Seagate is launching its new Small Form Factor (SFF) hard drive intended for server and storage consolidation needs, early next week. Seagate claims that its new 2.5-inch enterprise disc drive platform will enable a new era of rack server and storage arrays and blade servers.

Seagate has dribbled information out over the past few months and the drive looks set to use the existing Cheetah 3.5inch 10K, or 15K 65mm platter encased in a smaller 2.5inch form factor enclosure, one that's 70mm wide and 15mm high. The drive will be shipped with one or two platters and hold 36.7GB or 73.4GB respectively. It will spin at 10,000rpm according to our researches and come with Fibre Channel, SCSI and serial-attached SCSI interfaces.

The drive will probably be branded as a Cheetah unit.

Seagate has worked with HP, Intel and Microsoft to ensure support for the technology. The main advantage claimed is a greater I/O rate from a given rack space. For example, a 2U rack storage array with 2.5-inch drives will be able to outperform today's common 3U rack storage arrays by nearly 140 per cent on an IOPS-per-U basis, while providing equal or greater storage capacity

1U servers, using the SFF drives, will be able to offer 6 drive functionality allowing RAID 5 and full mirroring, drawing 40 per cent less power while delivering 50 plus per cent more IOPS-per-U of rack space, as well as allowing better airflow within the server.

It is positioned as an enterprise drive, one for high duty cycles and not as a desktop SATA-type unit. An obvious use of these drives is in blade storage servers and the extra I/O demands compared to 3.5inch drives could indicate that an Emulex SBOD approach will be taken to avoid internal bottlenecks.

In Seagate's brave new SFF world, blade storage servers will have enterprise-class high reliability and performance. Storage Arrays will become even faster by bundling a high number of drives into a smaller footprint. However, storage OEMS may want to wait for a second source to emerge before adopting the new form factor.