Seagate Introduces HAMR HDDs, CORTX And Lyve Drive Rack

Seagate’s latest DataSphere event allowed the company to talk about their shipping 18 TB HAMR HDDs and soon to come 20 TB drives as well as their CORTX open source intelligent object storage software. CORTX software is used on the Lyve Drive Rack for up to 1.7 PB of object storage.

According to recent data from Wells Fargo analyst Aaron Rakers using data from Trendforce and TrendFocus, enterprise solid state drives (SSDs) generally cost $185/TB and nearline hard disk drives (HDDs) cost about $19/TB, so enterprise SSSDs have a 9.7X price premium in $/TB, that has been relatively constant, as shown below.  This disparity in prices for storage capacity is the primary reason that mass storage in data centers uses high capacity HDDs.

Seagate Technology’s primary business is building and selling HDDs, although it has some business with enterprise SSDs in partnership with Intel.  The companies HDD business generated $2.3 B in revenue in CQ2 2020, while enterprise data solutions and SSDs generated $195 M.  The company sold mostly to OEM’s (74% of their business).  Seagate sold more HDDs than any of the other HDD vendors through CQ2 2020 (44% of total shipments compared to 37% for WDC and 19% for Toshiba).  

Seagate sold even higher percentage of nearline (high capacity enterprise) HDDs at about 52% of the total CQ2 2020 nearline HDD shipments.  Large capacity HDDs, including nearline HDDs show the greatest growth in HDD shipments compared to legacy applications such as personal computers and consumer electronics where SSDs or network storage are gradually displaying HDDs.  The average sales price (ASP) for HDDs has been increasing with the increasing percentage of shipping higher ASP, higher margin, nearline HDDs, as shown below.

At a recent Seagate DataSphere event Seagate said that higher capacity HDDs are providing greater cost per capacity advantages for hyperscale data centers (the cloud) than for enterprise data centers.  This should help reduce the costs of cloud versus on-premises storage and thus increase cloud storage use for more applications.  Note that 50 TB HDDs were shown in this chart sometime in the near future.  Most of the storage capacity in the cloud (private and public) is object storage, because of its greater scalability.

Western Digital (WDC) announced that it was shipping 18 TBs and some 20 TB HDDs in July 2020.  Seagate said that they introduced their 18 TB HDDs in August and that it would introduce 20 TB HDDs using heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) later in 2020.  

Seagate also introduced their CORTX open source intelligent object storage software, now available on open source web site, GitHub.  According to the company, CORTX “…enables efficient capture and consolidation of massive unstructured data sets for the lowest cost per petabyte…CORTX brings exabyte scalability to your private cloud.”  The company said that CORTX allows direct communication with HDDs, multi-level erasure codes (important for data reliability), intelligent metadata and automated monitoring.  

Seagate introduced their Lyve Drive Rack that can bundle up to 1.7PB with CORTX object storage.  The company points out that providing open source management software lowers the total cost of object storage, where software licensing fees and often exceed the acquisition costs of actual storage capacity.  The Lyve drive Rack will use HDDs with Seagate’s MACH2 (dual actuator) and HAMR high capacity HDDs.  As shown below Intel, Supermicro and Dell/EMC are partnering with Seagate for this object storage introduction.

Seagate said that their Lyve Drive Rack, powered by CORTX will be available starting in December 2020.  The company talked about use the CORTX Lyve Drive Rack in enterprise and public/private cloud applications, to support 5G edge storage applications, including AI applications running at the network edge.

Continued development of HDDs, particularly increasing storage capacity on HDD disks is the key to retaining a competitive advantage for HDDs over SSDs for mass storage in data centers.  

Seagate’s CORTX open source object storage software, combined with their scalable Lyve Drive Racks and advanced HDDs could provide upside for Seagate selling into the high margin enterprise and data center markets.

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