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Seagate Plans 3TB Hard Drive

Seagate has confirmed that it plans to release a 3-terabyte hard disk drive this year, and says hardware makers will have to upgrade products in order to support the high-capacity drive.

Seagate's highest capacity HDD is currently the 3.5-inch 2 TB Constellation ES, which is available with either a 3 Gb per second SATA interface or a 6 Gb/s SAS interface. A company spokesman on Tuesday confirmed media reports that a 3 TB model was in the works, but declined to provide any details.

"Yes, there's a 3 TB (HDD) on the way sometime this year, but that's really all we're saying about that," spokesman David Szabados told InformationWeek.

Seagate has embarked on a campaign to encourage system manufacturers to get their workstations and servers ready to go beyond the 2.1-TB limit of most systems. The limitation is the result of basic design decisions made in the original computer architecture, according to Seagate.

In a recent post on the company's blog, Seagate product manager Barbara Craig said one of those decisions was made in 1980, when the industry saw no need for a HDD more than 2 TB.

As a result, a 2.1 TB limit was placed on the range of the logical block address. LBA is a common scheme used for specifying the location of blocks of data on computer storage devices, which are generally secondary systems such as hard disks. Logical blocks in modern systems are typically 512 bytes each, which has become the largest size block of data that can pass between host computers and hard drives.

Seagate is pushing the adoption of a scheme called Long LBA in order to increase the size of the data blocks. However, such a transition will require updates to some operating systems, BIOS controllers, HDD controllers and device drivers. The 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Windows Vista are read to support 3 TB HDDs.

"If high capacities are in your future, I highly recommend you check with your software and hardware suppliers on their plans for implementing Long LBAs today," Craig said.

Seagate's 3 TB product will likely be a 3.5-inch HDD typically found in desktops and servers. A 2.5-inch model could come later, given that IT departments are migrating to the smaller HDDs in data centers in order to pack more storage in the same amount of space.

Behind the push for larger capacity hard drives is the need for more storage in corporations. The amount of money spent worldwide on HDDs is expected to reach $27.7 billion this year, up 18.4% from $23.4 billion last year, according to iSuppli.