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New Hard Drive Sector Standards Approved and On The Way

May 12, 2007

Note: This is a cross-post from my

A technology called "areal density" can boost hard drive capacity.

Earlier this month, the International Disk Drive, Equipment and Materials Association (IDEMA) saud it has finalized the definition of the Long Block Data (LBD) sector standard.

LBD will replace the 30 year-old standard of 512 bytes per hard drive sector with one that allows 4,096 bytes per sector on hard drive surfaces.

Computerworld's Brian Fonseca gets the lowdown on all of this from Joel Weiss, who is president of IDEMA.

Brian notes that Weiss mentions one positive impact in moving to the larger black size is that the amount of error correction code (ECC) is expected to drop, resulting in data that is easier to read and more accurate.

Of course the space saved will generate some of its own incremental values. Here's how it works: more space enables more storage density. That in turn, elicits better data integrity and more efficient data transfers. Weiss told that the IDEMA working group discovered that data integrity could be enhanced by as much as 10 times by moving to a 4,096-byte block size.

The penultimate, quite achievable results: faster and more reliable hard drives.

He also said that this should be a boon for storage vendors looking to accelerate their design, construction and rollout of speedier and more reliable hard drives.

Fonseca notes Weiss emphasixes that while storage users wouldn't discern any prominent changes in day-to-day management of their storage devices and products, Weiss said that the larger block size would boost defragging speed as well as the I/O speed of hard drives.

Weiss acknowledged that systems and storage vendors such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc. and others will go through a "transition phase" of integrating the new high-performance drives with operating systems and other compatible software, including databases.

In terms of hard drive makers, Fonseca informs that  Seagate Technology LLC and Western Digital Corp. have already agreed to align data on their drive drives to 512-byte sectors that can be placed together in eight-block chunks to equal 4,096 bytes. They also said they will provide software to enable their drives to be used at either 512-byte or 4,096-byte sizes.

Still, there's one holdout. 

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies isn't as eager to comply. The company has announced that it will support 512 bytes or 4,096 bytes -- but not both -- when it comes to that point in hard drive development. 

I predict that if Hitachi hears the demand for 4,096-byte sectors, they'll get the message.

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