April 3, 2005 6:40 PM PDT

Hitachi claims leap in drive density

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Hitachi Global Storage will come out with hard drives containing 230 gigabits of data per square inch, the company is expected to announce Monday, and that means 20GB iPod Minis.

The company is expected to release the denser drives in 2007.

The density breakthrough represents a refinement in perpendicular recording. Today, hard drives record and store data in a longitudinal fashion, with the read/write heads scanning over a horizontal plane. In perpendicular recording, data bits are aligned vertically, allowing for more data to be squeezed into a finite area.

Put another way, data will go from being stored on a two-dimensional XY grid to living in a three-dimensional XYZ space.

"We're redesigning the head and disc quite significantly," said Bill Healy, senior vice president of product strategy and marketing at Hitachi. "All we have done is longitudinal recording in hard drives since the 1950s."

Hitachi will actually come out with drives that employ perpendicular-recording techniques toward the end of this year, but these first drives won't be nearly as dense--holding only around 130 gigabits to 150 gigabits per square inch--and will mostly serve as a transitional technology, he said. Longitudinal recording drives are expected to top out at 120 gigabits per square inch.

Widespread commercial deployment of perpendicular drives will occur with the 230 gigabit per square inch drives in 2007, he said. The technology will allow Hitachi to come out with a 20GB microdrive, which has a diameter of 1 inch, and a 3.5-inch drive for PCs and digital video recorders that will hold a terabyte.

Currently, microdrives top out at 6GB while home servers with a terabyte of storage typically have several drives. (While the drive material is measured in gigabits, the drives themselves are measured in gigabytes: 8 gigabits equals 1 gigabyte.)

Within five to seven years, increasing performance with perpendicular recording will likely lead to microdrives with 60GB of storage capacity, the company said.

To get early experience with its 230 gigabit per square inch drives, Hitachi is conducting field tests with a few hundred employees, customers and outside engineers.

"We've got a babysitting program running in the back to see how the hard drives are doing," Healy said. "We are building up our understanding of our quality and reliability."

Perpendicular recording technology, in part, owes its heritage to Valdemar Poulsen, a 19th century Danish scientist who magnetically recorded sound in a similar fashion.

Competitors Seagate, Toshiba and others are also working on perpendicular-recording drives. While some of the larger companies may make the transition at roughly the same time, some of the smaller companies may fall behind, Healy speculated.

"Major transitions are watershed moments," he said.


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I would like ..
to see these hard disks put into digital video cameras instead of mini pods or the likes. Then transferring the data from camera to PC would take less time. Then we could really record hours instead of 1 hour or less.
Posted by wrwjpn (113 comments )
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This is news?
That's funny, I have had my 20GB iRiver since December and should have spent the extra cash to get the 40GB model that was also available back then.
Posted by (3 comments )
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You have different HDD
Yes, this is news! If you don't know, there're two basic formats for hard-disk based music players: "large" (20/30/40/60/80 Gb) and "small" (4/5/6 Gb). Larger drives are in regular iPods/iRiver, while smaller are in iPod mini's and Creative/iRiver equivalents.

The article refers to the "small" hard drives, so an increase of over 300% is significant :)
Posted by Rusdude (170 comments )
Link Flag
Technology "Leap" or improved "Just enough to notice"?
My longstanding rule of thumb is that computer speed and/or storage improvements are just barely noticeable to the end user if they are a 3X improvement.

We don't buy anything new for our business unless it is at LEAST 4X better (faster or bigger capacity) than what we had before.
Posted by landlines (54 comments )
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Sure its news.
Its news because Im sitting on a very capable two year old machine with a 120 GB drive. Im looking down the road to 2006 when I start using a pair stand-alone systems to serve as massive central storage units for my family network, along with a full backup. Knowing where the size of drives will go is of real value. It also stands to reason there will be a lot of work done on making RAID easier for the common user to install and use. It also points to some directions things may go in over the next few years.


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Posted by NWLB (326 comments )
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Yes, It Is
The iRiver 20GB drive is a 1.8 inch form factor. Hitachi's development will shrink that by a factor of almost 50%. Hence, news.
Posted by CBS Orchestra (10 comments )
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