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Toshiba Unveils Big Capacity In Small Form Factor

A 2.5-inch
laptop hard drive with a capacity of 6GB was once state of the art. Today Toshiba Storage Device Division unveiled a series of hard drives in the same 2.5-inch form factor capable of storing as much as 100 times that amount. Bearing the first fruit of its acquisition of Fujitsu's hard drive business, Toshiba introduced the MFB series of small form-factor, serial-attached SCSI drives that max out at 600GB, use up to 28 percent less power than similar models and can optionally self-encrypt all data.
"This is the first enterprise-class product to come out of the combined company," said Joel Hagberg, vice president of enterprise marketing at Toshiba. While the company has offered its own 2.5-inch laptop drives for years, the acquisition in early 2009 allows Toshiba to target the higher-end. "It's opened up a whole new space for us in small form factor in the enterprise. Fujitsu has brought us into the server space." About 40 percent of drives purchased for server storage are small form-factor, Hagberg said.

Hagberg expects the lion's share of the 10K RPM, 6GB/s SAS drives to end up as direct-attached server storage, pointing to a recent trend toward space efficiency and modest power consumption. "And for cooling, the ability to improve airflow becomes important. These drives run at less than half the power." This is accomplished by enabling the drive to spin at a slower speed when not in use. According to Darryl Riddlespurger president of StoreHouse Technologies, power consumption is clearly on some people's radar. "We do have customers that ask for that, and we would point them to Toshiba for their power requirements." The drives also are intended for storage arrays, blade and rack-mount servers and near-line applications, Hagberg said.

The MFB series also will be available in 300GB and 450GB versions. "We sell a couple of 3.5-inch systems with those capacities," said Riddlespurger. "But vendors have been slow to come out with the 2.5-inch form factor. With the  benefit of having a smaller drive, we'll be able to offer more density with the same capacity. That will be good thing." The series optionally includes hardware that can automatically protect stored data with encryption based on the Trusted Computing Group Enterprise Security Subsystem Class specification, potentially saving IT departments hundreds of hours of labor. "At the macro level, there's a lot of work involved to protect data," said Hagberg, also noting that Toshiba has been providing the capability for notebooks for some time, and relied on third parties for key management. "Initially this will interest government agencies and large corporations," which will no longer have to worry about scrubbing data from lost or obsoleted hard drives. Riddlespurger said on-drive encryption is not something he's seen much demand for, even from his many government customers. "They seem to want to take care of encryption on their own."

Pricing of the MFB drives, which are due to start shipping in April, was not disclosed, but Hagberg said the three-platter design allows Toshiba to price it at about US$1 per GB. "That's about what we're paying for 3.5-inch, 15K RPM drives," said Riddlespurger.