It seems like we've been waiting a while for an exciting announcement from other component manufacturers, with the news dominated by Intel's Alder Lake, Microsoft Windows 11 and the every depressing GPU market. It has been a significant quarter for Seagate and Western Digital, a they have stolen a few headlines with some incredibly interesting press releases.
Storage Can Be Cool, Too...
As much as most look at storage as a necessity, PC build professionals and experts who regularly configure systems always take care in choosing the best storage option... and this varies wildly from a gaming system to a 3D animation workstation. Of course, more thought has to be given to motherboards, GPUs and CPUs right now, but the fact still remains that a solid SSD drive will be the beating heart of your build, housing your operating system, essential applications and treasured memories.
The spotlight has swung over to the big two manufacturers, Seagate and Western Digital as they begin to grab their own headlines with announcements that mention the magic words "World's First" to create a well-earned buzz. This has hopefully given PC builders a little more spring in their step as we lurch towards a potentially turbulent first few quarters of 2022.
What's so cool about storage, you ask? Well, truthfully, it hasn't ever really been the leather jacket wearing bad boy. But more recently it seems that manufacturers are raising the profile of this essential piece of hardware, and even focusing a lot more on aesthetics. A superb example of this is the Beskar™ Ingot Drive Special Edition FireCuda® External Hard Drive 2 TB from Seagate:
Beskar Ingot Drive Special Edition FireCuda External Hard Drive 2 TB
If you want to talk about cool, then you just have to take a look at this gorgeous external drive with a detailed stamped Imperial design, featuring a custom Mandalorian-inspired blue LED lighting out of the box and RGB control. This is the product of an official license deal between Seagate and Lucasfilm.
“We are thrilled to bring unique, iconic designs from one of the world’s most popular franchises to the forefront of every gamer’s battle station,” says Jeff Fochtman, the Senior Vice President of Business and Marketing at Seagate. “This collaboration appeals to global audiences including gamers, PC builders, and Star Wars enthusiasts alike.”
Compatible with PC, MAC, PlayStation and Xbox, this officially-licensed Beskar™ Ingot Drive is the type of product that we're talking about, bringing storage tumbling head over heels into the limelight. If you want to make storage cool - "This is the way".
The Beskar Ingot range is also available as an M.2 SSD and SATA SSD:
Special Edition FireCuda NVMe SSD and SATA SSD
These "collectible" drives will all be available from Cartel Markets and online retailers very soon, and if USA pricing is anything to go by, the MSRPs are not light years away from their standard counterparts, with the External SSD at $99.99, PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD available in 500GB ($159.99) and 1TB ($259.99), and the SATA SSD 1TB ($159.99)/2TB ($269.99). CCL will be covering these drives when they launch, so keep your eyes open for that.
Q4 Storage News
As much as there have been positive announcements, there have also been some shock headlines for those keeping up with storage news. We'll cover some of the most notable news from recent weeks, and look ahead to some incredible innovations nobody even saw coming.
Seagate Demo The World's First NVMe HDD
The biggest news has to be Seagate's recent demo of a hard disk drive with an NVMe interface, which they showed off at the Open Compute Project global summit last week.
The demo at the Open Compute Project summit included discussions around: -
TCO advantages, including:
- Reduced component count
- Simplified stack eliminating proprietary SAS/SATA drivers
Native support for multi-actuator HDDs
High-volume connectors (SAS & SATA)
Common management APIs via Redfish™
This demo included a custom JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks - a multilevel configuration for disks) enclosure, with 12x 3.5-inch drives hooked up via a PCIe interface. The demo utilised the NVMe protocol and also a PCIe interface, usually used for SSDs exclusively. The interesting thing is, the proof-of-concept HDD is based on a proprietary controller which is compatible with all major protocols such as SAS, SATA and, of course, NVMe, all without the need for a bridge.
This is truly a "World's First", but many have asked why Seagate would even bother doing this. Well, the confirmation of the viability of NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) protocol on HDDs answered this question during the demo: there are considerable benefits to the end user, including reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) and energy savings (which include easier paths to feature development and performance improvements).
“The goal is to pave the way for a seamless consolidated NVMe interface across HDDs and SSDs,” said Seagate on their blog.
“As NVMe continues to be a cornerstone for new storage architectures and feature deployment, its support for rotational media ensures HDDs will have the capability to support the industry’s latest architectures and initiatives.”
Backblaze Finds Seagate HDDs Fail Most Often
As an almost polar opposite to the above unveiling, Backblaze's Andy Klein had sobering news for Seagate, with data that shows their hard disk drives failing the most often out of the 190,826 monitored drives in their remit. Before pitchforks are pulled out, however, it should be noted that the failure rates are still low, but this is important data nevertheless.
Klein wrote in the Backblaze blog: “The only drive model that recorded zero failures during Q2 was the HGST 12TB drive (model: HUH721212ALE600) which is used in our Dell storage servers in our Amsterdam data center.”
Klein highlighted the 14TB Seagate drive high rate of failure: “These drives, while manufactured by Seagate, were provisioned in Dell storage servers. As noted, both Seagate and Dell were looking into the possible causes for the unexpected failure rate. The limited number of failures, 26 this quarter, have made failure analysis challenging.”
Seagate’s overall average AFR (life time annualised failure rate) across their drives is 1.62%, while Toshiba sits at 1.134%, what was once HGST (and is now Western Digital) at 0.445%, and Western Digital Corp (WDC) kicking back at the top with at 0.355%.
The raw data for these annualised failure rates can be found here.
Western Digital Releasing 20TB Hard Drives
Hard drives are dominating once again with WD, with their 20TB Ultrastar DC HC560 and WD Gold HDDs, making reliable large capacity storage even more expansive for those who need it.
Both of these drives from Western Digital come in standard 3.5-inch form factor with OptiNAND technology that integrates iNAND Universal Flash Storage (UFS) Embedded Flash Drive (EFD) with spinning disks. This means 20TB can be spread across nine platters (working out at 2.2TB/platter).
Both HDDs make use of Energy-Assisted Magnetic Recording (EAMR), a technology that was developed to reduce air drag on rotating platters using HelioSeal, a system which replaces air with helium in a sealed chassis. Both HDDs also feature a triple-stage actuator (TSA) to enable more tracks per inch using three pivot points; this controls the position of the recording head with much higher precision than dual-stage actuators.
The 20TB Ultrastar DC HC560 is aimed at enterprise customers and cloud firms or those requiring high-capacity and reliable NAS drives, so it is unlikely the average customer will have spotted this in their news feed recently. What is important for consumers, though, is that today's enterprise product could easily be tomorrow's Black Friday Deal for gamers and professionals as manufacturing and tooling progresses to critical mass, and these once high-end products become viable for cheaper mass production. As it stands, this high capacity drive would be quite happy storing your media files or just about every game in your Xbox Game Pass, Origin & Steam library.
Samsung T7 1TB USB 3.1 & USB 3.2 External SSD Drive Price Drop
Whilst this is more consumer news than industry news, it really is the shape of the market right now. Samsung know they have got plenty to be happy about, with excellent market share in the NAND and DRAM sector. Keeping their fingers firmly on the retail market, they have slashed the cost of their T7 1TB external drive with distributors passing on those savings to retailers in time for Christmas. The USB 3.1 SSD drive is available in three colours - Red, Grey and Blue, with various capacities from 500GB to 2TB.
The Samsung T7 is also available in USB 3.2 Gen 2, and also had a recent mega price drop, with almost £100 savings on retail price.
The benefits of fast external storage are pretty obvious, but with most people now streaming up to 4K media in and around the home, or needing extra storage for huge games, it makes sense to snap up this bargain before Samsung change their mind. The majority of routers now support network media access, such as the Netgear Nighthawk, which allows you to store and access media files very quickly and easily.
Whilst this is great news in Q4 2021, we still have plenty to look forward to next year, with the potential for NAND pricing to come down, and PCIe Gen 5 SSDs being on track for availability. This new SSD will make use of the full capabilities of the port, with performance at 32 GHz reaching a bandwidth of 128 GB/s in full duplex, doubling that of the current PCI Express 4.0 and quadrupling PCI Express 3.0 rates.
If you're watching the tech news headlines, you're probably going to see a lot more about storage in the coming months, and all of it points to savings and improvements for PC gamers and enthusiasts.