similar form factor: a 2.5-inch drive in a 3.5-inch housing. The extra housing serves to radiate away some of the tremendous amounts of heat a drive like this will generate as well as, in the new model, serve to make the drive very quiet. Ideally, it will also help to dampen vibrations, which could pose significant problems to platters that rotate 20,000 times per minute.
The big issue, however, is whether this is merely a stopgap measure. It’s debatable whether WD will be able to continue upping the speed of rotating media while at the same time increasing areal densities such that prices continue to fall. The two big propositions traditional hard drives offer over SSDs are price and increased storage capabilities, and the margin will continue to close. Each side offers comparable mean times to failure. It’s possible that we’ll see large capacity rotating disks kept alive in external hard drives and used as storage libraries while notebooks go all solid state. Desktops may offer a hybrid solution of both, delivering the best of both worlds.
Bit-tech.net article on the new drive
Western Digital’s product page for the VelociRaptor