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The latest batch of new storage products from Western Digital Corp. (WD) reminds that hard drive technology is not going anywhere, as customers of all sizes are struggling with the exponential growth of data and raising their performance expectations for storage media.

The company is launching a one-day series of announcements with its latest hard drive (HDD) offerings – 22TB and 26TB UltraSMR HDDs are aimed at customers with hyper-scale in the cloud and use several of WD’s proprietary technologies, including the recently announced OptiNAND and its enhanced magnetic recording (SMR).

Ashley Gorakhpurwalla, EVP and GM of the company’s HDD business unit, said WD is on track to provide a 30+ TB solution with energy-assisted perpendicular magnetic recording (ePMR) that allows scaling beyond inherited PMR. Together with OptiNAND and UltraSMR, it is at the heart of WD’s HDD roadmap to meet the capacity and support requirements of the growing data center economy and lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

“Capacity and density will still have a fundamental proportional, linear relationship with the TCO value of many of our customers,” Gorakpurvala said.

He said the growth in data that needs to be processed by data centers is driven by unstructured data that is pumped into referral engines, advertising machines, content filters and AI / ML algorithms.

“Going forward, we only have a few years left to deliver a few zetabytes in a year to keep up with the challenge of the cloud ahead.”

WD’s OptiNAND and UltraSMR solutions

OptiNAND is a new device architecture that uses NAND flash to enhance the traditional hard drive by embedding it with iNAND EFD. (Source: Western Digital)

OptiNAND is a new device architecture that uses NAND flash to enhance the traditional hard drive by embedding it with an iNAND built-in flash drive. Using OptiNAND’s proprietary firmware, which uses system-level hardware enhancements to the hard drive, new UltraSMR technology introduces large-block encoding, along with an advanced error-correction algorithm that increases the number of songs per inch to allow higher capacity.

For the 26TB Ultrastar DC HC670 UltraSMR HDD, it converts to 2.6TB per board and 18% more capacity for cloud customers optimizing their stacks to take advantage of SMR. One of these customers is DropBox, which manages a hybrid infrastructure that includes public and private cloud.

According to Ali Zafar, Head of Hybrid Infrastructure at DropBox, “Dropbox has over 700 million registered users, and all of these users rely on our infrastructure to provide best-in-class performance, reliability and security.” He said partners such as WD allow the company to plan, operate and scale its infrastructure to meet those expectations.

DropBox stores more than 800 billion pieces of content stored in DropBox, and the nature of that data has changed, Zafar explained. “We have much richer media.”

SMR technology allows DropBox to scale efficiently and quickly, as well as optimize TCO to reduce both operating and capital costs, as it requires less shelving and less space, reduces network impact and reduces power. “The cooling was amazing,” Zafar said.

Target hyper-scale customers with Ultrastar NVMe

WD also meets the requirements of data centers and TCOs with its new Ultrastar NVMe PCIe 4.0 (SSD) solid state drives for select hyper-scale customers, especially the deployment of public cloud, where infrastructures are increasingly disaggregated to provide resilience, scalability and predictability. Rob Soderbury, EVP and GM of WD’s flash business units, said separating storage from computing also allows for a new segment of NVMe SSDs for high-capacity data centers that improve storage utilization and increase shelf density. data centers for virtualized and multi-rental environments.

“We are also seeing increasing specialization and evolution of corporate cloud SSDs,” Soderbury said.

The WD Ultrastar DC SN650 NVMe SSD family includes a 2.5-inch form factor for traditional infrastructure, as well as a thinner E1.L form factor. (Source: Western Digital)

Although hard drives make sense to meet the requirements for storage capacity, he explained, there are different dynamics when working with SSDs due to increased disaggregation of calculations and storage and more virtualization of the storage layer.

Different loads lead to different SSD characteristics, Soderbery said. The scale of the cloud today allows for the specialization of the entire infrastructure stack to provide optimized performance for a variety of user experiences served by hyperscalers – whether for more general corporate workloads or big data workloads. He said the recent announcement with Samsung for zoned storage plays into this focus on specialization, as well as the latest offering of WD SSDs.

The new Ultrastar DC SN650 NVMe SSD family includes a 2.5-inch form factor for traditional infrastructure, as well as the thinner E1.L form factor, which significantly increases shelf storage density and thus reduces TCO. Both have a capacity of up to 15.36TB, next-generation BiCS5 3D TLC NAND and PCIe 4.0 interface.

These SSDs increase the number of virtualized SSD hosts and consolidate larger data sets from applications to improve storage resource utilization. Soderbery said the Ultrastar DC SN650 is focused on tackling cloud challenges and the portfolio will be expanded to cover additional use of computing and storage.

Although WD has focused both HDD and SSD efforts on enterprise and cloud capabilities, the growth of remote work over the past two years, as well as gaming, has created a healthy demand for client SSDs.

“It’s been an amazing few years in the customer business, driven by work from home by consumers and employers who have realized that the computer is a critical point of reference for your knowledge worker,” Soderbury said. “We can even see how the computer refresh cycle is accelerating, reversing the long-standing trend.”

WD also introduced its new SanDisk 2 Professional PRO-BLADE Modular SSD ecosystem aimed at media professionals. The company claims that the ecosystem can not only save hours of transfers and money for equivalent capacity, but can also reduce the volume and weight of their equipment, as well as provide two new SSDs in its WD_BLACK gaming portfolio.

– Gary Hilson is the editor-in-chief who focuses on memory and flash technology for the EE Times.

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