All Hands on Deck. Big Caps are Coming

Rumors are flying that higher capacity drives are on the horizon. According to The Register  last week, 3TB drives are inevitable but the real question is are you ready for hard drive capacities greater than 2.1TB? The arms race for the biggest hard drive is constantly escalating: last year saw Seagate announce a 10TB hard drive, and now the company is back with an announcement that an even large 16TB drive is in the pipeline for release in 2018.

System builders beware! You must ensure your infrastructure is ready to support these higher capacity drives.Some of the basic design decisions made in the original computer architecture left the industry with inherent limitations. One of those limitations is the ability to address hard drives that exceed capacities of 2.1TB.

The decision was made back in 1980 to limit the LBA (logical block address) range to 2.1TB – more than enough capacity in those early days. However, with the vast amounts of digital content we’re serving up today, we’re now faced with operating systems, BIOS controllers, HDD controllers and device drivers that use the same basic limitation of 2.1TB for the maximum size of a hard drive or logical storage device.

Long LBA addressing (LLBA) is needed. LLBA extends the number of bytes used in a Command Descriptor Block (a data structure used to format data passed between host computers and hard drives) to allow access to an LBA range that exceeds the 2.1TB limitation.

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While we’ve seen similar and even dramatically bigger SSDs (Seagate has a 60TB solid state drive), the 16TB hard drive would be the single largest magnetic disk drive ever if it actually makes it to market. Seagate is noting that the 16TB behemoth would still be a regular 3.5-inch drive, meaning you’ll likely be able to use it in a regular desktop. And while it’s still a bit early to have any idea of price, the 10TB model from last year ran for $534.99, so expect something at least in that range.

If you can’t wait until 2018 for 16TB of storage space into your computer, don’t worry — there’s always Samsung’s $10,000 15.36TB SSD, which will also theoretically fit into a standard home computer. If high capacities are in your future, I highly recommend you check with your software and hardware suppliers on their plans for implementing Long LBAs today.

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