We expect to build “100 terabyte hard drives by 2025”

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister was Editor of IFSEC Global from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam is also a former Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
January 11, 2018

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(Image: Seagate | Creating Space for the Human Experience)

Our last interview with Seagate’s Andrew Palmer touched on helium molecules and quantum physics.

The data storage company’s sales manager for enterprise and surveillance (UK, Ireland, Benelux) was again in futurologist mode as he considered the spectacular upward trajectory in data storage demand.

In our Q&A below he discusses how this trend is being driven by the internet of things, as well as cloud-based solutions, why the hard drive should be a top priority when procuring surveillance hardware and Seagate’s data retrieval service.

IFSEC Global: Hi, Andy. What are Seagate’s USPs in the surveillance storage market?

Andy Palmer: A few things really.

I think that first of all, we created the sector, in partnership with a couple of the large DVR/NVR manufacturers who came to us and said “look, it’s breaking down, we keep seeing a lot of faults. Can you help us design a hard drive around what surveillance workload look like?”

We did that 11 years ago. We’re on our seventh or eighth generation hard drive now, so we’ve a long heritage.

Over the course of those generations of products we have adapted and been approved, brought on more manufacturer partners. So we have a very rounded and robust system.

We have a number of technical features that we think make us superior to the competition in terms of performance.

The main thing for us is Seagate Rescue Services. Data is becoming more critical, being used not just for surveillance but big data analytics too.

“If you lose data through external factors – like a fire, a flood, vandalism, viruses – Seagate Rescue Services gives you the chance to get your data back”

So if [you lose data] through environmental factors, external factors – like a fire, a flood, vandalism, viruses – Seagate Rescue Services gives you the chance to get your data back.

We sell a three-year contract at a very small cost. It gives the end user that extra peace of mind that there’s a chance to get data back if the system goes wrong.

Certainly according to customers, that’s the biggest differentiator – by far.

IG: Are you aware of any real-world examples where Seagate Rescue Services has rescued lost data?

AP: Our rescue service division’s biggest business is the hard drive we sell to home users, which are the drives that get rescued the most often.

We have launched it for our NAS [network-attached storage] range and for surveillance.

We have a 96% success rate in recovering data.

There was a jewellery heist and the intruders smashed up the DVR so they would not be caught on CCTV. We were handed a bag full of bits of a drive. We pieced it together, got the data, got the frame off it and it led to an arrest.

So it has been tested quite robustly and it’s a successful service.

IG: On which areas is your R&D budget most focused?

AP: We are taking particular notice of developing areas like AI, big data and smaller recording devices. Our portfolio may reflect some of that stuff, but it’s too far in the future to comment on.

IG: The growth of the internet of things suggests demand for storage will continue to soar…

AP: We think the amount of data being created, by 2025, will equal about 163 zetabytes. You would have to watch the Netflix back catalogue 489 million times before you got even close to that much data.

“40 billion connected machines will drive demand for storage”

For Seagate, it’s not the three billion connected people becoming four billion that’s causing excitement; it’s the 40 billion connected machines that will drive demand for storage.

That will be things like your fridge talking to your insurance company and doctor, saying “this guy has a lot of butter, a lot of beer, he’s a bit of a risk you know”.

So all these machines, with different languages and protocols, coming onto the hard drive in real time. And people will want to use them in real time, to make predictions and change something further down the line.

The hard drive will need to be able to receive data very quickly, so we are developing how that technology gets laid onto the platter of the hard drive. Then it needs to be used in real time, then archived securely for compliance reasons.

Seagate has highly efficient read- and/or write-intensive hard drives right through to the lowest cost-per-gig archive drive.

What we see is a need for more and more flavours of hard drive, rather than just loading data onto one hard drive. And that’s building in complexity, which we’re at the forefront of.

In surveillance we have a 10 terabyte hard drive and a roadmap that takes us through to 12 very soon and up to 100 terabytes by about 2025-2026. That’s because we see the volume of data being stored growing enormously.

IG: The market for cloud storage is obviously growing rapidly…

AP: You have to ask yourself: “What is the cloud?” It’s actually a warehouse full of hard drives.

And there are two forms in the architecture: the central repository – the cloud – but because surveillance data is operational in nature, someone needs to look at footage in real time too.

So we still see the edge of cloud storage, which today we call NVR or service-style storage. Then it moves maybe into archiving and maybe even surveillance-as-a-service type offerings. We’re hearing more of that type of discussion now.

IG: IFSEC launched Borders & Infrastructure this year. Do your hard drives get used much in those kind of markets?

Andy Palmer: Don’t forget the hard drive is a component inside a system. We sell through a whole channel of partners, so I wouldn’t say we target any specific area.

But our stuff is used in retail, in ports, by Transport for London, in rail, so a lot of those markets that are becoming more important.

IG: Anything else you want to add about Seagate or the industry?

AP: People tend to dismiss the hard drive as purely a component inside something – no more important than the buttons on the front.

But think about what a CCTV system actually does. At one end a camera absorbs light through a lens, converts it to ones and zeros, pumps it down the wire into the NVR and onto the hard drive. All you’re doing is collecting, moving and storing data.

So we would argue that the hard drive is actually the system and the other stuff is just peripheral.

That’s the kind of thinking our heritage is optimised for. First and foremost, storage should be a key consideration [in procurement], rather than an afterthought.

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