Make sure you also read our editorial "The Hard Drive Factor" also posted today.
Often Overlooked, the Hard Drive Plays a Critical Role in Overall Gaming System Capacity and Performance.
We recently had the opportunity to exchange information with Shiv Shivaji, Hitachi GST's Director for 3.5-inch (Hard Drive) Commercial and Consumer products. He was kind enough of telling us a bit about his role at Hitachi GST, and give us an expert's perspective on the present and future of personal desktop storage.
TechSpot: Could you please tell us about yourself and your role at Hitachi GST?
Shiv: I have been in the storage industry for over 20 years, primarily in business management and product line management. In my current position as director of product line management, I am responsible for product strategy and planning.
TechSpot: How do you see today's PC gaming market as a hard drive manufacturer? Are there certain products you target towards the gaming or enthusiast crowd directly?
Shiv: The gaming market is perhaps a smaller piece of the overall PC market but gaming enthusiasts tend to drive component manufacturers to develop innovative products---from processors and graphics chips to hard drives---because of the types of games and applications they want to use on PCs. The users in this segment make purchasing decisions based on capacity and performance, two areas in which Hitachi excels.
We definitely take PC gaming requirements into account when looking at ways to increase the performance of our hard drives. Our latest TB drive has several features that improve the performance PC gamers can expect from their HDD. First, there's capacity, but the Deskstar 7K1000 also comes with a 3.0Gb/s SATA interface and a 32MB cache for fast data throughput. NCQ capability helps to further decrease access times. The drive also comes with a robust rotational vibration sensor, which compensates for chassis vibration when used in multi-drive configurations.
TechSpot: Most of the people reading this will be at least somewhat familiar with terms such as perpendicular recording and hybrid hard drives. Please explain us briefly what these are, and why they should mean something to the user.
Shiv: First, perpendicular magnetic recording is the next generation in HDD technology that allows manufacturers to increase areal density beyond current (longitudinal recording) technology. Perpendicular recording aligns the magnetic direction of the data bits on a disk vertically, perpendicular to the disk. In contrast, longitudinal recording, as its name indicates, aligns the magnetic direction of data bits horizontally, parallel to the surface of the disk. The transition to PMR, which began shipping in volume in 2006, has allowed Hitachi to reach the terabyte capacity milestone in the same standard 3.5-inch HDD footprint.
Hybrid HDDs are primarily targeted for notebook applications as a requirement for the MS Vista OS. There has been discussion that hybrid HDDs could provide benefits like power efficiency, system response time and durability. These benefits are not as relevant to a desktop or gaming PC.
TechSpot: What do you see as the main driver for delivering a 15k RPM drive to the mainstream sector?
Shiv: The main driver for using a 15K RPM drive in a gaming system would be increased performance and access speed. However, a 15K RPM enterprise-class drive is really a workhorse built for 24x7, mission-critical operation. With the high levels of speed, performance and reliability, these HDDs carry a price point that would typically be too high for the mainstream consumer market.
TechSpot: Do you think this increase won't be as important now that we have technologies such as NCQ, or flash memory embedded in HDDs?
Shiv: Standard desktop HDDs incorporate a variety of features that make them increasingly suitable for gaming systems. As mentioned, capacity, interface and cache, and features like NCQ make a desktop drive very suitable for gaming applications.
TechSpot: From an engineering standpoint, where do you see Hitachi has an edge over other manufacturers?
Shiv: To a great extent, the consumer and gaming PC OEMs count on similar HDD architectures from its various suppliers. Where Hitachi has an advantage is building reliability and performance into its hard drives. Hitachi spends a considerable amount of R&D on designing the HDD architectures that are reliable for a variety of use patterns. Features like Thermal Fly-height Control (TFC), error correction and ramp load/unload features all help to ensure greater reliability. In addition, transitioning to PMR technology helps ensure thermal stability. We also excel in performance and have incorporated unique caching algorithms into the drive to meet the performance requirements demanded, in particular, by gamers.
TechSpot: Noise and heat generated by PC parts seems to be an increasing preoccupation for both manufacturers and users. What steps are you taking against them?
Shiv: The Deskstar 7K1000 has several capabilities targeted toward monitoring heat and reducing power in these types of systems. For example, a thermal sensor monitors operating temperature, enabling the host processor to intelligently adjust airflow for cooling. The drive also comes with three low-power idle modes - active, unload and low power, and together, these reduce power consumption at the drive level by 20%. Our TFC capability also protects against errors by maintaining a very consistent fly-height during the read/write process.
TechSpot: You recently reached a milestone with the 1-terabyte desktop drive, when do you think we will see laptop drives reaching at least half of this capacity?
Shiv: Given the projected areal density growth rate of around 40%, we would expect to see a terabyte notebook drive sometime in the early part of the next decade.
TechSpot: What's next for desktop hard drives?
Shiv: Certainly we are focused on continual capacity growth in the desktop HDDs, like reaching terabyte capacities on fewer platters. With consumers' interest in digital entertainment: photos, video, music, and of course, gaming, capacity requirements will continue to increase. A terabyte today might seem inconceivable, I guarantee, people will find a way to use it.
Besides capacity, we are continuing to innovate our HDDs in the areas of reliability, power consumption and shock protection. We are looking into such features as encryption for security. Our chief focus continues to be producing products that customers can trust to protect their most valuable data.
Thanks again for your time and opportunity of this interview.
TechSpot: The pleasure is all ours, thanks for the opportunity, too.