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Solid state disk drives (SSDs) are arguably the sexiest product in the current storage industry, but they’re also a very small part of the market. That should change in 2010, which is why HDD kingpin Seagate is officially announcing its entry into this market with the Pulsar. It’s been shipping the product to large OEMs for testing since September, but the company is announcing general availability of the SSD.

Designed for enterprise blade and general server applications, it uses single-level cell (SLC) technology, delivers up to 200GB capacity, and is built in a 2.5-inch small form factor with a SATA interface, says Seagate executive vice president Dave Mosley.

"This is our first push into the enterprise space. Actually it’s the first enterprise SSD drive to be brought out by an enterprise class HD vendor."

The Pulsar SSD achieves a peak performance of up to 30,000 read IOPS and 25,000 write IOPS, 240MB/s sequential read and 200 MB/s sequential write. Its SLC-based design optimizes reliability and endurance and helps provide a .44% AFR rating with a 5-year limited warranty. The AFR rating is important to Seagate’s bread-and-butter enterprise customers, says Mosley. It’s the equivalent of a MTBF (mean time between failures) rating of 2 million hours.

SSDs are generating more interest as costs come down, says Donna Taylor, principal research analyst for Gartner’s global Storage Quarterly Statistics program, and they will become more attractive in the near future. Mosley says Gartner expects SSDs to break the billion-dollar barrier next year, so the timing is just right for Seagate. The company has been working on SSDs for several years now, but there’s been a lot of hype and confusion about standards, he says.

"Seagate is a volume player (and) we really think the best is yet to come in terms of volume and that’s next year."

According to SSD analyst Jim Handy, Objective Analysis (, this is a market that Seagate has to not only participate in, but dominate. Enterprise HDDs are the more profitable part of Seagate’s business, he says, and it manufactures more than 60 percent of them.

"It is extremely important that Seagate should participate in the SSD market. If Seagate were to ignore SSDs, then the enterprise market, a market that the company has dominated for 15 years, would slip through the company’s fingers." 

While not exactly a niche market, SSDs are also not a commodity item either. Handy says the enterprise SSD market is currently worth around $500 million and probably won’t pass the $1B range until 2013.

This is just the first of what will be full SSD lineup, says Mosley, including something for the general channel. Pulsar is targeted primarily at OEMs, to give Seagate a chance to see the performance characteristics and field reliability.

"This drive will be the first of many to come. The follow on which you should see next year should definitely have a broader channel play."