ED#130 : Q & A With Western Digital
Recently, we had the rare opportunity to sit down and chat with Mr. Albert Chang, Western Digital's Product Marketing Manager at Le Meridien @ KL Sentral. He was very knowledgeable about Western Digital's drives and very open (well, as open as he could be!). It turned out to be a truly enlightening and educational hour and a half of our time, and we certainly look forward to future chats with him!
Let's take a look at our discussion. For editorial purposes, we paraphrased our questions and his replies to them. Any mistakes below are our own and completely unintentional. We also held back a few of the questions we posted to him because we are awaiting more information. We will update this article once Mr. Chang gets back to us.
In the meantime, enjoy the fruits of our little Q&A session!
1. Current Advanced Format HDDs use the 512-byte emulation mode. When does Western Digital expect to transition to the native 4K mode?
Not in the near future. The market is just not ready at the moment for the move to native 4K drives. There are still many people using Windows XP, for example. For Western Digital to consider a transition to native 4K sectors, well over 40% of the market should first be prepared for this transition.
When that happens, it can happen really quickly because all we need to do is switch the firmware. The drives are already 4K internally.
2. When that happens, will Western Digital offer firmware upgrades that would convert current Advanced Format drives running in emulation mode, to the native format?
Unfortunately, no. Current Advanced Format drives cannot be converted to run in the native format through a firmware upgrade.
3. Enthusiasts prefer to use older non-AFT models for better performance. Will WD continue to produce new non-AFT models, or will all future drives be using AFT (Advanced Format Technology)?
The 4K sector is the future and there's no going back. In the consumer segment, all new and future models will use AFT. WD will still continue to manufacture the current range of non-AFT drives until they are EOL (End Of Life). The enterprise segment, however, is a totally different ballgame.
4. Why does WD hide the spindle speed of the Caviar Green drives behind IntelliPower? Is there a reason why WD does not reveal the spindle speed?
That's really above my pay grade. Well, I don't really know of any actual reason to hide the spindle speed. Just that it is not the defining reason to buy a Caviar Green drive.
We want to shift the emphasis away from the spindle speed because there are other factors that also affect performance, e.g. areal density and cache size. We want our users to know that they are saving power while sacrificing as little performance as possible.
5. Perhaps you can explain a little about how IntelliPower really works?
IntelliPower works in several steps. We designed it to aggressively unload the heads whenever there is no activity. This saves some power and yet the heads can go back out very quickly when a new read/write request comes. If the hard disk drive remains inactive for a few more seconds, IntelliPower will reduce the spindle speed to save more power. Only when the hard disk drive continues to be inactive will IntelliPower completely spin down the drive.
This tiered system differs from Western Digital's competitors, which keep their platters spinning at the spindle speed until the hard disk drive spins down completely to sleep. This keeps their platters spinning at full speed longer than they normally need to, wasting power.
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