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High capacity and backup once were the mark of enterprise storage. However, as seen on the floor of the International Consumer Electronics Show last week, several vendors aim drive mechanisms holding as much 500GB of data at small businesses and consumers.

These 3.5-inch drives, which were still in the planning stages just a year or two ago, are ideal for several types of applications, including the enterprise ATA storage market for relatively fixed content, for home networking and, in some cases, for external backup boxes and similar classes of applications.

All of the major vendors in this area—Seagate Technology, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies and Maxtor—have introduced high-capacity drives in the past few months, along with second-tier players such as Western Digital Corp. and Olixir Technologies.

This past week alone, Seagate, Maxtor and Olixir have introduced large-capacity drives.

Seagate’s 400 GB DB35 series hard drive is to enable home entertainment systems such as high-definition DVR (digital video recorder) recording and video on demand.

The hard drive provides performance tools that tune the drive for sequential streaming and content protection, useful in implementing DRM (digital rights management) technologies.

Click here to read about Seagate’s entry-level FATA drive.

Maxtor announced its Maxtor Shared Storage solution, which is available in 200 GB or 300 GB capacities and aims to allow home or SOHO (small office/home office) users to centralize, organize and share data, photos or music on a wired or wireless network.

Olixir introduced the Mobile DataVault 3DX, a 3.5-inch, 400 GB portable external hard drive aimed at tackling the backup and disaster-recovery market as well as storage and archiving for digital photos, videos, music and critical data.

Western Digital Corp. announced its latest offering on Dec. 20: a 320 GB hard drive in its WD Caviar family of hard drives the company says uses less power than other high-capacity, desktop-class hard drives and provides much less drive noise.

While Hitachi Global Storage Technologies focused on microdrive announcements at last week’s CES, it has publicly stated that it plans to introduce the Deskstar 7K500—a high-capacity, 3.5-inch 500 GB SATA (serial ATA) hard drive—by March.

The introduction of larger and larger capacity hard drives is particularly significant in two areas, said Thomas Coughlin, president of storage market analysis company Coughlin Associates of Atascadero, Calif.

The first is for low-cost ATA enterprise applications such as fixed-content storage used for archiving e-mail messages and image files. The second use for high-capacity drives is as part of a networked storage structure for home entertainment, such as a local area network-based NAS (network-attached storage) system for the home, or for high-capacity DVRs or set-top boxes.

Read more here about Maxtor entering the home NAS market.

The continued demand for higher-resolution video sharing and rich content sharing in the home are increasing demand for larger disk drives. On the enterprise side, storage growth is fueled by regulatory compliance with acts such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

These factors and others led Coughlin to predict continued significant growth in disk drives this year over last. By 2008, Coughlin predicts that the market will offer single drives with 1 terabyte capacity.

“The trend over the next five years will be for increasing capacity for 3.5-inch drives for these applications, with some performance improvements and modifications in RAID redundancy to accommodate longer drive reconstruction times,” he said.

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