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Western Digital Hatches Raptor

Hard-drive maker Western Digital Corp. (NYSE: WDC) has launched a Serial ATA disk drive designed for servers and storage systems -- called Raptor -- which the company says is around 30 percent cheaper than traditional SCSI drives while providing the same level of "enterprise-class" features (see WD Launchs Serial ATA Drive).

The Raptor drive is a new direction for the 33-year-old Western Digital, which since the late 1980s has focused on the desktop PC market. But analysts say, while its Serial ATA drive does offer compelling cost advantages, the company will have a tough time as it tries to single-handedly bootstrap the market for drives based on the new technology.

The Serial ATA interface, whose development has been led by Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) through the Serial ATA Working Group, is designed to provide higher reliability and better performance characteristics than parallel ATA. Raptor is based on the Serial ATA 1.0 specification, released in August 2001, which connects one drive per port (instead of having multiple drives share a single bus, as with parallel ATA) at 150 MByte/s (see ATA Claws Its Way Up).

The 36-GByte Raptor provides enterprise-class features similar to SCSI drives, including a rating of 1.2 million hours mean time between failure (MTBF); 10,000 revolutions per minute (RPM); 5.2 milliseconds average seeks time; and a five-year warranty. A typical ATA-based drive from Western Digital, by comparison, provides 500,000 MTBF, 7,200 RPM, 8.9 ms average seek time, and a one-year warranty.

"These are the characteristics of SCSI drives but for 30 percent lower cost," says Steve Wilkins, director of marketing at Western Digital.

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