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Western Digital hawks new server drive

The hard-drive maker, whose focus has been on the desktop PC market, launches the Raptor line aimed at servers and storage systems.

Western Digital wants to dig its talons into business data.

The hard-drive maker, whose focus has been on the desktop PC market, on Monday launched the Raptor line aimed at servers and storage systems.

The first Raptor hard drive rotates at 10,000 revolutions per minute, offers 36GB of storage and sports the newer Serial ATA interface for transferring data. With such specifications, Raptor will compete at the lower end of the server/storage drive market.

"Our entrance into the enterprise market marks the next step in our growth," Arif Shakeel, Western Digital's president, said in a statement.

Most hard drives designed for the server and storage market are built for speed. They typically run at 10,000rpm or 15,000rpm and feature large data buffers. That speed affects the time it takes for a drive to find the spot where it needs to read or write information internally. It also reflects the data transfer rate once reading or writing begins. Meanwhile, large buffers--8MB in the case of the Raptor drive--help to eliminate bottlenecks, allowing quicker access to data.

By comparison, Western Digital's top-of-the-line Caviar PC hard drive offers capacity of up to 200GB but rotates at 7,200rpm and offers a 2MB buffer. A special-edition Caviar drive does offer an 8MB buffer.

Although Western Digital has been successful in the PC market with the Caviar line, the company has its work cut out for it in the server and storage arena, where manufacturers and customers are more conservative and slower to change vendors than are consumers.

Western Digital will find stiff competition from the likes of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, Maxtor and Seagate. Hitachi Global Storage, a recently formed joint venture of Hitachi and IBM, plans to ship a 73GB/15,000rpm drive during the second quarter.

Lake Forest, Calif.-based Western Digital will attempt to use price as its competitive weapon. The company did not unveil exact prices for the Raptor but said the drive will sell for about 30 percent less than competitors' products with similar features and the SCSI interface.

A 30 percent difference is a wide margin for storage system makers because much of their costs comes from stringing together a large numbers of hard drives in order to create storage systems.

Maxtor's Atlas 36GB/10,000rpm/SCSI drive sells for $300, according to the company's Web site. Based on Western Digital's assertion of a 30 percent lower price, its drive would be closer to the $200 mark. However, the Maxtor Atlas family also includes a 73GB and a 147GB drive.