Lassy's terror bite?

LaCieis introducing the first compact 1TB external hard disk device - the LaCie Bigger Disk. It will have dual FireWire 800 ports, one FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 ports. The LaCie Bigger Disk has a 7200 rpm mechanism and transfer rates up to 800Mbits/sec (with Firewire 800). LaCie says it will be 'perfect for workgroups sharing large amounts of data, backing up complete systems and audio and DV use'.

It comes as a stackable desktop device in a 5.25 inch form factor aluminium case, or in rackmount configuration via a containing unit. There is no internal version to fit into server drive bays and it isn't, to state the obvious, a 3.5 inch form factor unit. Both these points appear to put it outside the hard drive mainstream. La Cie says it's for backup or archive of personal data, a whopping great huge pile of it. It could be used as a central backup for some networked workstations or as a form of 'data shuttle' to move very large files between systems.

Olivier Mirloup, LaCie's senior product manager, says, "The Bigger Disk is the first plug and play device with 1TB of storage in a compact 5.25" desktop unit." To which we respond that 5.25 inches is no longer compact by 3.5 inch form factor standards. The device simply won't fit in standard server 3.5 inch bays. That makes it unattractive to Dell, HP and IBM and other server suppliers.

But we're making an assumption that there is one disk inside the device. It's called the Bigger Disk, right? Wrong! Although it is marketed as a 'Bigger Disk' it is in fact made up from four 3.5 inch drives; it's not a disk as such; it's an array. Marketing-speak confuses the issue.

The device is actually constructed from four 3.5 inch IDE drives with 2MB buffers, and configured in a RAID 0 set up with data striped across the component drives. LA Cie has previously introduced its 500GB Big Disk with two IDE drives inside and found it was popular. So much so that other manufacturers started to copy it. Hence the introduction of a double capacity version in a fatter cabinet.

So the device is not for general business use. It's been conceived of and designed for personal and multimedia-intensive applications, not for general server storage purposes. Obviously Seagate, Maxtor and the other drive manufacturers aren't making terabyte drives. No one is. They make drives intended mostly for general server storage use. LaCie is making disk-based arrays for personal or multimedia business use with ease of use, backup and 'data shuutle' applications in mind.

This is why the drive doesn't come with any enterprise-class external connectivity options: neither ATA or SATA; nor SCSI; and not Serial-attached SCSI. The device's promotional material talks about its capacity in terms like this; "(it) allows users to store nearly two years of continuous music and up to one month of non-stop MPEG-2 video."

This marketing stance does not mean that LaCie has stolen a march on Seagate, Western Digital and the other drive manufacturers and got to the terabyte drive level before them. Quite the opposite. LaCie is using their multi-hundred gigabyte drives to build its terabyte 'Bigger Disk' array.

It will no doubt find a home in the graphics, audio and video parts of the media industry where its capacity and plug-and-play nature will ease its adoption. But for business in general the LaCie terabyte device is a non-starter. Its suggested retail price is £699 + VAT and it will be available in mid-February.

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