Last year Western Digital acquired SanDisk, and prior to that 2 years ago, they had acquired another company called Hitachi Global Storage Technology (HGST). HGST was the division of Hitachi Japan that was making enterprise-grade hard drives. Prior to that acquisition, WD mainly focused on the consumer grade or client grade hard drive. With the HGST acquisition, WD entered the enterprise storage space with the hard drives.`
In conversation with PCQuest, Vivek Tyagi, Director for India business development, SanDisk Commercial Sales and Support at Western Digital, spoke about the company strategies and technological developments.
What sort of product portfolio you have to deal with various market demands?
Eventually, with SanDisk acquisition, WD had a full portfolio of Flash, and hard drive they already had. They also started to build, full systems for the storage side applications. In summary, now the combined company has really good and large portfolio of enterprise storage solutions, which is divided into 3 categories.
The first category we call it as devices. Devices are not full storage solutions, but they are sub-systems for storage. For example, hard drive or flash drive for the enterprise. These products are either used by OEM’s like Dell, HP to build their storage systems, or they are also procured by very large E-commerce companies or hyper-scale companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, companies that build cloud by using these sub-systems. So, these storage devices are one category of business that WD has.
The second category of business that we have is platform solutions. Platforms solutions are things like, JBODs of hard drives which are collection of hard drives into a very large capacity box. For example, they have 600 terabytes BU box. Again these boxes move a lot through channels, as well as they are used by cloud service providers to build big capacities at lower cost.
The third category of product that WD has, which is a new category is full system solutions. At the moment they have launched 2 products in this category, which is particularly for archival data, it’s very large archival data running into a petabyte scale. And the technology they have used is object storage. Traditionally storage technology used by most traditional storage players is, either file or block storage. But, as the data sizes are becoming very large, they are being called data lakes, data is being kept for many years, and people are performing analytics on it. When there is large size of data you have to store and manage, the technology trend is more towards the object storage, and that’s the product made by WD which is called active scale. This was announced around 6 months ago around the world, there is traction around the world and now we are seeing good traction in India in particular segments. This the overview of what we are doing. Besides the consumer storage that I don’t handle, that’s any way a strong world of WD and as well as SanDisk.
What kind of technological transformation can we expect in future?
If you look at the cloud market, a couple of things are happening there. One technology innovation that WD continued to do is, building larger capacity hard drives. Last year they were shipping 10 terabyte hard drives for the data center market, now I am not talking about drivers for the laptop, I am talking about drives for the data center.
This year WD announced 12 terabyte hard drives which is helium filled, so conventional hard drive had air inside, now the data Centre market capacities are going high, and power consumption is a critical criteria in data Centre. Especially the cooling expenses, OpEx for cooling is very high so they have started to put helium inside, which is an inert gas, and it’s also one by sixth the density of air. So it offers less resistance to the moving media inside, thereby generating less heat and thereby also offering higher reliability. So higher capacity with helium filled is one of the latest technology innovations going on the enterprise hard drive side. Secondly, with the merger of SanDisk, WD is now becoming a big player on the flash side, as you know, in data Centers there is also performance requirement.
What is the next storage trend?
This is the main trend, it is coming from HGST side, the WD traditionally was more in the consumer hard drives and, through the HGST acquisition, they got into the data Centre on the cloud hard drive.
The next trend in terms of hard drive technology from WD is something called, Shingled magnetic recording drive which known as SMR drive technology. So this is again basically going to improve the reliability and performance. And that sometime later, maybe second half of this year they would be launching.
Then coming to the flash side, all the data centers have requirements of large density storage, which is not often accessed data, for that hard drives are very suitable, very cost economical. Then there is also the requirement of data that is required to be always online, always available, for online transaction processing, for example when they are doing E- commerce transaction online, so there the performance matters much more. Even if you use Facebook, when you upload pictures today, there are a lot of friends likely to access them over next week and then it’s less likely that you would access them. All these companies what they do is, the data that is more likely to be accessed very quickly, it is kept in a different tier of storage which is higher performing, and once the data gets little bit older, it depends if the policy of the company is getting older, then you think it’s less likely to be accessed and it starts to move to different level of hard drives and ultimately if it is tape drive and it’s really old you keep for the sake of keeping it over there. So Tier 1 storage now, flash is the trend.
Flash offers actually much higher performance and less power consumption compares to the hard drives because flash is a solid state drive. If you look at the flash drive which is coming from the WD through SanDisk portfolio, on the SATA flash drives now is the 4 terabyte drives, which is one of the highest capacity on the SATA right now. Then for the very high performance, they have some drives that sit on the PCIe slot of the server, and these are called NVME flash drives. There you have the capacity of 6.4 terabytes. Then we have SAS drives which are mainly supplied to the storage OEM’s like Dell, EMC, HP, NetApp ETC. Those are now shipping at 8 terabyte capacity, which was 4 terabyte last year. So both the capacity play and the higher performance with lower power consumption are the key trends on the flash drives there.
How are you catering the challenges in Media & entertainment industries?
This HGST product which is also known as an active scale which is targeted at large archival data storage is very much suited for Media & entertainment industries. Bollywood is biggest movie industry in the world now but it has not adopted much to cutting edge in term of distribution of movie as well as storage technology. However, it is changing gradually and we are in talks with various leading Media & entertainment companies about archival storage. They are in advance stages of evaluating the product now. Let’s take an example of our recent success in Europe where we have Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland happening since past 40 years and all the recordings of the audio and video files are preserved on digital tapes and kept aside and although it’s good to keep on tapes because it is available as archival data to you but tapes are kept offline, you program them and keep it on a shelf, but recently they deployed Western Digital active archival storage where they converted all 40 years music and video from the tapes to this active archival storage and they have a website now for that so people can pay for it and download it and listen to these songs by either streaming it or downloading it. In this way, they have enabled their 40 years’ content’s availability to millions of people all over the world as well as being able to earn money out of it. Similarly, Indian Media & Entertainment industry also has long and rich history and today if you want to go and see a very old movie there is a high chance it is not easily available so that kind of archival, active archival where movies are available to download online can be enabled by some of these new technologies of storage.