back to article Storage big three to define HDD way ahead

Is the future of hard disk drive (HDD) technology bit-patterning or heat-assist? That's what Hitachi GST, Seagate and Western Digital are going to get together to decide, fearing to go it alone because that would be far too expensive and risky. Making the wrong multi-billion dollar bet could ruin a supplier, and the HDD …

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MJI
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Megaphone

Keep going Samsung

Nice quiet drives - don't want to lose them!

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Or there may be no future

If all the major players get together to develop new technology then the incentive to develop new technology disappears. I don't see increased storage density creating a significantly bigger market from which they can all benefit.

Sounds more like a cartel formed to allow them all to avoid expensive and risky R&D.

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Dubious analogy with Betamax vs VHS...

"Making the wrong multi-billion dollar bet could ruin a supplier, and the HDD industry wants to pre-empt a potentially disastrous Betamax vs VHS-type struggle."

I can see why manufacturers don't want to back the wrong technology, but I fail to see the parallel with the Betamax vs VHS struggle. In the case of Betamax vs VHS, or cassette tape vs 8-Track, Hi-Def VDV vs Blu-Ray the relevant hardware manufacturers lost out because of the overwhelming advantage of having a single media type for both pre-recorded and sharing purposes. Once one technology gained the advantage then it became a natural de-facto standard. I fail to see why this should apply to fixed media. As far as the user is concerned, then the way that bits are recorded is wholly irrelevant. All they will care about is cost and performance. Now it may be that one technology or the other has the natural advantage, but that's a completely different matter. Famously VHS won out over Betamax because of commercial factors and not technical ones.

Just about the only common factors I can see is the availability of common manufacturing equipment and the issue of any optimisation that might be required in software that makes use of this type of storage (in the same way that SSDs can benefit from TRIM). However, these software issues are hardly a show-stopper. We manage to have multiple I/O interfaces supported (SCSI, FC, ATA, USB etc.) and different ways of storing the bits (Flash SSD, optical, magnetic) without it causing huge problems.

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Does this make sense?

> "Making the wrong multi-billion dollar bet could ruin a supplier, and the HDD industry wants to pre-empt a potentially disastrous Betamax vs VHS-type struggle".

Oh, really? The Beta/VHS struggle was because you couldn't interface a Beta cassette to a VHS player or vice versa. There would be no trouble interfacing either drive platter technology with the SATA and SAS controllers in existing systems.

More likely, no-one wants to end up betting their farm on the less good technology, and no-one wants to pay for two lots of R&D to avoid that fate. It should be good for people who buy drives, if the companies pool their R&D efforts until the best way forwards is clarified.

SSDs will be obsoleting small HDs in the near future (despite Windows 7's best efforts to out-bloat the SSD). Hard drive manufacturers will soon have to downsize and up-spec, because the average PC may not contain an HD at all for much longer. Long ago, I assumed IBM had seen this day coming when they sold their HD business to Hitachi.

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IDEMA spokesperson say IDEMA in driving seat

Sent to me by an IDEMA Spokesperson:-

I want to clarify a couple of points from your post. First, IDEMA designed and will run this research effort, and it is open to all IDEMA members worldwide (as stated in our email to members last week). We fully expect that the rest of the HDD companies and key component suppliers will join and participate. So it is not true that HGST, Seagate, and WDC will determine the future of HDD storage. Second, your reference to cartel is both incorrect and misleading, per the point above. The concept of companies jointly funding fundamental research is not new and a variety of legal resources have been involved all along in the design of IDEMA's new effort.

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Thanks for this,

Chris.

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Been there, worked for the cartel, company went bankrupt and I didn't even get a lousy T-shirt.

Steven Jones pretty much nails it in his post. There are no technical reasons why the different technologies couldn't be adopted in the marketplace. Yes that does mean companies would have to take risks and might go out of business. That's the nature of the free market place.

Many years ago I worked for an outfit organized along the lines of IDEMA in a technology area that really has yet to mature - Home Automation. The whole thing was all legal under a then recently developed law that specifically allowed the formation of an independent company company that third parties could fund and when they licensed the technology back there could be no legal anti-trust claim in the US. The biggest thing it does is move the power plays behind doors instead of in the market place. We licensed at most three manufacturers for any given part of the technology. I still remember the pissing contests over gold vs lead contacts for one of the interfaces. It turns out that for our particular application, micro-plating gold was susceptible to migration effects which made it practically equivalent to using lead. Costs worked out to be similar as well. The only difference was which company was backing which standard. And in this case they really couldn't both develop the technology and see which one worked best because it was the physical interface.

Bottom line, I've been there and I don't see these types of organizations as particularly beneficial to consumers. The concept may look good on paper, but fails miserably in practice.

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Megaphone

In the driving seat?

So a spokesman from the cartel says that it's not a cartel, and there's nothing to worry about? Oh, well, that's Ok then!

But the comparison with the LTO organisation is interesting, it will remain to be seen whether the Alliance lives up to its name, or goes over to the dark side...

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Linux

Solid State

The world is going to SSD's. HDD's days are numbered.

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