A Conversation with Ed Strong

Western Digital is making waves in the mergers and acquisitions market by buying Hitachi Global Storage. With the economy making a rebound, we wanted to know more about the company and its plans for the future, so we talked with Ed Strong, director of Western Digital’s CE business unit.

Q. Western Digital recently acquired Hitachi Global Storage. How will this strengthen your product offerings, and how will it enhance the storage business?

A. Acquiring Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) is in step with strengthening WD’s global strategy. The resulting company will have the broadest product portfolio in the industry, providing significant customer value. During this acquisition process we cannot discuss specific details pertaining to what and how it will enhance our product offerings and storage business as a whole.

Q. You recently introduced a 6 TB external hard drive. How will this affect HD video and photo files, and will this play a key role in the IP video surveillance world?

A. The release of our quad interface, RAID-enabled My Book Studio II Edition, formatted for Mac, expands storage capacity up to 6 terabytes, offering creative professionals more options for photo and video file archiving. Complementing the My Book Studio II, WD offers two external storage products that are engineered to attach to 24/7 set-top boxes, such as surveillance STBs. The first is My Book AV DVR Expander, available in a 1 TB capacity point. The other is My Passport AV, which is available in a 320-gigabyte capacity. Both products have AV-Class hard drives inside that are specifically engineered to run 24/7, rather than periodically—once a week or a few times each month—for backup purposes.

Q. It would seem the past economic woes are behind you now, especially with this acquisition. Will you have other new products to offer this year, and what is your research and development team working on?

A. The proposed acquisition with HGST notwithstanding, WD has been profitable for more than 10 years and has the strongest balance sheet in the industry. Suffice it to say, WD is constantly working on product innovations to best serve our customers’ ever-changing storage demands and anticipate future needs, but per company policy, we are unable to discuss new product research or development plans that are in the works.

Q. Can you describe the role Western Digital plays in the security industry?

A. One of the most important factors around data storage for the security industry is the practice of using AV-class drives—meaning storage products that are specifically tested to run 24/7. WD qualifies its AV-class hard drives with key security set-top box builders around the world. As part of this process, WD’s future products are designed to ensure industry-leading reliability and compatibility. WD’s mission in this space is to educate the security market on the importance of integrating with AV-class storage so that security providers can deliver more reliable products to their customers as well as save money due to fewer returns. With this goal in mind, WD speaks and presents at security industry trade shows, advertises in security publications, and engages with security-centric distributors and resellers.

Q. What are your three strongest vertical markets? Do you see any change in these markets this year and into 2012?

A. It depends on what part of our business you are looking at, but with the expanding role security/surveillance continues to play throughout so many different layers of government and various industries, our portfolio of AV, solid state and enterprise drives addresses all of the key verticals, from commercial facilities to education campuses to municipalities.

Q. Can you explain the benefit of solid state drives? How do you serve as a data recovery partner?

A. With no moving parts and low power consumption, solid state drives (SSDs) offer speed, performance and the ability to endure extremely harsh environments, given that they are highly durable and deliver maximum tolerance for drops, shock and vibration. SSDs are excellent storage solutions for certain enterprise and niche applications. Conversely, traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) offer greater capacity options, significantly lower costs to integrate and an unlimited number of writes. Thus, depending on capacity requirements, operating environment and budgetary factors, both HDDs and SSDs provide distinctive technology features and benefits. With respect to data recovery, WD external storage products that are AV-qualified are an ideal solution.

Q. Is it possible to forecast useable life by eliminating unscheduled downtime?

A. In many instances, yes. While traditional storage products typically run until they fail with no warning to the user that the end is near (and resulting failures cause unexpected downtime and emergency system maintenance for restoration), it is possible to forecast useable life and eliminate unscheduled downtime.

Aside from developing innovations to prevent failure and increase endurance, the best method to eliminate unscheduled downtime is monitoring technology that can detect drive issues before they fail. In addition to the self-monitoring analysis and reporting technology (SMART) utility feature used with HDDs, Western Digital developed the patent-pending SiSMART technology to monitor SSDs.

The WD SiSMART technology is the first technology in the industry to self-monitor solid state storage system usage and accurately forecast useable life. SiSMART acts as an early warning system by constantly monitoring and reporting the exact amount of remaining storage system life. Drive usage information can be requested by the host at any time and allows for an accurate prediction of the SSD’s life.

This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Security Today.

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