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Not many motherboards support new standard yet

Seagate is launching today the latest in the  Barracuda family of 7200 RPM hard disk drives. The Barracuda XT is the first drive to market that supports SATA interface speeds of up to 6Gbps. 

The 2TB monster features a large 64 MB cache, which is the largest seen on a regular HDD. However, several SSDs already use 128MB caches, and at least one controller design in the works is capable of accessing up to 256MB of cache. It is these large and fast caches that are driving SATA standards forward.
The latest version of Seagate's SeaTools software allows for short-stroking, in which data is stored only on the outer tracks of the drive, allowing greater access speed at a reduction in capacity. The company claims that a short-stroked Barracuda XT using 1TB of storage will be able to compete with a 10k RPM Velociraptor drive from competitor Western Digital.

The company is targeting high performance and gaming PCs, low cost servers for SMBs, and external storage applications using eSATA for the new drive. Seagate expects almost 20% of all HDDs sold in 2010 will have a capacity of  1TB or greater.

The new drive (model ST32000641AS) comes with a 5-year warranty at a MSRP of $299. It should be available at retail by the end of this week.

Despite all the enthusiasm from Seagate, it will be SSDs that see the greatest performance jump with the move to the next generation for the SATA interface. Several SSDs are already hitting the limits of SATA II when reading from their cache.

Adoption of the new SATA standard is currently slow, as the ASUS P7P55D is the only motherboard that is natively capable of support 6Gbps. Older motherboards are capable of such speeds only through the use of a PCIe adapter card.

The problem is that motherboard manufacturers are waiting for a new I/O Controller Hub (ICH) from Intel. Commonly known as a southbridge, the new ICH is expected to support new technologies such as SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps. AMD is also working on a new southbridge to support these technologies.

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RE: Short Stroking
By gstrickler on 9/21/2009 8:32:01 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, short stroking a disk drive is using any method (controller setup, partitioning, etc.) to limit the range of travel of the read write head armature. It's not a specific percentage of the range or storage capacity, nor is is necessarily the outer tracks (although those almost always gives the best performance).

Since the performance benefit is related to the reduction in maximum and average seek time, and because seek time is not linear on modern drives, short stroking will generally need to reduce the maximum head motion by 50% to have a notable performance impact. Since all modern drives record more information on the outer tracks, the "outer half" of the tracks contain about 2/3 of the total capacity of the drive. Therefore, to benefit from short stroking, you generally need to use less than 2/3 of the total capacity of the drive. If you can use less of the capacity, you may see even better performance, although the improvement will diminish as you decrease below using 20% of the total capacity.

A related technique, commonly used on 10k and 15k RPM drives, is to slightly increase the spacing between tracks, which allows reducing the "head settling" time for the "servo tracking" to lock on to a track for an accurate read/write. This must be done on the drive controller, it can't be accomplished using partitioning or other methods like short stroking can. You don't have to do this on a 10k/15k drive, but since those drives are focused on performance, it makes sense to do so. That's a major reason why 10k/15k RPM drives have lower maximum storage capacities.

It should be possible to build a 10k/15k drive with 1.5x-2x the storage capacity, but it would cost some the performance, and performance is the reason to go to a 10k/15k drive in the first place. It might still be a bit faster than a 7200 RPM drive, but it probably wouldn't be a good compromise.

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