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Storage Trends In 2010: An Interview With Hitachi

Storage Trends In 2010: An Interview With Hitachi
By , Dmitry Chekanov

We recently had the chance to sit down with Steve Pereira, who returned to Europe in late 2009 after having been vice president of business management in the US. Today he is the director and vice president of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies in the EMEA region. We had the opportunity to ask a few questions.

Tom’s Hardware:What can you tell our readers about the storage market trends in 2010? What will we see in different market segments?

Steve Pereira: The creation of data is increasing at about 55% a year now. This includes all data, such as digital photographs, MP3 files, digital video, and other digital content on peoples' personal music players, iPods, Zune devices, and all the way through to cloud storage on the Internet as well.

In terms of different market segments, we expect the 2.5” mobile drive segment to continue its growth, driven by consumer electronics-type devices, like set-top boxes all the way through to the continued growth in netbooks as well. On 3.5” devices, which are commonly called desktop products, the volume growth will be a lot slower, but we will see 3.5” storage devices appearing in more and more consumer electronics products. So, this is still an expanding part of the market, and 3.5” disk drives have the highest capacity points among storage products with up to 2TB now from Hitachi.

On enterprise class products, these are 2.5” high-end disk drives, 3.5” high-end disk drives, and what we call solid-state drives. We see continued growth; markets like Russia are taking a nice portion of Hitachi’s enterprise business in EMEA through the distribution network. This supply would exclude large customers, such as Dell, HP, IBM, and EMC.

In terms of a market outlook for 2010, we see strong demand through the industry maintaining a good balance between supply and demand at this point, and we see improving economic conditions in the market. Over the next few months you will start to see us expand the Hitachi external storage product range with new product announcements in the second quarter. We still see huge growth in the external storage market. A lot of it will be driven by people buying netbooks, which have only small capacity hard drives, and hence require more storage capacity. The best option on a value basis is to buy a large external hard drive.

Tom’s Hardware:You will produce new storage devices jointly with Intel. What is the role of Hitachi GST in this process? Are you introducing your own R&D or simply relabeling Intel's products?

Steve Pereira: We signed a partnership agreement with Intel in early 2009. The objective of this arrangement is that we actually provide the interface technology and the firmware intellectual property that makes this solid-state drive behave and act just like a disk drive in a high-end system. So we are not just relabeling Intel products.

Intel has a separate range of products with different interfaces, and they are actually out for different part of the market. The products that we will be selling will be Hitachi-branded to Hitachi customers. The products will actually be introduced in the next few months into the market with our major OEMs.

Tom’s Hardware: Intel produces X25-E SSD storage devices for the business segment with SATA interfaces. Is it appropriate to say that Hitachi’s SSD with SAS and Fibre Channel interfaces is a kind of X25-E with new interfaces, especially adopted for servers and business storage appliances? How does such an adoption work?

Steve Pereira: If you look at Hitachi’s enterprise offerings, SSDs actually are to work on very high-end applications. Hitachi’s interfaces are focused on high-end SAS and Fibre Channel, so the products are not the same as Intel’s X25-E. They will co-exist in the marketplace, but what Hitachi is now going to bring to market is a complete enterprise products portfolio all the way from very large capacity drives (2TB, I spoke about this earlier) through to SSD for the very high-end.

In terms of adoption, enterprise customers will use all the different storage solutions in different parts of that process and their applications. Solid state drives fill the gap for transactional applications. Banks, insurance companies, airlines, or any application responsible for tackling millions of transactions very, very quickly will value the performance of SSDs. That’s the key strength.