Seagate sues STEC

by dave on April 14, 2008

EDIT:  4/15/08 @ 827pm EST

After careful consideration, it has become apparent to me that putting myself in jeopardy of commenting on active litigation that (potentially) involves my employer isn’t a smart thing to do. That being said, I’ve decided to leave this content here, but with the following disclaimer:

The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by EMC and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of EMC. The information I’ve presented below is through personal research through publically available news sources ( and other media outlets) and does not represent anything but a high level overview of the potential consequences of this lawsuit. 

Previously, I had written about how Seagate was mulling over the idea of suing SSD manufacturers based on the perceived notion that they had violated their (Seagate’s) closely held patents on how a storage devices is accessed by and passes data to a discrete host. Today, in what I view as a delicious bit of irony, Seagate decided to sue STEC.

In a news entry @ Seagate (found here), they give a little blurb on how STEC invariably violates their patents and how they’re firing the first shot in a battle over IP. The little bit of irony that I see in this basically is this:

a.) Seagate is the largest provider of Fibre, SAS, SATA drives to EMC (and, if I’m not mistaken, other storage OEMs).

b.) Seagate stands to lose a bit of money if the SSDs are rapidly adopted in the EMC Symmetrix platform (and other enterprise class storage arrays, mind you). Now, this may not be appreciable at first, but as SLC/MLC flash continues to drop in price, the pricing battle will become even more noticable.

c.) STEC is the leader in high-speed, high-IOP SSDs on the market. mTron/BitMicro are a distant second, with their primary focus on pro-sumers and early adopters.

What also makes the corners of my mouth tingle a little bit is how Western Digital, with its acquisition of Komag last year, stands to come into a potential power play if Seagate alienates some of its larger OEM partners with this lawsuit shenanigans. Since Komag is responsible for creating the disk platters that reside in most some of the disk drives out there, WD could create a little firestorm of themselves by dinking around with platter pricing.

All in all, this is my take: EMC might be in the unenviable position of paying royalties to Seagate for using STEC’s SSDs in their Symmetrix arrays, further increasing the end-user costs. With this in mind, how about a little “racetrack memory” to solve this problem? 😉

What do you think?





I’ve had a LOT of fun, lately, reading Mark Lewis’ blog (found here) as he delves into the green data center concepts. To rehash some of what has already been talked about to “green” your data center:

a.) Tier your storage. Higher speed spindles, by nature, consume more power. (Compare the specs for the Seagate Barracuda ES.2 Enterprise SATA drive to those of the Seagate Cheetah 15K.5 FC/SAS drives). By moving your data from higher speed spindles to lower speed spindles based on usage/access patterns within a larger system policy framework, you can keep power consumption low overall. Better yet, archive it off to a Centera and remove the need for tiering within the array to begin with. 😉
b.) Virtualize, Virtualize, Virtualize. Sure, it’s the “trendy” thing to do these days but, with the ability to collapse 30:1 (physical to virtual) in some cases, simply investing in VMWare (of course) will cut down on your power footprint and requirements. From the host side, using devices like Tyan’s EXCELLENT Transport GT28 (B2935) with AMD’s quad core Opteron processors allow for rack dense ESX clusters to be created that can scale to (get ready for it): 160 physical sockets/640 cores per 40U rack and 320 Gigabit Ethernet ports. I also forgot to mention that within these 1Us, you can install low profile 2port Qlogic QLE2462 4GB/s fibre cards to allow for multi-protocol attached storage to be used. *hint, hint* I think this would be a GREAT platform for the next EMC Celerra. 😉
c.) Use different storage media. By “different storage media,” I am referring to the availability of SLC/MLC flash drives and the pervasive use of 2.5″ fibre/SAS drives within the data center. I’ve already waxed eloquent before on the merits of using 2.5″ drives (lower power consumption, less moving parts, typically faster access times than comparable 3.5″ drives, etc.) and I’m anxiously waiting to see if EMC will adopt these drives for their arrays. With 2.5″ drives coming close in platter densities (500gb 2.5″ SATA drives are already available in the market), I think there is less of a reason to continue to use 3.5″ drives for nearline storage. Flash, on the other hand, while available in smaller quantities, takes the speed and power equation to a whole different level. I’ll let the Storage Anarchist explain the details:

“As you’ve probably read by now, the STEC ZeusIOPS drives themselves are in fact optimized for random AND sequential I/O patterns, unlike the lower cost flash drives aimed at the laptop market. They use a generously sized SDRAM cache to improve sequential read performance and to delay and coalesce writes. They implement a massively parallel internal infrastructure that simultaneously reads (or writes) a small
amount of data from a large number of Flash chips concurrently to overcome the inherent Flash latencies. Every write is remapped to a different bank of Flash as part of the wear leveling, and they employ a few other tricks that I’ve been told I can’t disclose to maximize write performance. They employ multi-bit EDC (Error Detection) and ECC (Error Correction) and bad-block remapping into reserved capacity of the drives. And yes, they have sufficient internal backup power to destage pending writes (and the mapping tables) to persistent storage
in the event of a total power failure.”

In any case, these are some quick notes from me this AM. Definitely am looking forward to delving into the Tyan GT28/AMD Quad Core stuff in the next few days.

Happy friday!

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