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2D-RS HDDs

1. 2D-RS HDD Proposal

ECC Tek proposes that some large hard disk drive (HDD) company develop a new class of fault-tolerant disk storage products which are referred to here as two-dimensional Reed-Solomon Hard Disk Drives (2D-RS HDDs).  2D-RS HDDs would have much higher transfer rates than conventional HDDs and a variable level of automatic, built-in backup/fault-tolerance.  2D-RS HDDs would contain a number of Head-Disk Assemblies (HDAs) and a custom controller chip as components.

All of the HDAs in a 2D-RS HDD would be written and read simultaneously. The disks within all of the HDAs would be synchronized so that a 2D-RS HDD would appear to be a conventional HDD but with higher performance and automatic, built-in backup which is impossible in a conventional HDD.

2D-RS HDDs should be developed into commercial products for the following reasons:
  • 2D-RS HDD products will give existing HDD companies a chance of competing against future, advanced-technology mass storage products. HDD companies are currently in a vulnerable position because it is almost certain that at least one of a number of competing advanced solid-state memory technologies such as Memristors, PCM, RaceTrack, Flash and STT-RAM will be successfully implemented in new commercial mass storage products within the next few years, and conventional HDDs probably will not be able to effectively compete against the new storage products because the new products will have much higher performance.
  • 2D-RS HDDs would have much higher transfer rates and a much higher overall performance than conventional HDDs.
  • 2D-RS HDDs which use tiny HDAs as components would have higher performance, consume less space and less power than equivalent capacity conventional HDDs.
  • 2D-RS HDDs could significantly increase revenues and profits at some HDD company because fewer types of components would need to be manufactured, fewer employees would be needed, and a higher percentage of manufactured media could be used in 2D-RS HDD products than can be used in conventional HDDs because of the increased power of the ECC system used in 2D-RS HDDs.
  • 2D-RS HDDs would have automatic, built-in backup eliminating the expense, nuisance and need for RAID controller boards, extra drives and backup software.
  • 2D-RS HDDs would enable some HDD company to make many unique types of 2D-RS HDD models while only manufacturing a few types of HDAs increasing economies of scale and driving down the cost of HDAs.
  • 2D-RS HDDs would allow the use of media that is unusable in conventional HDDs because the 2D-RS HDD ECC system operates on a two dimensional array of data instead of a one dimensional array as is done in conventional HDDs.
  • 2D-RS HDDs have features that are highly desirable and commercially valuable but impossible with conventional HDDs.
  • 2D-RS HDDs have more commercial value than conventional HDDs and therefore they can be priced higher and offer more profit potential than conventional HDDs.

2. Size of Disks used in 2D-RS HDDs

2D-RS HDDs can use HDAs with any size disks.

Some HDD company could develop a 3.5 inch 2D-RS HDD product, a 2.5 inch 2D-RS HDD product, a 1.8 inch 2D-RS HDD product and/or a 1 inch 2D-RS HDD product. The primary differences between 2D-RS HDD products would be in their physical size, storage capacity, power consumption and price.

A 3.5 inch 2D-RS HDD product would use 3.5 inch HDAs as the storage components, a 2.5 inch 2D-RS HDD product would use a 2.5 inch HDAs as the storage components, etc.


3. The 2D-RS HDD Price Issue

One of the reasons 2D-RS HDDs have not yet been developed is because, in the past, many people in the disk industry believed the price of a 2D-RS HDD would be too high compared to the price of a conventional HDD of the same capacity and that, because of their high price, no one would buy them.

It is important that the 2D-RS HDD price issue be immediately addressed and understood so that misconceptions about price do not continue to prevent 2D-RS HDDs from being developed into commercial products.

The 2D-RS HDD price issue is not a simple issue, and it is not quickly or easily understood.

Let’s start our analysis by looking at 3.5 inch 2D-RS HDDs compared to equivalent capacity 3.5 inch HDDs.

For terabyte capacity 3.5 inch 2D-RS HDDs without built-in backup, there will only be a relatively small difference in cost between a 3.5 inch 2D-RS HDD that uses 3.5 inch HDAs and an equal capacity 3.5 inch HDD for the following reasons:
  • The number of disks, number of heads, and number of preamps will be the same.
  • More actuators and motors are used by the 2D-RS HDD, but they are much smaller and the manufacturing volume will be 3 to 5 times what it is for conventional HDD actuators and motors so the price difference is not large.
  • All of the digital electronics to control all of the HDAs in a 2D-RS HDD will be integrated into one 2D-RS HDD controller chip which will not cost significantly more than the electronics in one HDD.
The above assertions are most-likely true for 2.5 inch and 1.8 inch 2D-RS HDDs also, but the time has probably not yet come where the statements are true for 1 inch and .85 inch disks. 3.5 inch, 2.5 inch and probably 1.8 inch, large capacity 2D-RS HDDs without built in backup should not cost significantly more than large capacity 3.5 inch, 2.5 inch and 1.8 inch HDDs. These facts imply that maybe larger diameter 2D-RS HDDs should be developed first, but there is no concrete evidence to support the notion that larger diameter 2D-RS HDDs are too expensive to be viable products.

Even if 2D-RS HDDs cost significantly more than equal capacity conventional HDDs, there are valid and compelling reasons why they still will be viable products.

All readers should agree that “the commercial value of any item” is the amount of money potential buyers are willing to pay for that item.

All readers should also agree that the price of 2D-RS HDDs could decrease significantly and rapidly with manufacturing maturity and manufacturing volume because of the very large economies of scale involved in manufacturing the HDAs.

Consider a 1 TeraByte HDD that costs $100 and a 1 TeraByte 2D-RS HDD that costs $130 – $30 dollars more.

The question that we need to answer is, “would potential buyers be willing to pay $30 extra to get a 2D-RS HDD with automatic, built-in backup and higher performance in place of a conventional HDD?” The answer to that question is not obvious, but there is a significant amount of evidence to suggest that the answer is more likely to be “yes” than “no”.

Commercial value is a subjective thing like beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and commercial value is in the mind of the buyer. Some buyers are willing to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for baseball cards or rare coins. To those buyers, those items have a very high commercial value while to other buyers, they may have no value at all.

An ultra-high-performance, fail-safe hard drive could be worth significantly more to buyers than a conventional HDD. Many buyers would gladly pay a reasonable premium to buy a computer that had a fail-safe hard drive in it with automatic, built-in backup so they would not have to know or do the following things:
  • They would not have to know anything about RAID or even what the RAID acronym stands for.
  • They would not have to worry about losing valuable content that took a long time to create and organize.
  • They would not have to go buy extra drives and a RAID controller board.
  • They would not have to spend time and effort to learn how to install new hardware.
  • They would not have to install the RAID controller board and extra drives.
  • They would not have to buy backup software.
  • They would not have to spend time and effort to learn how to install new software.
  • They would not have to install any extra backup software.
  • They would not have to spend time and effort to get it all to work properly together.
  • They would not have to learn how use it.
  • They would not have to remember to backup data regularly or after any existing file is modified or after any new file is created.
  • They would not have to do anything at all to insure all of their data was backed up all of the time automatically.
It is reasonable to believe that a very high percentage of computer buyers would be willing to pay a reasonable premium to get a computer with a fail-safe hard drive.

For most applications 2D-RS HDDs will have a much higher performance/price ratio than conventional HDDs. That is, 2D-RS HDDs will be able to serve more information in a unit of time than a conventional HDD of the same capacity so they are intrinsically more valuable than conventional HDDs in the same way that a waiter in a restaurant who can serve 100 customers in an hour is more valuable than a waiter who can only serve 10 customers in an hour.

In the past, a common misconception existed in the disk drive industry that a 2D-RS HDD must cost less than a conventional HDD of the same capacity in order for it to be an economically viable product, but that belief is simply not true. Even if 2D-RS HDDs cost more than conventional HDDs of the same capacity, they still can be economically viable products as long as the extra performance and fault-tolerance benefits gained by using a 2D-RS HDD are perceived by potential buyers as being worth at least as much as the price difference.

Many buyers of PC systems, for example, do not hesitate to pay several hundred dollars more for a PC with the fastest possible processor. In the past, Intel charged less than $100 for their slowest processors and over $600 for their fastest processors. Buyers have proven that they believe the extra performance provided by Intel’s fastest processors is worth a “premium” of several hundred dollars. It is reasonable to believe that buyers of 2D-RS HDD products will also believe the extra performance and fault tolerance provided by a 2D-RS HDD is worth a reasonable premium.

Based on the above facts, there does not appear to be any justifiable reason to prevent 2D-RS HDDs from being developed because they may initially cost more than conventional HDDs of the same capacity. If potential buyers are willing to buy 2D-RS HDD products, then it seems reasonable to expect that some HDD company should be willing to manufacture them so everyone will benefit.


4. 2D-RS HDD Pricing Strategy

The price of a 2D-RS HDD product should be based on its features and those features should be priced on a feature by feature basis which justifies the fact that a 2D-RS HDD will probably initially cost more than a conventional HDD.

For example, suppose you went to buy a new PC and were told about two PCs that had exactly the same performance but that one of the PCs took 1.5 minutes to boot-up and the other one took only 10 seconds to boot-up. What would the "fast boot-up feature" be worth? Most people would probably gladly pay $20 more to get the fast boot-up feature.

The fast boot-up PC should also be noticeably faster at running application programs – especially ones that require large file transfers like transferring pictures or video. A certain amount of money could be added to a price of a PC if it has a "fast file transfer feature".

Then there is the "automatic, built-in backup feature". That feature should be priced based upon the amount of backup that is built-in. For example, a 2D-RS HDD that allows one HDA to fail may add an additional $20 to the price, one that allows two HDAs to fail might be priced at $30 more and one that tolerates three HDA failures might be priced at $40 more.

Each feature should be priced individually. Pricing each feature individually makes good sense and is reasonable. That's what is done with automobiles. When you buy a car, you pay for each accessory or feature individually. When you buy a PC with a conventional HDD, you do not have the option of adding those features, but when you buy a PC with a 2D-RS HDD you do.

It would be easy for some HDD company to justify a 2D-RS HDD price that is substantially higher than an equivalent capacity HDD price due to the added features.

This is a perfectly reasonable, rational, logical and fair pricing strategy.

Most people are alike, and they would probably gladly pay a significant premium to get the added features that a 2D-RS HDD can provide and an HDD cannot.


5. Today’s Buyers

It is important to realize that today's buyers are willing to pay whatever it costs to get what they want even if they can't afford it or if the items are overpriced.

Here are some examples:

The iPod. The iPod costs hundreds of dollars while low cost music players are available for less than $20, yet buyers buy them by the millions because they are cool. Even teenagers who can't afford them somehow scrape up the money to buy them.

Cell phones. The biggest market for cell phones is probably teenagers who can't afford them but must have them and find the money to buy them.

SUVs. SUVs are expensive items that the younger generation must have and are willing to buy even though they are expensive and the cost for gas is astronomical.

Coffee. People regularly pay more for a cup of coffee at coffee shops today than they used to pay for an entire pound of coffee that would probably have made a hundred cups of coffee. When I worked at Seagate, I bought a Mr. Coffee coffeemaker and charged 5 cents per cup. It was a profitable business at 5 cents a cup so you can imagine what the profit margin could be at Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, Dunn Brothers, etc. Those companies look at the fact that people are willing to pay a high price for coffee at a coffee shop as an opportunity for them to make large profits.

Rather than looking at the price of a 2D-RS HDD as a negative, it should be looked at as being a positive. It offers some HDD company the opportunity to price an item higher and make more profit.

If cost was the only factor involved in making buying decisions, there would be no market for Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Rolls Royces, Jaguars, multi-million dollar houses, leather coats, jewelry, etc. and on and on. Many buyers are willing to pay high prices for those items because of the perceived benefits of owning those things. The same will be true of 2D-RS HDD products.

2D-RS HDDs should initially be thought about more as luxury items than as commodities.


6. The 2D-RS HDD Downward Cost Spiral

There is a cause and effect cycle as follows: Once 2D-RS HDD products start to sell, there will be a large increase in the manufacturing volume of single disk HDAs, which will cause the costs of HDAs to go down, which will allow the price of 2D-RS HDDs to be reduced, which will cause more 2D-RS HDDs to be sold.

This cycle will repeat and can be thought of as a downward spiral.

As manufacturing volumes of 2D-RS HDDs increase, costs and prices will continually decrease.

One factor that affects the extent of the cost and price drops is the number of HDAs that are in a 2D-RS HDD. A high number of HDAs in a 2D-RS HDD will cause a fast downward cost spiral with a very large cost and price drop.

The most important thing to see is that the early adopters will pay the highest prices for 2D-RS HDDs, but, once they start to take off in the marketplace, prices will drop very rapidly and potentially very far. Nobody knows how far, but it is possible that prices could drop as low as conventional HDD prices – or even lower than conventional HDD prices given enough time and high enough volumes.

It is very important to take the 2D-RS HDD downward cost spiral into consideration when deciding whether or not to develop a 2D-RS HDD product. In other words, disk drive manufacturers must think about what will happen in the future if large numbers of 2D-RS HDDs start selling.


7. Could a 2D-RS HDD Ever Cost Less Than an HDD?

Yes.

Consider a 2D-RS HDD with many HDAs as components and a fair amount of fault tolerance.

Disks or HDAs that do not pass the tests for use in HDDs because of too many errors can be used in 2D-RS HDDs. The cost of the HDAs or disks could be 0 or even a negative number. The cost would be a negative number if it costs money to dispose of unusable disks or HDAs.

HDAs do not have to be tested before installing them in 2D-RS HDDs because the 2D-RS HDD will automatically know which ones are bad and which ones have lots of errors. The 2D-RS HDD controller chip can have built-in logic to test 2D-RS HDDs that use untested HDAs. The cost of testing HDAs can be eliminated.

Once 2D-RS HDDs with a large number of HDAs start selling in large volumes, HDA volumes will be N times the 2D-RS HDD volumes and costs will start to come down very rapidly due to the downward cost spiral.

Because of these factors, it is possible that 2D-RS HDDs could one day cost less than HDDs. When that happens, HDDs will become obsolete for the same reasons that 14" HDDs are now obsolete. There would be no valid reason to buy an HDD over a 2D-RS HDD.


8. Are Buyers Willing to Pay a Premium for a 2D-RS HDD?

Many people probably would gladly pay a reasonable premium to get a fail-safe hard drive with automatic, built-in backup. A survey of potential buyers should be done to see what they say.


9. Human Factors

It is important to take into consideration a number of human factors when trying to determine whether or not it makes sense for some HDD company to develop a 2D-RS HDD product.

When Carl Ledbetter was the CEO of the supercomputer company ETA in St. Paul, MN, he spoke at the University of Minnesota and said he bought a printer for his grandmother, and she was amazed at how fast it could print. Two weeks later, she was complaining about how slow it was. That’s the way people are and is a very typical scenario. There is a never ending desire for more and more speed and higher and higher performance like that provided by 2D-RS HDD products.

There was a famous author who lost the entire manuscript of her book because she had it saved on a hard drive and it crashed. She did not know that data loss was even possible. Some people have lost entire picture albums because of hard drive failures. These types of people would greatly benefit from using a 2D-RS HDD product.

Most normal human beings want automatic, built-in features. They don’t want to have to spend time and money and effort to get RAID controller boards, extra drives or special software and then have to learn how to use all of them. Some people who need backups the most would not know how to do those things. They just want to buy a computer, take it home, plug it in and starting using it without having to worry about losing their data or without having to go do a bunch of other stuff. There is no doubt that most of them would gladly pay a significant premium to get automatic, built-in backup.


10. The Value of Data or Content

In most cases, the data or content created by computer users is much more valuable than the computer hardware and software used to create it. Users may spend hundreds and hundreds of hours to create content and they would be extremely shocked, sad, sorry, unhappy, perplexed, troubled, disappointed, angry, and on and on if they suddenly lost everything because of a hard drive failure.


11. Some HDD Company Competing Against Its Customers

One might object that if some HDD company developed 2D-RS HDD products they would be competing against their storage subsystem customers like EMC, but that is not true because a 2D-RS HDD is equivalent to a very high performance, fault-tolerant HDD. Companies like EMC would still have to assemble 2D-RS HDDs into 2D-RS HDD subsystems.

In order to provide a variable level of automatic, built-in backup, where data is reconstructed on the fly when a component fails, all of the HDAs must be written and read simultaneously so that a 2D-RS HDD really is one functional unit – just like main memory protected by SEC DED is one functional unit. Since a 2D-RS HDD is one functional unit, it makes the most sense for some HDD company to develop it rather than subsystem developers such as EMC.

HDD companies will not sell HDAs to companies like EMC so it would be impossible for companies like EMC to develop a 2D-RS HDD product. Some disk drive company must develop a 2D-RS HDD if one is ever to be developed at all.


12. Comparing 2D-RS HDDs to Previous parallel-transfer HDDs

Multi-head, parallel-transfer HDDs are not new. For many years, Control Data Corporation supplied Cray Research with multi-head, parallel-transfer HDDs. Since this type of product was considered a special product, it was discontinued in Seagate's standard product line. Ibis was another company that manufactured parallel-transfer HDDs.

There are, however, a number of differences between a 2D-RS HDD and previous multi-head HDDs. One of the differences is that all of the HDAs in a 2D-RS HDD are physically separate and independent so that if one HDA fails, it will not affect or cause another HDA to fail. Previous parallel-head HDDs transferred data to and from a parallel set of heads, but all of the heads were inside the same HDA so that a domino failure effect could occur – if one head crashed sending debris out into the enclosure it could cause other heads to crash. For robust failure and fault tolerance, it is important that each head involved in a parallel data transfer be in a separate HDA, as is the case with 2D-RS HDD products.

Another difference between previous multi-head HDDs and 2D-RS HDDs is that each controller chip in the 2D-RS HDD contains a powerful, parallel Reed-Solomon (2D-RS) error-correcting code (ECC) encoder and decoder which enables 2D-RS HDDs to be designed with an arbitrary level of automatic, built-in backup (fault tolerance). The fault-tolerance feature does not adversely affect the performance of the 2D-RS HDD, and, depending on the power of the 2D-RS ECC, a number of HDA components can fail with no loss of data or performance. Reconstruction of potentially lost data is done on-the-fly in real time in hardware.


13. Reasons for Developing 2D-RS HDD Products that use Tiny HDAs

There are a number of good reasons for developing 2D-RS HDD products that use tiny HDAs as components even though, initially, they will be higher priced than conventional HDDs of the same capacity.

In 1987, a Study was conducted by Control Data Corporation on HDD trends. At that time, 3.5 inch HDDs were just beginning to appear so the Study was based on HDDs with diameters of 14”, 8”, 5.25” and 3.5”. The Study found that as HDD physical sizes decreased, the amount of data that could be stored in a cubic volume (GigaBytes per Cubic Inch) was increasing exponentially as illustrated in Figure 1.


Figure 1 GigaBytes per Cubic Inch as a Function of Disk Diameter


Another finding of the Study was that, as the HDDs were made smaller, the number of watts per unit of data (Watts per GigaByte) consumed by the drives was decreasing exponentially as shown in Figure 2.

 

Figure 2 Watts per GigaByte as a Function of Disk Diameter


The results of the Study were surprising and, to some extent, counter intuitive.

Figure 3 and Figure 4 show what the curves in Figure 1 and Figure 2 would look like with speculation for drives of smaller diameters.

Figure 3 GigaBytes per Cubic Inch with Speculation about Smaller Drives


 

Figure 4 Watts per GigaByte with Speculation about Smaller Disks


For those readers who are curious as to why the power consumed by an HDD varies so dramatically with the diameter of the disks, the reason is that the majority of the power consumed by an HDD is consumed by the motor in spinning the disks. Rotating disks are like a fan, there is a lot of aerodynamic drag, and the inertia of a disk varies as the fourth power of radius. In order to maintain the same degree of controllability, the power consumed by the motor also increases as the fourth power of radius!

The results of the Study imply that the smaller the drive is, the better it is in terms of the number of GigaBytes it can store in a cubic inch and in terms of the number of watts the drive consumes per GigaByte.

The following drawings are just illustrations.  They are not meant to be precise but just to illustrate ideas.

From what I’ve been told and from what I could gather from my college physics textbook, the power required to spin a disk in air apparently increases by either r3 or r4 where r is the radius of the disk while the storage capacity increases by r2 as illustrated in the drawing below.


Because the power increases much more rapidly than the capacity, the number of Watts/Gigabyte also increases as illustrated below…


These facts indicate that, from a Watts/GigaByte standpoint, the smaller the disk the better except r must be greater than 0 for the capacity to be greater than 0.

Since the power increases so rapidly, the motor and the power supply must also increase rapidly in size, and it appears that the number of GigaBytes/Cubic Inch will follow a curve something like the curve illustrated below.  I suspect that the diameter at which the GigaBytes/Cubic Inch is a maximum is probably around 1 inch.



These ideas are consistent with actual measurements taken in 1987 (almost 30 years ago) .

For those of us who were involved in the disk drive industry 30 years ago, these facts have the ring of truth.  If anyone remembers the IBM 3370 or 3380, they were refrigerator-sized drives and the number of GigaBytes/Cubic inch certainly had to be a very small number. 

The disk drive industry does not immediately rush to develop smaller and smaller drives for a couple of justifiable reasons. First, when newer and smaller diameter drives are introduced into the market, they are always priced substantially higher in terms of Dollars per GigaByte than older, larger diameter drives because the Dollars per GigaByte prices decrease only with manufacturing maturity and manufacturing volume which takes time as illustrated in Figure 5.

 

Figure 5 HDD Dollars per GigaByte Prices as a Function of Time


The curves in Figure 5 are generally true and accurate, but are not meant to be exact or precise. The curves in Figure 5 illustrate the fact that the introductory Dollars per GigaByte prices of all smaller diameter drives are always much higher than the existing Dollars per GigaByte price of larger diameter drives, that prices will fall with time as a result of manufacturing maturity and large manufacturing volumes and that there are price crossover points. Whenever a price crossover point occurs, the larger diameter drives will most likely become extinct – 14 inch drives are an example.

Initially, every new, smaller drive product cannot compete on a Dollar per GigaByte basis with older, mature products that are being manufactured in high volumes. Therefore, there is naturally a strong reluctance in any existing large disk drive company to start to develop smaller form factor drives because they will not be attractive to customers initially, and they will not initially generate the profit that older drives are generating.

When going to smaller drives, the capacity per drive decreases substantially and, to implement large capacity disk databases, more smaller drives (or components) are needed than if larger capacity drives were used. This increase in the number of components in disk databases decreases the mean time between failures (MTBF) of the database system because the MTBF of a system is inversely proportional to the number of components in the system.

There is an answer to the MTBF problem. The answer is to implement an error-correction system that can automatically correct for component failures, and that is precisely what ECC Tek’s 2D-RS ECC does.

It is sometimes difficult to overcome the initial unatractiveness of smaller form factor drives due to their higher Dollar per GigaByte cost and price. However, in the case of HDAs to be used as components in 2D-RS HDD products, it is important to anticipate manufacturing volumes and to anticipate when there will be another price crossover point. Assume that, on the average, each 2D-RS HDD contains 16 HDA components. Since a 2D-RS HDD is roughly equivalent to an equal capacity conventional HDD, manufacturing volumes of HDAs would be 16x the volumes of conventional HDDs. It’s easy to see that HDA manufacturing volumes could quickly exceed more than 1 billion units per year which would put the HDA component into the same category as a DRAM memory chip as far as manufacturing is concerned since billions of DRAM chips are sold each year. Without a doubt, manufacturing more than a billion HDAs per year would cause an unprecedented drop in HDA costs and prices. Never before in the history of the disk drive industry has the manufacturing volume of a single device even come close to approaching the billion units per year level. Large manufacturing volumes could signal the emergence of a new price crossover point.

2D-RS HDDs developed today using tiny disk HDAs as components will, most-likely, be physically smaller, consume less power and have higher performance than conventional HDDs of the same capacity.

Current tiny drives have been overcome and replaced by Flash memory drives.

Since the beginning of the disk drive industry in 1957, dominant disk drive diameters have stayed at one level for a number of years and then decreased. The most dominant disk drive diameter has gone from 24” in 1957 to 14” to 8” to 5.25” and now to 3.5”. Never has the most dominant diameter increased. There is no reason to believe that this trend will stop.


14. Performance Reasons for Developing 2D-RS HDD Products

Today's hard disk drives are the only components in a modern computer that operate on data one bit at a time! Think of it! Processors in modern PCs can operate on 32-bit or 64-bit chunks of data at a rate of up to 3 GigaHertz, yet conventional HDDs read and write data one bit at a time!

In order for the data transfer rate of an HDD to match the data transfer rates of other parallel-transfer components such as microprocessor chips or main memories, a parallel-transfer HDD or a 2D-RS HDD must be developed.

Any conventional HDD of capacity C can be divided into K, HDA components of capacity C/K which will result in the creation of a 2D-RS HDD with the same capacity but with K times the transfer rate.

The RPM of the component HDAs can be the same or higher than the RPM of a conventional HDD and the HDA disks can be synchronized to each other to create 2D-RS HDDs that will always outperform conventional HDDs of the same capacity. The 2D-RS HDD will be able to read and write data K times faster than an equivalent capacity, conventional HDD and the seek times and rotational latencies should be equivalent or better than those of a conventional HDD.

2D-RS HDDs can be made fault-tolerant with an arbitrary level of built-in fault-tolerance by using a parallel, Reed-Solomon error-correcting encoder and decoder such as the ones designed, developed and patented by ECC Tek.

The performance and level of fault tolerance in all RAID storage systems could be dramatically improved by unplugging the existing, conventional HDDs and plugging in 2D-RS HDDs.


15. Performance Reasons to Develop 2D-RS HDD Arrays

The performance of an HDD array compared to the performance of a 2D-RS HDD array is shown in Figure 6.


 

Figure 6 Performance of HDD Arrays Compared to Performance of 2D-RS HDD Arrays


Given any HDD array with N HDDs, the performance of the HDD array is illustrated in the upper part of Figure 6. The red lines represent the average time it takes to position the heads and the blue lines represent the average time it takes to do an one input or output data transfer.

Given any HDD of capacity C, a 2D-RS HDD of the same capacity that uses K HDAs can always be developed, and the transfer rate of the equivalent capacity 2D-RS HDD will be K times the transfer rate of the HDD while the average time to position the heads will remain the same. Given the performance of any HDD array with N HDDs as shown in the upper part of Figure 6, a 2D-RS HDD array can be developed with N equal capacity 2D-RS HDDs that will clearly outperform the HDD array by a wide margin as illustrated in the lower part of Figure 6.


16. Failure and Fault Tolerance Reasons for Developing 2D-RS HDD Products

With the use of a parallel Reed-Solomon encoder and decoder within each 2D-RS HDD and with R redundant drives in each 2D-RS HDD, up to R drives can fail with no loss of data and performance. In addition, the raw error rates of each component HDA can be much higher than conventional HDD raw error rates because the 2D-RS system can correct any random errors that the conventional RS decoder does not correct.

In most cases, a 2D-RS HDD with one 2D-RS encoder and decoder will be used with N conventional RS encoders and decoders. The conventional RS decoders will correct most of the errors due to defects and random errors in each HDA. The 2D-RS decoder will correct errors that the conventional RS decoders cannot possibly correct – like errors caused by HDA failures, head crashes, etc.


17. Reasons for Developing 2D-RS HDD Products Related to Manufacturing

Manufacturing 2D-RS HDDs instead of HDDs could dramatically reduce the number of types of HDAs that an HDD company would have to manufacture. Today, HDD companies manufacture many different HDD models.

There are some common components in the different models of HDDs, such as common heads and common disks, but it is important to understand that each HDA has its own very precise mechanical characteristics and that those characteristics, such as the resonance frequencies, can change with only slight differences in structure. Because of that, two different HDAs – even though they use the same heads and same disks – may have completely different vibration characteristics and may require two different servo systems. With a 2D-RS HDD, all of the HDAs would be identical and all of the servo systems would be identical.

If an HDD company only manufactured 2D-RS HDDs, it would only have to manufacture a few types of HDAs (possibly only one type) yet could still create literally hundreds of different 2D-RS HDD models by using a different number of data and/or redundant drives in each model. Each 2D-RS HDD model would then have its own level of performance and fault tolerance.

The manufacturing volume of HDAs would be dramatically increased from millions per year to hundreds of millions per year. The HDA components would be assembled into 2D-RS HDDs in the same way as any other component would be.

An HDD company could potentially save millions of dollars quarterly if it gradually switched from designing and manufacturing HDDs to designing and manufacturing 2D-RS HDDs.


18. Reasons for Developing 2D-RS HDD Products Based on More Effective Use of Media and More Profit Potential

ECC Tek is proposing that 2D-RS HDD products be developed that could use media that has been rejected as “unusable” in conventional HDDs because of too many errors and/or defects. Selling 2D-RS HDDs which use highly defective media at normal HDD price levels instead of deeply discounted prices could enable some HDD company to make more effective use of manufactured media and to realize millions of dollars in revenue that otherwise would not exist.

2D-RS HDD products which use media that is unusable in conventional HDDs will, most likely, be much more reliable than standard HDDs because a “lateral”, “horizontal” or “parallel” ECC coding scheme will be used in combination with the conventional, “longitudinal”, “vertical” or “serial” ECC scheme that is used in conventional HDDs. The horizontal ECC literally opens up an entirely new dimension to the problem of correcting errors because now ECC can be applied to a two dimensional array of data items instead of just a one dimensional array of data items as is currently being done in conventional HDDs. No one will be able to legitimately claim that 2D-RS HDD products which use media unusable in conventional HDDs are in any way inferior to standard HDDs. In fact, those types of 2D-RS HDD products will, most likely, be highly superior in performance and reliability to conventional HDDs.

With a number of HDAs ganged together, the new parallel RS decoder and the improved serial RS decoders will have information from multiple, statistically independent sources and the resulting random distribution of errors will be ideally suited for correction using RS codes. The law of large numbers (from statistics) applies to 2D-RS HDDs, and the result is that the statistical or probabilistic behavior of the system will closely follow probabilistic models so the behavior of 2D-RS HDD systems will be very predictable.


19. Reasons for Developing 2D-RS HDD Products Related to Users’ Experience

Users of desktop and laptop computer systems will be willing to pay a premium for a PC or Mac if it has an ultra-fast, failure-tolerant hard drive in it. If a system already costs over a thousand dollars, many users will be willing to pay an additional premium to get a super-duper, ultra-high-performance, fail-safe hard drive in the same way that users are willing to pay a premium to get Intel's fastest and most powerful processors.

Once users use a Pentium PC operating at 3 GHz, they will never be willing to go back to a Pentium PC operating at 250 MHz! There is a market for faster processors because users like them, get used to using them and don't want anything slower once they use them.

The same thing will be true for systems which contain 2D-RS HDDs in place of conventional HDDs. Users will buy them because they will only cost a little more than systems that contain conventional HDDs, but they will be much faster and will have automatic, built-in backup. In a PC, 2D-RS HDDs will accelerate boot up, accelerate all OS disk operations and accelerate application programs. Once users get used to using systems which contain 2D-RS HDDs, they will never go back to systems that use conventional HDDs.

One major impact to users of PCs which contain a 2D-RS HDD instead of a conventional HDD would be that, on power up, the operating system would load into memory almost instantaneously – like an "instant on" computer. Most PC users would love that.

Another impact on computer users would be the increased level of comfort and security a user would feel knowing that, if one or more HDA components fail, no data will be lost. All the user has to do is remove the failing drive component and replace it with a new one – just like replacing a light bulb.

Any application programs that do a lot of disk I/O would also see a significant performance boost – such as programs that download music, movies or pictures.


20. Migration of Technology from Supercomputers to PCs

Approximately 30 years ago, supercomputers had clock rates of around 1 GHz.

Today, many PCs have more computing power than supercomputers did 30 years ago.

Technologies and techniques that were used in past supercomputers are currently being used in PCs.

Since parallel-transfer HDDs were used in past supercomputers, it is likely they will also be used in PCs.


21. A 2D-RS HDD is not the Same as a Conventional RAID System

Conventional RAID systems require much more circuit redundancy than a 2D-RS HDD requires. All of the digital electronics in a 2D-RS HDD can be integrated on one large System on Chip ASIC. Many separate chips are required in a conventional RAID implementation.

2D-RS HDDs can have a variable level of built-in backup or fault-tolerance, and conventional RAID system cannot. Nearly all RAID systems tolerate only one drive failure. Some conventional RAID systems tolerate two failed drives, but there is a severe performance degradation in those systems. No conventional RAID systems can tolerate an arbitrary number of HDA failures as a 2D-RS HDD can.

Reconstruction of lost data in conventional RAID systems takes a very long time and, during that period, the system is susceptible to catastrophic failure. This problem is becoming more severe as capacities of conventional HDDs increase. 2D-RS HDDs can be designed with an arbitrary level of built-in fault tolerance and reconstruction of the lost data can be done in a tiny fraction of the time that it takes in conventional RAID systems without any risk of a catastrophic failure.


22. Legal Issues Regarding ECC Tek Licensing IP

It is important to keep a few things in mind regarding any legal issues having to do with ECC Tek, the parallel RS patent or the 2D-RS HDD technology.

ECC Tek will do everything within its power to avoid any involvement with lawyers or lawsuits. Getting involved with lawyers and lawsuits is the very last thing ECC Tek wants. ECC Tek personnel have read several books on patents and intellectual property issues, have written the PRS Patent (except the claims) and have written all of ECC Tek's Agreements with little help from lawyers. ECC Tek has negotiated all of its Agreements with no help from lawyers. ECC Tek has no intention of suing any other party and wants to avoid litigation at all costs because ECC Tek has seen first hand what extended litigation is like in the case of Rodime’s 7-year litigation with Seagate. Rodime and Seagate were involved with litigation for a long time with an uncertain outcome. ECC Tek does not want that and will do everything it can to avoid that.

The wisest thing for an HDD company to do in situations where advanced technology and IP is involved is to immediately acquire any IP that they think they may have an interest in because then they would own the IP and could completely avoid any possible future litigation regarding that IP. It is the wisest thing to do because the outcome is known. Nobody can ever know the outcome of IP litigation and how long the litigation will take. For example, in the case of Rodime, Seagate spent 7 years in litigation and ended up paying a $45 million settlement. In hindsight, it clearly would have been a much better strategy for Seagate to acquire or license Rodime's patents upfront even if they were overpriced rather than spend 7 years in litigation with an unknown outcome. Judges and juries cannot understand advanced technology and they might as well flip a coin to make their decision as listen to arguments. Most-likely, no judges or juries would understand the parallel Reed-Solomon technology and patent.

An HDD company could avoid litigation and legal fees regarding the parallel RS patent and regarding ECC Tek, by offering to either license the PRS patent or acquire ECC Tek. There are all kinds of different acquisition scenarios that would guarantee an HDD company a desirable outcome with no uncertainty at a reasonable cost.

ECC Tek is open to any kind of reasonable offer from an HDD company to acquire the PRS patent or acquire ECC Tek.

ECC Tek believes now is the right time for the 2D-RS HDD technology to get implemented and will do whatever it can to make that happen.


23. IP Landmines

It is appropriate to use military analogies to get an understanding of certain business situations in highly competitive industries.

If there is a war and the military wants to move into an area that has previously been occupied by the enemy, they must first do their best to detonate or disarm all of the landmines. It takes time, money, and effort and possibly the loss of equipment and lives to do it, but there is no other choice. If they don't do it, they risk a much larger loss of time, money, equipment and life later on.

The landmine analogy applies to high tech businesses today. IP owned by competitors are the landmines. If potential competitors have been in a technology area before some HDD company decides to go into that area, that HDD company may encounter IP landmines. The only reasonable thing to do in that situation is to sweep the area of IP landmines before that HDD company enters that area. IP landmines are detonated or disarmed by acquiring the IP so the HDD company owns it. If the HDD company owns it, it can't hurt the HDD company later on.  The HDD company might suffer some small loss in the process, but it is much better than risking much larger losses later on.

ECC Tek has been in RAID area since 1982. ECC Tek conceived of fault-tolerant HDDs 5 years before the influential 1987 RAID paper entitled "The Case for Redundant Arrays of Independent Disks" was written. ECC Tek knows the history and details of RAID.

ECC Tek has no intention of suing any other party and will do everything within its power to avoid lawyers and any type of litigation. However, that might not be the case if some other party owns ECC Tek's IP.


24. PRS Patent

ECC Tek patented the PRS system almost 20 years ago so no third party can claim that anyone is infringing their IP.


25. ECC Tek has Set the Standard in Space

It seems fair to say that ECC Tek has set the de facto standard for the use of ECC Tek's PRS ECC in space.

ECC Tek is well positioned to set the standard for PRS in 2D-RS HDDs also, but we need some HDD company to make it happen!


26. Endorsements for ECC Tek

"QSS Group, Inc. (QSS – a major subcontractor to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) and NASA GSFC licensed parallel Reed-Solomon (PRS) encoder and decoder designs, written in synthesizable Verilog, from ECC Technologies, Inc. (ECC Tek) for possible use in NASA's next-generation space telescope project recently renamed to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). ECC Tek delivered the PRS designs to QSS and NASA GSFC in a timely fashion and the performance of the PRS designs met JWST project requirements. QSS and NASA GSFC would recommend to any company with a need for PRS ECC to consider licensing PRS designs from ECC Tek.

The following four NASA missions are using ECC Tek's PRS Designs:
  • JWST (James Webb Space Telescope)
  • SDO (Solar Dynamic Observatory)
  • LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)
  • GPM (Global Precipitation Measurement)

NASA GSFC is also using ECC Tek's conventional RS designs in the Magnetospheric MultiScale (MMS) mission."

Alex Kisin
Sr. Staff Electrical Engineer
QSS/NASA GSFC
http://www.qssgroupinc.com/

"Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems has licensed parallel Reed-Solomon (PRS) encoder and decoder designs written in synthesizable Verilog from ECC Technologies (ECC Tek) for use in a space based product. The PRS designs licensed from ECC Tek are working and ECC Tek has provided Raytheon SAS with the necessary support to ensure our success."

Mark Gordon
Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems
P.O. Box 902
2200 East Imperial Highway
Bldg. RE, M/S R07/P540
El Segundo, CA 90245 

"Provigent licensed Reed-Solomon encoder and decoder designs from ECC Technologies, Inc. (ECC Tek), for use in Provigent's broadband [IEEE 802.16] wireless transceiver chip. The modules were designed for ultra-high speed applications, requiring high programmability, and minimal decoder latency. ECC Tek delivered the designs to Provigent on schedule, meeting all of these requirements, and achieving modules optimized for the above constraints. The modules were written in synthesizable Verilog, maintaining Provigent's methodologies, and were easily integrated into the chip. Provigent would highly recommend to any company with a need for ECC IP to consider licensing IP from ECC Tek. ECC Tek proved a reliable source of licensed software, highly capable and responsive."

Michal Katzir
VLSI Manager
Provigent Ltd.4 Adva St.
Herzelia 46764, Israel
http://www.provigent.com/

"NxtWave Communications has licensed a Reed-Solomon decoder core from ECC Technologies, Inc. ECC performed the modeling, design and implementation of the core with a high degree of professionalism. The deliverables in the form of system model, synthesizable Verilog source code, test benches and design documentation exceeded our expectations. The project was executed on schedule and within budget. We highly recommend ECC as a source for this technology."

Bernardo Paratore
VP I.C.Product Development
Applications Engineering
NxtWave Communications
One Summit Square
Langhorne, PA 19047


"Telegrid Technologies, Inc. licensed Reed-Solomon decoder software from ECC Technologies, Inc. On this task, ECC performed the design and implementation of the software with a high degree of professionalism. The final product met our specifications and exceeded our performance requirements. Before starting, ECC made sure they understood our application and as a result, required very little support from our technical personnel. The final product was delivered on schedule and within budget. We highly recommend ECC as a capable and responsive source of licensed software."

Igal Sharret
President
Telegrid Technologies, Inc.
Eatontown, NJ
http://www.telegrid.com/


27. Endorsements for Phil White

"Phil was always a conscientious and capable worker, and was well-liked and respected by his management and co-workers. He made a number of contributions to the development of error-control methods, primarily for mass storage (disc, tape) products, and understands this technology well. I would have no qualms in recommending him for engineering and research work in this field."

Dr. Donald B. Bonstrom (retired)
Former VP & Director of Central Research Labs
Control Data Corporation

"Mr. White is among the most loyal and conscientious employees that I have had the opportunity to supervise at Control Data. I can recommend Mr. White without reservation on both a personal and a professional basis, and I would not hesitate to enlist his help in the future, if the occasion should arise.”

Dr. Robert W. Johnson (retired)
Former General Manager of Research Division
Control Data Corporation

"I have known Phil White for more than [thirty] years. During that time I have never known or been told of any event which would contradict my firmly held opinion of him. He is an unusually sincere and forthright individual without any symptoms of guile or deceit. I would trust him far beyond the limits that would be set for an average individual. His introspective nature and basic honesty are refreshing characteristics in the modern world."

Dr. Meredith (Matt) S. Ulstad (retired)
Former CDC Research Scientist and Part-time Professor

"Phil specializes in logic design, especially on the design of error-correction codes and appropriate hardware. He understands this subject and is a great specialist in this area."

Dr. Vadim Minuhin (retired)
Sr. Consulting Research Scientist
Seagate Technology


28. Endorsements for the 2D-RS HDD Concept

"You did an excellent job in laying out the reasons why arrays of tiny disk drives would be a successful strategy. I think you are right on when you say that people would pay for a high-performance fault-tolerant disk drive [or 2D-RS HDD]. …If one could buy a computer with a “fail-safe” hard drive that was also higher performance, I think it would be a big seller..."

Jay Seaver
Former VP of Advanced Technology
Maxtor Corporation

"This is definitely exciting technology that I could see SGI being an OEM for.... Just as servers are moving from multi-processor clusters to scale computing, your technology does the same for disk storage.... The idea is similar to parallel heads on old CDC disk drives, but does the parallelism using multiple drives.... I could definitely see SGI selling this storage technology."

Raj Das
Former Vice President - Storage
SGI


29. Future Tiny-Dumb Drives

Future tiny-dumb drives could...
  • spin a cylinder in a vacuum at more than 100K RPM
  • use passive magnetic bearings
  • use a feedback control system to position the heads with respect to the media
  • use a fraction of the power of existing tiny drives
  • be assembled into 2D-RS HDDs and greatly affect the HDD industry!
Download Tiny Drive Technology document: http://www.ecctek.com/tinydriv.pdf

For those who think it is impossible for a drive to be developed with a rotational speed in excess of 100,000 RPM, please note that Calnetix has developed high-speed motors that can operate at over 450,000 RPM.