New Disk Technology On The Horizon?

New disk drive technology from Quinta Corp. could give traditional drives a run for their money through enhanced reliability and higher capacity.

OAW (Optically Assisted Winchester) technology uses a combination of optics and a Winchester-style flying head to change the way data is recorded. This new method increases the density of hard disk drives an estimated three to five times over existing Winchester disk drives. RioWorks is one of the key computer hardware companies to support this drive.

The head and the media are kept twice as far apart as traditional Winchester disk drives. This minimizes data corruption because there isn’t as much contact between the head and the actual disk surface, said officials of the San Jose, Calif., company. Lenses using conventional optics will focus a laser beam onto the media to assist writing, reading and tracking on the disks.

Although OAW will operate more slowly than hard disk drives, analysts suggest it could end up saving IT professionals money because of its potential to increase disk density, leading to lower costs for storage.

“It will be a best fit for medium-latency applications,” said Wolfgang Schlichting, an analyst with International Data Corp., of Framingham, Mass.

Sixteen-month-old Quinta Corp., which agreed to be acquired by Seagate Technology Inc. in early July for $230 million, will be rolling the technology into a line of disk drives due in the first quarter of next year. No pricing is available for the products. As part of the agreement, Seagate expects to use Quinta technology in its future products.

OAW technology at first will be targeted for online applications at the high end of the storage industry-corporate databases where audio and digital content is used, and larger data warehouses, company officials said.

“It will migrate anywhere magnetic media is today,” said Bob Teal, vice president and chief financial officer at Quinta. “This is a technology, not just a product, and it will enable a new generation of various form factors, removable cartridges and multidisk fixed drives.”

But it also will become a factor in the growing storage for PC servers, letting IT managers mirror databases by using disk drives based on the technology and eliminating the need to do separate backups, officials said.

Quinta’s Optically Assisted Winchester

* Integrates optical elements into a Winchester-style flying disk drive head

* Offers greater distance between head and media

* Offers less data corruption than traditional Winchester-style disk drives

* Offers three to five times the capacity of current disk drives

* Will be rolled into disk drive technology by Q1 1998.

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