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Your Storage Blog: Make Storage Cheaper and More Energy Efficient!

Welcome to the third of our "Your Storage Blog" series here at BSN*, where we invite you to ask us storage-related questions, and in return you will have a chance to win a 1TB Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex portable drive for Mac or PC if your question is selected. In the first two blogs, Ben and Ed W. were the happy winners of the 1TB drive.

This time around, the winning question comes from Kathryn M., who asks: "Will Seagate be creating any cheap, more energy efficient drives in the (near) future?"

Thank you for the fun question Kathryn. And I must say I consider it a fun question because it makes me think of the times "back in the day" remembering what I used to pay for computer components when I would build my own systems.  It really amazes me where we are today and it’s not just with low hard drive costs, but ALL the components that make up a system. The amount of power and performance we get these days is just amazing.

But you also asked about energy efficiency and it’s interesting that there didn’t seem to be much concern about energy within the computer industry – at least not in the mainstream – until just a few years ago. But truth be told, energy efficiency has always been an issue close to many industry vendors as well as Seagate.

Back to your original question of whether we will be creating less costly and more efficient drives, the short answer is that we are already doing this today! And the trend will continue.

First hard disk drive: IBM RAMAC, 1956. Photo Credit: IBM Archives
Hard disk drives have come a long way in storage capacity, and also have seen  dramatic reductions in cost and power consumption since the days of the first  HDD, IBM’s RAMAC from 1956 – IBM Archives

So let’s first go way back from a historical perspective to show what we’ve done as an industry over the years. The very first HDD was the IBM RAMAC which debuted in 1956. It stored 5MB, weighed one ton, consumed 5000W of power, and the cost-per-megabyte (MB) was $640 per month (available as a lease only). If we convert that from 1957 dollars into today’s currency, we’re talking about leasing one megabyte for $32,000 each month.

Seagate’s first PC hard drive was the ST506 which also stored 5MB (but this time only weighed less than 5 lbs), consumed 20W of power, with a cost-per-MB of $300 (no leases here).

If we fast forward to the current day, prices have dropped so far that we don’t even look at cost-per-MB anymore, but rather Cost-per-GIGABYTE, and these days we’re talking pennies. Depending on the particular drive model and capacity, the selling price can average somewhere between 10 to 25 cents per GB. No matter how you look at it on that scale, that’s cheap storage!

And what about power consumption? A Seagate Barracuda desktop drive 10 years ago consumed an average of about 13 watts of power when active and just under 10watts at idle. Now, a current model Barracuda averages about half of that. Laptop drives consume even less power (our Momentus drives will consume less than 2W active and under 1W at idle). And also note overall that if we are measuring power consumption-per-capacity, the number has also dramatically decreased especially since we’re shipping drives with multiple terabytes of storage!

Thank you for your question Kathryn, and congratulations on winning your new Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex drive!
Readers – do you have a storage-related question you’d like to ask us at Seagate? Let us know as we’ll be giving away drives every month! This was our third… and there is a lot of where these came from.

To participate, visit the Seagate "Storage Means Business" blog landing page to submit your question and learn how you can win your own 1TB FreeAgent GoFlex portable drive. You can read the official rules here.

We wish you good luck.