Seagate Unleashes a Faster, More Nimble Cheetah

Throughout its history, Seagate Technology Inc. ( traditionally pushed the envelope with regard to hard disk performance and features. With the introduction of its new line of 15,000 RPM Cheetah SCSI- and Fibre Channel-based hard drives, Seagate raises the performance bar once again and aims to sprint to the front of the pack.

Seagate has a history of firsts -- with several setbacks along the way. In 1992, the storage giant introduced the first 7,200 RPM SCSI storage device, the Barracuda. In late 1996, Seagate introduced its next-generation Cheetah storage device, the fastest SCSI fixed at 10,000 RPM.

But the early adoptions of Barracuda and Cheetah were hampered by drive noise and ventilation problems that plagued the products. In the case of the first generation Cheetah, heat dissipation problems were so acute that the devices had stringent cooling requirements.

According to Rudy Thibodeau, executive director of enterprise marketing at Seagate, the latest iteration of Cheetah should be immediately accepted among major OEMs. The 15,000 RPM Cheetah was engineered to use less power -- 0.2 of a Watt less -- and are consistent with the noise profile of the existing 10,000 RPM Cheetahs.

"When you talk about a new performance standard like [this 15,000 RPM Cheetah], it typically comes out as a niche product, because people want to watch it to see how it performs and what its problem areas are before implementing it," Thibodeau explains. "But because it runs slightly cooler and is about as loud as today’s Cheetahs, I think that this is going to drop right into everybody’s machines. I expect it to accelerate adoption pretty fast."

Boasting impressive performance numbers -- including a 3.9 millisecond access time, sub-6.5 millisecond total time-to-data, and a 50 percent performance improvement over existing Ultra160 SCSI and Fibre Channel Cheetah models -- the 15,000 RPM Cheetah will debut at a price point below $1,000. The drive will initially be available with a nominal capacity of 18.4 GB. Seagate expects to introduce 36 GB and 73 GB models afterward.

Rob Enderle, senior analyst at Giga Information Group (, says the 15,000 RPM Cheetah is arriving at the right time. During 1998 and 1999, Enderle notes, most of the rest of the storage industry caught up to Seagate. IBM Corp. ( and Quantum Corp. (, in particular, are shipping 10,000 RPM drives.

"Seagate is happy to be the first to market with the latest and greatest in this technology sector because it gives them a certain amount of prestige," Enderle observes, noting that high-capacity, high-performance SCSI drives -- the building blocks of most external storage subsystems and RAID arrays -- are also more lucrative to manufacture.

"Because of the higher margins, everybody wants to play in the high end. These new 15,000 RPM drives put Seagate squarely out ahead of the pack again," he concludes.

Seagate’s Thibodeau says the new Cheetahs are ideal for application service providers and for transaction processing or demanding network file server environments. He suggests that the lower time-to-data and substantially reduced latency of the 15,000 RPM Cheetahs will attract customers who want to consolidate a large number of users on a reduced number of servers.

"Customers want to put more users on a server, and with a 50 percent reduction in latency and time-to-data, they can do that and still maintain the performance levels that they enjoy today," he concludes.

Seagate Cheetah and Barracuda SCSI drives are used in storage subsystems and RAID arrays from major industry OEMs such as EMC Corp. (, Hewlett-Packard Co. (, Compaq Computer Corp. (, Sun Microsystems Inc. (, and others.