iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Interview with Seagate

November 22, 2000

<Q>: Could you introduce yourself first, please? What is your position in Seagate?

<A>: Alastair Stewart, Regional Sales Manager - Eastern Europe

Shawn Hook, Manager - Enterprise Storage Product Marketing

<Q>: When can we expect the first SerialATA HDDs to appear (as we know Seagate is one of the developers of this technology)?

<A>: This will be determined by the market. Seagate is a leader in the Serial ATA Working Group and we will be prepared to ship Serial ATA products when the industry is ready for it, needs it and wants it.

<Q>: Any good news about Quinta? When will we finally see the optically-assisted Winchester (as we know Seagate acquired this company about three years ago - so, where are the results?)?

What do you think is beyond the magnetic storage devices - optics, magneto-optics,holography, or anything absolutely new?

The storage density in modern storage devices becomes higher and higher. 20GB plates was shown not long ago and in mid October Samsung and Read-Rite announced new record - 88 GB per 3.5'' disk. So, where is the limit of magnetic technology?

<A>: Nobody really knows for sure what the limits of magnetic recording technology are. What was considered the superparamagnetic limit just a few years ago has now been surpassed. That is why we invest so much in R&D, so that we remain the leader in developing areal density. Proof of this is the fact that we continue to set the records in the industry for areal density. We have integrated Quinta into our Advanced Concepts Labs and research into optically assisted drives continues. However, we believe that the current technologies still have a lot to offer before the market demand for optically assisted products materializes. If and when this happens, Seagate Technology will be positioned to take advantage of its research and development efforts in this area.

We can not discuss details of our research into future data storage technologies as this information is, obviously, commercially very sensitive. Nobody knows what storage might look like 20 or 30 years time although there is much fascinating conjecture. Suffice it to say that Seagate is the leader in technological advances and in R&D in the storage industry, and that is the position we intend to maintain.

<Q>: Your competitors recently launched IEEE-1394 products - FireWire storage devices and controllers were introduced by Western Digital and Quantum. The lack of such solutions from Seagate is a delay or a policy?

<A>: Seagate has been a leader in researching the technology, the viability and the market need for 1394-enabled hard drives. For the current market, we believe that 1394 will be an attractive plug-and-play interface for external connectivity, and that ATA (including Serial ATA) will remain the cost-effective, higher performing interface of choice for internal hard drive connectivity. Seagate completed all the groundwork necessary to implement 1394 protocols by 1998, and will be prepared to meet such a market need when it materializes. Seagate was the first hard drive company ever to demonstrate a 1394-native hard drive in 1998 at WinHEC. Seagate is an important member of the 1394 Trade Association.

<Q>: USB 2.0 with its 60 MB/sec transfer rate looks like a good interface for some storage devices. What do you think of it? Does Seagate plan to develop HDDs with USB 2.0 interface (as we know TapeStor Travan Portable USB was introduced in November)?

<A>: USB has a plug-and-play focus and is intended as an outside-the-device connectivity option. You may note that Seagate does have both 1394 and USB disc drives available as standalone external devices through our partnerships with third-party device makers like BUSlink.

<Q>: Seagate and other companies now pay more attention to consumer electronics market (digital VCRs, etc.). Your latest U product family is targeted to this market segment. But at these consumer electronics devices IEEE 1394 interface becomes popular - so, do you think it would also be better to use it for HDDs developed for these devices. Or do you think ATA has advantages?

<A>: Seagate's U Series is the number one drive in the consumer electronics industry. All existing hard-drive-based consumer electronics devices use an ATA interface inside the box. 1394 is a good candidate for external connectivity because of its ability to plug-and-play and daisy chain devices. Internal bus connectivity and external device connectivity are two completely separate issues. For the current market, ATA is the internal interface of choice because of its higher performance and vastly lower cost. Devices that use ATA connections inside are fully capable of being 1394 enabled for connecting to other devices.

<Q>: Seagate will provide HDDs for Microsoft Xbox.. Our congratulations for you. Could you tell us about the volumes of shipments fro Xbox?

<A>: We are not at liberty to to reveal this information as it is commercially sensitive and involves a third party.

<Q>: Could you please tell us about the market share of HDDs with different RPMs by the end of the year (Low-End, like U5, Mid-range, like Barracuda ATA, and High-End, like Cheetah). Can we expect the mid-range HDDs with 10,000 rpm speed by the end of 2000?

<A>: We can not comment on expected market breakouts. Independent analysts may be able to help you with this question.

<Q>: Could you please comment Maxtor/Quantum merger? Will it change the shares in the team of few players: Seagate, IBM, WD, Fujitsu, Samsung?

<A>: Due to the pending transaction between VERITAS Software and a private investment group led by Silver Lake Partners, we do not feel it is appropriate to comment on the MXTR/HDD merger at this time.

<Q>: Last years Seagate was very active at SAN area (acquisition of XIOtech, partnership with Cobalt), but really your presence at this market is not very visible. At the same time Quantum and Maxtor were also very active in 2000 and after their merger the united company seems to become even stronger. So the question is - will Seagate pay more attention to this market or it is not the main direction for you?

<A>: Seagate is the leading supplier of Fibre Channel disc drives with over 90% of that market. The overwhelming majority of SAN solutions use Fibre channel as the backbone and for many solutions, Fibre Channel internal to the cabinet. For those applications using parallel SCSI as the internal solution, Seagate is the market leader in parallel SCSI solutions and our Cheetah and Cheetah X15 drives are the drives of choice for the SAN market.

Seagate is also active in providing SAN solutions with solutions from XIOtech. Our NAS solution developed in conjunction with Cobalt has recently entered the market. Seagate is also the industry leader when it comes to

200 megabyte per second fibre channel solutions. All of our current generation fibre channel products are 200 megabyte per second capable and we just introduced the second generation generation products. To date our competition has not shipped any volume production fibre channel products with the capability of 200 megabytes per second. We are the industry leaders in providing fibre channel storage, we recognize the opportunity and the growth of Fibre Channel and have more storage solutions to choose from than all of our competition combined. We are also focusing on solutions via companies like XOItech and Cobalt.

<Q>: In summer Seagate was expected to launch Seagate Server Appliance Solution in cooperation with Cobalt. Could you please tell us about the future of this project?

<A>: We continue to work closely with Cobalt and Sun (which acquired Cobalt) to develop solutions for the Server Appliance market. In addition to the previously discussed product, we expect further Server Appliances to be introduced in the coming year.

<Q>: In the end of October you started shipments of Viper 200 streamers compatible with Ultrium format - 200 GBytes cartridges and up to 115.2 GBytes/hour write speed. What about the future of this product family?

<A>: A 2 Tbyte Viper autoloader will be available in January 2001, and we expect native fibre channel connectivity to be available in the first half of calendar 2001.

<Q>: Today we can see a lot of attempts of different manufacturers to enter new (for them) markets. As for HDDs manufacturers - this new market for last years is Network Storage, dedicated file-servers. So, the question is - what's the next?

<A>: Today Seagate is well positioned to satisfy the growing demand for Enterprise storage solutions. As we see it we have the greatest strength in the following segments:

Entry Level SCSI and High Performance ATA: "Barracuda 36ES" Lowest cost SCSI Ever

We will focus on the cost driven performance market with the new Barracuda 36ES. Here Seagate has the only ATA/SCSI leveraged product offering. High performance ATA and entry level SCSI products will coexist in this market with the ATA design being driven solely by box cost and the entry level SCSI design competing on cost per I/O.

High Capacity Cost/Gigabyte Market: "Barracuda 180" Highest Capacity SCSI Ever

The Barracuda 180 is the highest capacity SCSI drive ever. Seagate is already the overwhelming market share leader in Bulk Storage and the A/V market and Barracuda 180 will provide the opportunity to garner even more of this market.

Very High Performance Enterprise Market: "Cheetah X15" The Fastest SCSI Drive Ever

The Cheetah X15 is the fastest SCSI drive on the market. It was designed for the high performance transaction market place and has a well proven track record. Compaq has set new world records for transaction processing using the Cheetah X15. They have achieved the same performance as 10K drives using 42% less Cheetah X15.

SAN Solutions: Fibre Channel At The Speed Of Light From Seagate

Seagate invented Fibre Channel and today enjoys >90% of the Fibre Channel marketplace. Seagate is shipping 2 gigabit fibre channel products in volume while our competition is having difficulty delivering and Quantum has decided not to participate until the market develops.

High Volume Mainstream Enterprise Market: Seagate and Ultra320 High Performance Market Leaders

Seagate has always been the market leader in parallel SCSI. We were the first to volume market with Ultra160 and believe we will be first to volume market with Ultra320.

Also, Seagate is an active member of all Industry Trade Associations such as "The SCSI Trade Association" and "The Fibre Channel Industry Association". We are an industry leader in volume production and in providing leading edge technology. We lead the industry in monies devoted to research and development and are constantly looking for ways to bring new technology to market. What you can expect next in the future of enterprise storage solutions are products that provide better performance, higher reliability and a lower cost per transaction than those of today. Do not expect anything revolutionary for the near future but look for products that are more evolutionary in nature.

<Q>: And the final question - could you please tell us about the key characteristics (like storage capacity, interface, speed) of your main product families by the end of 2001 - U Series, Barracuda, Cheetah (if it is possible)?

<A>: Obviously we do not want to show our hand to our competitors but we can say that Seagate will continue to lead the way in introducing the products the market demands at the time the market requires them. Our product roadmap reflects this.

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