Preface to Pulsar: Why Seagate Needs This

To say that the SSD revolution caught the HDD makers off guard would be an understatement. With the exception of Samsung, none of the players in the HDD business have an even remotely competitive SSD.

Sitting this one out isn’t an option. In the enterprise market, a handful of SSDs can easily outperform dozens of 15,000 RPM hard drives. And when I say outperform, I mean by an order of magnitude.

It’s not just about performance, there’s a tremendous power advantage as well. The best SSDs use less than 3W per drive under full load. The fastest 15K RPM SAS drives gobble up a good 7W per drive. In a datacenter with thousands of servers, the power savings alone are enough to make the switch.

I use servers as my first example because the cost isn’t as touchy of a subject there, but the advantages in desktop and notebook PCs are more than tangible. Again, the key words are order of magnitude: SSDs are worth their weight in gold if performance matters to you.

The Fresh Test, Why You Absolutely Need an SSD - The SSD Relapse

Two years ago the argument was that the technology wasn’t mature enough. Intel changed all of that with the X25-M and X25-E. Even today companies like OCZ are using Indilinx’s Barefoot controller to compete everywhere from mainstream PCs to high end servers.

PCIe cards based on SSD controllers with tons of NAND flash are the next frontier for the technology. Why deal with the current SATA bottlenecks when you can push close to a Gigabyte per second of data over some PCIe lanes?

Performance and power data aside, Gartner expects SSD sales to hit $1 billion in 2010. Like I said, sitting this one out isn’t an option.

Earlier this year Western Digital acquired SiliconSystems for $65 million and rebranded their drives. Western Digital’s true attempt at a competitive SSD won’t come until sometime next year as even the latest WD Silicon Power III isn't very competitive.

Seagate has been the quiet one, until today that is. Today Seagate is announcing that it is shipping its first SSD to OEMs. The drive is called Pulsar and this is a render of what it looks like (if it appeared in front of a star apparently):

Seagate Goes Light on the Details
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  • araczynski - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - link

    SSD revolution?? someone forgot to wake me up...

    good to see seagate putting in some rebranded hardware into the mix, should help the prices drop a little faster, to the levels of mass market acceptance....

    was just throwing out some old purchase order records....couldn't believe i (well, the company) paid $178 for a dvd+-rw drive back in the day... so maybe in 5 years the HD's will be the floppy disks.
  • Kougar - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - link

    Bright Side of News is indicating the Pulsar drives will utilize "up to" 16 channels per drive, more than Intel's 10.">
  • Casper42 - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - link

    Being that the 200GB (256GB) model here uses 8 channels, that would imply the 16 channel model would be 512GB (or 400GB according to Seagate).
  • PandaBear - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - link

    that Seagate and Micron has worked together in a secret JV (joint venture) with a small team of engineers since about 1 to 1.5 years ago.

    The focus of the JV is to put a programmable analog amplifier (the one called read channel in the hard drive industry) inside the flash to improve its voltage sensing performance. HD has these sort of analog components like pre-amp (the amplifier on the actuator, because head signal is too weak to reach the controller by itself) and read channel (programmable A2D converter and decoder) for quite some time, and flash is starting to see problems that can only be fixed by analog mean.

    So it seems like Seagate's flash may have a special way of adjusting the memory's parameter via vendor unique commands that aren't available to others (except Micron), and they use that to their advantage in their own designed controller (with 3rd party IP, but everyone has 3rd party IP for their SATA interface, ARM processor, embedded memory controller, etc, so it is not saying much.
  • Roland00 - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - link

    It appears there is a new controller on the block with the Phison Controller found in the Patriot PS-100.

    Specs on the box make the drive look like it is Indilinx comparable and I have seen this drive priced at 2 dollars per gigabyte after rebate.
  • SleepyGreg - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - link

    $11 per GB! Is that a typo? That would make the 200GB model over $2000!
  • crimson117 - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - link

    Remember, assumption makes an ass out of u and mption.
  • arnavvdesai - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - link

    At a cost of 11$/GB & a reduction to 3W from 7W, are these drives cost effective. Yes I understand you are speed restricted but is the difference in cost recovered by the difference in speed & power consumption. Also, I am curious whether the higher speeds help reduce the number of servers we might need especially larger data centers considering that we can match capacities. Would having higher drive speeds cause a unit of 'work' be executed fast enough that we would need less machines than using standard mangetic drives.
  • Mr Perfect - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - link

    It would depend on everyone's individual case, I'd think.

    First you'd need to know how many drives you have in each of your servers and then multiply that by 5 watts(assuming your drives are 7 watt, andthe SSDs you buy are 3 watt). Then you'd have to take that per-server power savings and multiply it by how many servers you had. At that point you'd know how many fewer watts you'd be pulling off of the PSUs, but you'd still have to figure how many fewer watts those PSUs will pull form the wall(are they 75% efficient? 80%? 85%?). When you get the drop in power from the wall, you could multiply it out by whatever your local power utility is charging you per KWH. Of course you'd also want to figure out how much money you'd save by not having to cool all of that extra power dissipation too.

    Quick, to the beancounterarium! :D

  • Kibbles - Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - link

    "Such low write speeds are either artificial or the result of the same sort of issue that continues to plague Intel’s X25-M."

    Is that supposed to be Seagate? Since it says the 50GB, and Intel only sells one size.

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