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Seagate Savvio 15K – Next Gen Enterprise Drive?

Date: January 19, 2007
Author(s): Rob Williams

Seagate announced a new addition to their Savvio lineup earlier this week, the 15K. These new drives boast impressive specs all around, including the fact that it’s contained in a 2.5" frame. Even though these are the fastest drives available on the market, they use far less power than their 3.5" counterparts.


When it comes to computer storage, no one leads the pack quite like Seagate. This is thanks to the fact that they are continually the first out the door with new drives that boast higher densities and good reliability. In the past ~16 months we were graced with the 160GB Momentus laptop drive and also the 750GB Barracudas. We now have a 1TB Barracuda on the horizon.

Enterprise storage is one of Seagates key markets however, so that’s where they shift a good deal of focus. Earlier this week they announced their Savvio 15K line-up, 15K meaning 15,000 RPM. The reason this is of interest is because the Savvio comes in a 2.5" frame, unlike all other 15K drives that settle in the same 3.5" chassis like normal desktop drives.

When briefed on the phone, I immediate questioned, “Is this a notebook drive?” to which the reply was, “Haha, no. [You damned noob]” How great would it be to have a 15,000 RPM drive in your notebook? Not great, as it turns out. Even though the technology is completely feasible, the power draw makes it unacceptable for use with a notebook computer. If the laptop is plugged in it shouldn’t be a problem, but that’s not normally the goal of a “portable” computer.

What does the Savvio boast? According to Seagates numbers, the Savvio is the fastest, most efficient drive available. Period. They note that its 35% faster than a 10,000 RPM 2.5" and even 10% faster than a 15,000 RPM 3.5" desktop drive. The fact that it’s faster than a 3.5" drive of equal RPM shows that the Savvio implements new technologies. Improvements are continually being made, which means we may see -faster- and better overall desktop drives in addition to server models, as a result. If you thought the storage market was good now… it’s only going to get better. Especially over the next few months.

As mentioned in our intro, the Savvio claims to provide the highest performance per Gigabyte and watt. So, it uses less power than 3.5" drives and performs better. Where’s the loss? The ultimate density is not as high as 15K drives, which currently have 150GB models available. Instead, when the Savvio is released later this quarter, we will see both 36GB and 73GB models… not much of a surprise. Also at this time, pricing is completely unknown. However, compare the fact that equal speed 73GB desktop drives retail for between $350 – $400, seeing a price tag of at least $500 for the 73GB Savvio will not be that surprising.

Who’s the Savvio designed for? At it’s heart, Savvio is an enterprise drive so it’s designed for use anywhere a high performance drive is required. This could be large servers or HDD intensive workstations. Although the Savvio at its release will lack high density of larger drives, it’s designed primary for speed and performance per watt. Most uses for this drive don’t require large densities, which is why the 36GB may very well outsell the 73GB until prices go down. High-traffic file servers (think thousands of connections) would benefit most from the larger density, in addition to far more than one drive.

Desktop users with big wallets don’t need to fret though. If you want that blazing performance and for some reason don’t want the larger 150GB 3.5" drive, you can still use the Savvio in your normal desktop PC with a serial attached SCSI (SAS) card. This is my solution, and the one that I will be using in our full review of the drive next month. This is still not a feasible solution for most though, as these cards get rather pricey themselves.

The fact that a 2.5" is capable of 15K RPM is impressive. Consider the fact that most notebook hard drives are 5400RPM or lower, but that is more to save power rather than to halt performance. The rule of thumb is that the higher the density, the lower the overall speed. This was proven a few months ago when I took Toshibas 200GB 2.5" drive for a spin, which has a rotation speed of 4200. I consider a 74GB 2.5" capable of 15,000 RPM to be an engineering feat.

Benefits, Final Thoughts

Prior to making the Savvio 15K public, Seagate developed relationships with server manufacturers to get their inputs and put the drives through real world tests. From the marketing documents, HP is noted to have adopted the Savvio in the “vast majority” of their ProLiant servers, in addition to their BladeSystem solutions. They were also quoted as saying, “The demand for our new ProLiant Servers and BladeSystems has introduced this year based on the SFF SAS drives has been tremendous”.

Speed benefits aside, there are more direct advantages of 2.5" drives in general, which is cooling ability. In appropriate rack mounts, you could house 3 of these drives, or one 3.5" enterprise drive. However, a single fan used to cool that 3.5" drive could easily cool all three of the 2.5" drives. Servers are one application where reliability is not a concern, but an absolute requirement. So, the ability to better cool hardware is welcomed. I can speak for ES 3.5" drives… they do tend to get finger-burning hot.

In addition to HP, IBM was actually the first to team up with Seagate and are quoted, “In today’s space constrained, power hungry datacenters, clients are constantly battling how to pack in more computing power without blowing the energy budget.” That’s leads to the other concern. Cooling ability is nice, but saving money over the long term is where you become the hero of the IT/IS department.

Not only will it save cash, it gives a company bragging rights about being “green”. Take Sun Microsystems for example, “We have aggressively adopted Savvio drives across our Sun Fire and Sun Blade product lines which are the most environmentally friendly solutions available today.” Popular server builder SuperMicro also proudly offers Savvio drives in their products.

I mentioned that with a smaller frame factor drive, you can fit more into the case, which both in turn allows you for more overall storage/performance in a single rack, but also fit more in general. Using similar sized racks, as seen below, you can fit 18 2.5" drives where you’d normally only be able to fit 10 3.5" drives.

Final Thoughts

Before we get into the final thoughts, I shot off a few questions to the Senior Marketing Manager of Seagates Enterprise Compute Business, Gianna DaGiau.

Techgage: It’s been over two years since we saw the launch of the Savvio 10K series, but I’m still impressed to see a 15K model today. The fact that the 15K uses less power and has better performance is also intriguing. Can you tell us a bit about what new technologies were implemented to make this drive possible?

Gianna DaGiau: The Savvio 2.5″ 15K performance is higher than the 3.5″ 15K because, while they both spin at 15k rpm, Savvio 15K has a faster seek time. The 15K also uses 31% less power than 3.5″ 15K drives (same capacity and interface). The reason that Savvio 15K uses less power than the 3.5″ drives is because its components are smaller – the disks are smaller and so the motor has less mass to spin, and the arm is smaller and lighter because it has a shorter disk radius to travel across.

Perpendicular Magnetic Recording is part of what enabled the Savvio 15K disk to be smaller and still hold 36GB per disk.

TG: Though the Savvio 15K is a great drive, most of our reader base are enthusiasts who wish to have fast drives in their PCs. With the continuing evolving process of your enterprise drives, is it possible that we may soon see super fast 2.5″ S-ATA drives with higher densities and faster RPMs for those with SFF PC’s?

GD: As a customer-focused company, Seagate continues to examine the needs of the market. We’re proud to say that we’re the only drive company that is serving nearly 100% of the total market with regard to the breadth of drive form factors and applications. Because of this, drives like you are mentioning are certainly possible and we’ll continue to look into this, as well as other spaces.

Right now Seagate has drive solutions ranging from consumer electronics devices such as handheld MP3 players, gaming systems, and personal video recorders (PVR’s), to more specialized areas such as drives optimized for video surveillance or featuring added encryption security. And of course we’ll continue to develop the leading solutions for the notebook, personal compute and enterprise compute spaces.

TG: As it stands, the feature set of the 15K is impressive, but what’s for the future? Are there any immediate goals that Seagate hopes to hit regarding the Savvio and other enterprise drives?

GD: We’re excited to be the first ones out with Savvio 10K.2 146GB and Savvio 15K; that is a great testament to Seagate’s technology leadership, and we expect to continue to lead the way in the future. We are not announcing anything more with Savvio at this time.

What we can take away from this article is that the hard drive market is not slowing down. I didn’t expect to see a 15K 2.5" so soon, but here it is. I should be receiving a drive in the coming weeks, so you can expect a full review in about a months time.

Savvio models have been around for a while, but the 15K brings a lot to the table. That includes the obvious… higher RPM and lower seek times, in addition to improved performance per watt. In the end, these are better drives all around and more environmentally friendly. The price will play the biggest factor here, but for those servers that require the utmost performance and energy saving capabilities, the drives will pay for themselves over time.

On the enthusiast and desktop front though, it shouldn’t be too long before we finally get our hands on a 1TB drive. It’s no secret that all the major players are rushing to finally bring one to the market. It’s hard to say whether or not Seagate will be first this time around, since Toshiba and Fujitsu also are preparing to launch. Coupled with the fact that Seagate is also gearing up to release 2.5" encryption drives, the next few months in the storage market are going to be fun.

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