Last week HGST, a Western Digital company, revealed its latest lineup of enterprise-level SSDs. While this form of storage has traditionally been favored by consumers due to its superior speed over traditional HDDs, enterprises are now also adopting SSDs into their environment as companies like HGST offer larger capacity drives that offer the storage, reliability, and speed that the enterprise environment demands. I sat down with Nicolas Frapard, Director, Southern Europe, Middle East, HGST, to find out more about what the company has to offer the enterprise market.
Can you give us a little into HGST and how your relationship with Western Digital came about?
Sure – here’s the background. HGST used to formerly be known as Hitachi Global Storage Technology, and in March 2012, Western Digital Corporation made the acquisition of HGST. Since then WD Corp has managed two entities – WD on one side, and HGST on the other that act as two separate entities of the company.
Given that both companies produce and promote similar products, how do you differentiate yourself from WD’s product offerings?
The DNA of HGST comes from having a very strong heritage of both server and enterprise side technologies. We have a long history of products that cater to this market, while on the other side we have products that cater to mobility; we have always been a keen innovator in this segment. So we continue to nourish this heritage with the introduction of new technologies, which makes us stand out from what WD offers.
Your core focus is on enterprise storage solutions – what have been some of the recent breakthroughs for you?
To properly answer that we have to distinguish between technology announcements and product announcements. In September last year we made an announcement regarding adopting helium inside our HDDs instead of air, and what this does is that it makes for less mechanical friction within the drive. As a result, we can accommodate more platters into the drive, and when you add more platters in a drive, you improve the drive’s array density, which leads to less power consumption and other benefits.
On the product side, we’ve made a series of announcements linked to the enterprise side. The first announcement we made was the 10,000 rpm compact drives with a capacity of 1.2 terabytes, which is a first in the industry. Since then, we’ve made great progress with MLC / SLC SSD drives, which caters to the very high-end demands of enterprise storage with very impressive read and write capabilities. We introduced a short while ago a family of products that offers 12 gigabytes per second SAS SSD solution, which is divided up on how read-intensive you need the product to be as well as endurance. It’s also worth mentioning that WD Corporation as a group is spending around 10% of total revenue on R&D, which also translates to the phenomenal number of patents that the company holds worldwide.
Given that you offer SSDs with phenomenal storage capacity and speed, what do you think would be the adoption rate for enterprises to move from traditional HDD and storage mechanics to enterprise SSDs?
I think it’s very much already underway. There’s often a big confusion around the grade of the SSDs, and there are many different levels of endurance when it comes to SSDs. We’re very familiar with SSDs in the consumer segment, but not many of us are familiar with SSDs when it comes to the enterprise environment. If you look at our new lineup of enterprise SSDs, they’re all guaranteed with a 5 year warranty, so you already get the reliability that you need. There’s no question about it that companies are switching over to SSDs, given that they can offer the same kind of reliability that they get from traditional storage.
There’s been a large push for enterprise to adopt the private cloud for backup and storage purposes – would you recommend companies continue to invest in traditional HDD / SDD storage solutions or look at private clouds as the way forward?
We are definitely part of the private cloud story, and we’re reaching a point where we strongly believe in the development of the ‘hybrid’ cloud. What this means is that large companies will continue to invest in a solution where they have a cloud within their firewall, but they will also look at the data they are using and decide if some of that can be positioned outside of the firewall. So there could be a situation where you have your core data in the private cloud, but less critical data could be available in the public cloud or on traditional storage, and I think really in the next decade or so that’s really going to be a solution that many companies will adopt. But it is a cloud-only or HDD-only solution? No, I think it’s very much a combination of both elements.
For the consumer user, what kind of products to HGST offer?
There are two main aspects here – firstly what are you going to be using your machine for, and second what kind of upgrade makes sense for the end user. You can go for a high capacity 1TB HDD for users who want plenty of storage, or you can go for a high-end SSD that provides more robust performance over capacity. Or you can meet both half-way with a 1TB 7,200rpm drive which is something we offer as well. Then you also have options of combining an mSATA drive with a traditional HDD for a hybrid solution that offers even better storage and speed, so really the options available are limitless.