SAN JOSE, Calif. The world's biggest hard disk drive maker is jumping into the crowded market for solid-state drives. Seagate Technology is shipping Pulsar a 200 GByte, 2.5-inch flash drive aimed at servers.
The drive maker quietly began shipping Pulsar units to OEMs for revenue in September 2009. It is available for sampling now.
Seagate said Pulsar is the first of a new family of products it plans for tower, rack and blades servers used in business computing. It uses a serial ATA interface and single-level cell NAND flash from an undisclosed supplier.
Pulsar delivers peak performance of up to 30,000 read I/O operations/second and 25,000 write IOPS. It can deliver 240 MBytes/s data for a sequential read and 200 MB/s for a sequential write.
Analysts are generally bullish on Seagate's late entrance into what is a highly competitive market. "The company will be a force to contend with once it reaches its stride," said Jim Handy of Objective Analysis (Los Gatos, Calif.) in a written analysis.
"With its well-established OEM and eco-system relationships and a long history of serving global storage OEMs, Seagate is in a unique position to fortify its leading enterprise storage position with its entry into the enterprise solid state storage market," said Dave Reinsel, a group vice president at International Data Corp., speaking in a prepared statement from Seagate.
Seagate will be able to ride the still growing market for flash drives in servers. "The enterprise SSD market is now primed and well-positioned for growth from both a revenue and unit perspective, with Gartner estimating unit growth to double and sales to reach $1 billion for calendar year 2010," said Joseph Unsworth, research director for flash drives at Gartner.
Nevertheless, Seagate will have to walk a tightrope, pushing into the flash market in ways that don't disrupt its existing hard drive business.
Pulsar has 100 times the IOPS and a sequential access more twice that of an enterprise hard drive, said Handy. "Seagate explains that the target market for the Pulsar is in the 5-10 percent of storage that is I/O intensive, and argues that its inherent speed will foster growth in data storage requirements," he added.
Nevertheless Handy said he believes the market for server hard drives will decline over time, and "it may not be too long before SSDs render enterprise HDDs obsolete."
Handy praised the Pulsar for balancing its read and write performance levels, figures often far apart for competing flash drives. He also noted Seagate is unique among hard drive makers because it is designing its own flash drives.
Western Digital acquired flash drive maker SiliconSystems, Hitachi partnered with Intel and Toshiba-Fujitsu sources flash drives from Toshiba's flash unit, Handy said.