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Seagate demonstrates 2.5-inch drive

The company is touting a new hard drive that uses a next-generation interface technology. The drive, which is smaller than average, is tailored to corporate servers and storage devices.

Seagate Technology aims to make a splash this week with a smaller hard drive and new interface aimed at the corporate market.

Its new 2.5-inch hard drive, which uses the emerging Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) interface, is being demonstrated for the first time at this week's HP World conference in Atlanta, Seagate said Monday.

According to Seagate, the new drive will save space and improve performance over the current generation of drives in servers and storage devices.

The Scotts Valley, Calif.-based company said it plans to make the SAS drive available to customers next year.

The demonstration comes as the once-troubled company moves into new turf. Seagate has launched a line of drives targeting the notebook PC market and aims to snag 10 percent of the worldwide market for laptop disk drives by next June.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies was the first-quarter leader in shipments of hard drives for mobile devices, followed by Toshiba and Fujitsu, according to market researher Gartner Dataquest.

Seagate, though, led in shipments of desktop hard drives with a 32.5 percent market share. It also dominated in the category of enterprise hard drives, with 58.3 percent market share.

Seagate's forthcoming 2.5-inch enterprise drive is notable for its small overall size. For years, drive units for desktops and servers have been 4 inches wide. Seagate said its new drive is about the size of a deck of cards--about 70 percent smaller than the conventional drive.

Drives in desktops typically hold platters that are 3.5 inches in diameter, but the platters in high-performing drives for servers are smaller. Drives that run at 10,000 revolutions per minute (rpm) hold platters 3 inches in diameter, while those spinning at 15,000rpm hold platters still smaller, said Jim Porter, analyst at market researcher Disk/Trend.

Besides making it possible to build smaller servers and storage arrays, Seagate's new drive could improve these machines' performance, said Brian Kraus, a senior marketing manager at Seagate. This is because packing more drives into a box increases the overall density of actuators--the arms that read and write magnetized data on disks.

"You're reading and writing the data faster and more efficiently," Kraus said.

Another advantage of using a smaller drive is that it can improve airflow in computers with chips that run hotter as their processing speed increases, he said.

The SAS interface is billed as a replacement for parallel SCSI connections, frequently used in hard drives. The new technology uses cables thinner than the ribbon-type one used in parallel SCSI--an advantage in that it provides better airflow.

Another benefit of SAS is that more drives can be packed together in one system, leading to higher capacity. While a typical storage array with parallel SCSI may have 14 drives, an array with SAS could combine between 24 drives and 30 drives in one box, according to Seagate.

Seagate and allies Hewlett-Packard and Adaptec demonstrated prototype versions of SAS at the CeBit trade show in New York earlier this year. Seagate said these two partners and Intel are among the companies demonstrating SAS technologies and highlighting their support for SAS development at HP World, an HP customer conference.

SAS technology has a rival in Serial ATA, a lower-end interface standard for hard drives.