Hitachi Introduces 1-Terabyte Hard Drive

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Hitachi Global Storage Technologies is first to the mat with an announcement of a 1-terabyte hard disk drive. Industry analysts widely expected a 1TB drive to ship sometime in 2007; Hitachi grabbed a head start on the competition by announcing its drive today, just before the largest U.S. consumer electronics show starts next week.

According to Hitachi, the drive ships in the first quarter of 2007, and will cost $399--less than the price of two individual 500GB hard drives today. The drive, called the Deskstar 7K1000, will be shown this weekend in Las Vegas at the 2007 International CES, also known as the Consumer Electronics Show, as well as at the Storage Visions storage conference.

Hitachi's 1TB hard drive
Hitachi will have three flavors of the 1TB drive; however, only the Deskstar version will be available at launch. The company also plans to offer a CinemaStar version of the drive, for use in DVR and set-top boxes, as well as an enterprise version with a certified mean time between failure rating. Both of those versions are expected in the second quarter of this year.

Industry Milestone

"No question, it's a milestone for the industry," says John Rydning, research manager for hard disk drives and components at IDC. "It's interesting that the industry is delivering a 1TB drive in the 51st year of the industry." The first hard drive, manufactured by IBM, shipped in 1956.

Hitachi notes it took the industry 35 years to reach 1GB (in 1991), 14 years more to reach 500GB (in 2005), and just two more years to reach 1TB.

The company hopes to be the first to market with a 1TB drive. The company is locked in competition with Seagate for those honors; Seagate reconfirmed its intentions to ship a 1TB drive in the first half of 2007, but it has not offered any further details.

Drive Details

Although the jump to 1TB was not unexpected, Hitachi is taking a cautious tactic to achieving 1TB. According to Doug Pickford, director of market and product strategy, "The approach we've taken with the design of this product, and with previous generation products, is that we've purposely relaxed the areal density. The previous generation [500GB] drive was 100GB per platter; and, it was possible to have up to 160GB per platter. About 250GB per platter is the next bump on the areal density curve, but we've backed off from doing that in order to achieve higher reliability at this time."

The Deskstar 7K1000 will be a five-platter drive, each platter capable of storing 200GB apiece. Like Seagate's Barracuda 7200.10 750GB drive, Hitachi's 1TB model uses perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) to achieve its high capacity point. The 7K1000 is Hitachi's first 3.5-inch hard drive to use PMR technology; last year, the company released 2.5-inch PMR-based hard drives.

Pickford says the drive will be intended for gaming and high-performance PCs, external storage devices, and PC upgrades. "The drive will be shipping in the first quarter to retail stores," says Pickford. "And we're expecting to ship some to external storage device makers as well."

The 7200 rpm Serial-ATA drive will have 32MB data buffer, larger than the typical 8MB or 16MB buffer seen on drives. It will be available in SATA 3.0Gb/s and Parallel-ATA 133 interfaces.

750GB Model Also Coming

In addition to the 1TB model, Hitachi is introducing and shipping a 750GB version of the drive as well. But the company focused its energies on achieving 1TB before its competitors. "We did that by design," says Pickford. "The feedback we got from the market was that if we could get to 1TB sooner, there would be a lot of value for our customers. We already knew that the mechanical platform was mature enough and able to handle the areal density that 1TB needed. So we decided to accelerate our efforts and get to a TB."

Getting to 1TB, adds Pickford, was more about finessing existing processes than inventing new ones. "It was very much in the execution, so you can have the right yields, the right stability, and right quality levels, and make sure it's achievable in the lab as well as in mass production."

Attractive Pricing

With a price of $399, the Deskstar 7K1000 comes in at an attractive price for consumers. That works out to $0.40 per GB--a competitive per-gigabyte cost for a hard drive today, and not much of a premium over previous models. By comparison, a 500GB hard drive today costs about $0.45 per gigabyte, as does Seagate's 750GB Barracuda drive (down from the $0.79 per gigabyte it cost when it launched last spring).

Don't expect to see hard drive prices enter a freefall, though. Says Pickford, "I don't think it will affect the market in a disruptive way. When we set this, we did try to take into account the price of other, lower-capacity drive products. Based on where the market was, we felt $399 was an appropriate price point to set for this technology, so it could achieve good market acceptance."

Although 1TB of storage on a single drive will be alluring to some users, IDC's Rydning sees only very specific demand for that much storage. "For consumers, we still think the big hard drives are mainly for niche applications," says Rydning. "There's going to be a certain minority of PC users and video recorder enthusiasts who will want to have the highest capacity available. And in those markets, a high-capacity drive is valued. However, the vast majority of PC users are still serviced by a one-platter, 160GB hard drive."

Consumers' increasing accumulation of digital personal data is, not surprisingly, driving the need for high-capacity storage. "As people amass their own personal memories, either in photographs or video, hard disk drive storage is one of the best, lowest cost ways to store and retrieve that type of data," says Rydning.

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