Western Digital Previews Its Flash-First Future

Tuesday Dec 6th 2016 by Pedro Hernandez
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Hard drives take a back seat as flash commands the spotlight during data storage provider's Investor Day.

Western Digital unveiled new flash-based storage hardware today and just one new hard disk drive (HDD) during its Investor Day today.

Delivering a strategic update to shareholders, the company said its transition to 3D NAND is on track. In fact, the company is demoing its 3D NAND-based, "commercial grade" SanDisk Edge microSD card that can hold up to 256GB of data. (Western Digital completed its $19 billion acquisition of SanDisk earlier this year.)

For businesses, the company announced a new NVMe-over-PCIe all-flash storage platform for cloud applications and high-performance workloads, including artificial intelligence. Set to ship in the first half of 2017, the 2U system uses NVMe solid-state drives (SSDs) and a PCIe switched fabric to deliver 18 million input/output operations per second (IOPS), the company claimed. Western Digital is also contributing open source software in hopes of mainstreaming the technology, the company said.

"While the benefits of disaggregating resources, such as compute, storage, and networking for cloud-scale data centers is well understood, the fundamental building blocks will need to be more than just a collection of raw devices," commented Dave Tang, senior vice president and general manager of Western Digital's Data Center Systems group, in a statement. "To deliver new levels of performance, efficiency and TCO, our advanced platform enables data center operators to build more efficient systems that offer tuning of storage performance as required by their individual applications."

In the meantime, Western Digital is getting ready to ship new HGST-branded SSDs next quarter.

The Ultrastar SN200 NVMe PCIe SSD will offer double the sequential read performance and a 61-percent improvement in random read performance compared to the Ultrastar SN150 SSD. The 2.5 inch, half-height, half-length drive will be available in capacities of up to 7.68TB.

Joining the Ultrastar SN200 in the first quarter of 2017 is the new Ultrastar SS200 SAS SSD. Also available in capacities of up to 7.68TB, the drive offers sequential read and write speeds up to 1,800 MB per second and 1,000 MB per second, respectively. Depending on the specific model, the Ultrastar SS200 can endure up to one or three drive writes per day (DWPD). Instant secure erase (ISE) and self-encrypting options keep data secure.

Finally getting back to its roots, the company took the wraps off the HGST Ultrastar He12 Helium HDD. It features an eight-disk design and employs perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology to pack 12TB of storage capacity into a 3.5-inch drive. The helium-filled drive is scheduled to ship during the first half of 2017. A 14TB version using shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology is in the works for a mid-2017 release, the company said.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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