The Deskstar 7K3000 is the only three-terabyte, 7,200-RPM hard drive currently available on the market. Today, Hitach is announcing an enterprise-oriented version dubbed the Ultrastar 7K3000. This new model is mechanically identical to its desktop counterpart, which means you get up to three terabytes of storage spread across five 600GB platters. Hitachi cherry picks only the best drive heads and media for its Ultrastar line, much like Intel selects the most promising dies for use in its high-end CPUs.
While most hard drive makers stack no more than four platters, this will be Hitachi's fifth generation five-platter design. Hitachi says it initially pursued five-disc designs to compensate for the fact that it was slow to develop platters with higher areal densities. The reliability of those drives was so high that Hitachi's spin doctors now profess that the five-platter approach has become a part of the company's strategy.
One might think that the presence of an additional platter would increase the risk of a catastrophic head crash. According to Hitachi, however, that kind of event is responsible for a tiny fraction of all drive deaths. Instead, the company says that most premature failures can be attributed to the magnetic characteristics of the drive head or media. Thanks to platters with a lower areal density that doesn't push the magnetics quite as hard, Hitachi claims its drives are more reliable than competing products.
Hitachi is so confident in the Ultrastar 7K3000's durability that it's given the drive a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) rating of 2 million hours. Previous Ultrastars in this class were rated for 1.2 million hours, and according to Hitachi, they achieved closer to 3 million hours in the real world. Couple that with a claimed Annualized Failure Rate (AFR) of less than 0.35%, and the new MTBF rating doesn't look unreasonable.
As one might expect, the Ultrastar's firmware has been optimized for enterprise workloads and multi-drive RAID environments. A 6Gbps Serial ATA version is shipping now, and a Serial Attached SCSI model is due out in the first half of this year. Hitachi says the Ultrastar 7K3000 will be a little more expensive than the equivalent Deskstar, which is selling for $200 at Newegg right now.