The entire server market - from PC to Unix to mainframe - is set to be thrown into turmoil over a worldwide lack of 4Gb and 2Gb hard disk drives.
In November IBM's PC Company stopped shipping high-capacity Quantum drives because of a fault in the unit. The problem occurred during intensive disk operations and was put down to the on-board disk drive firmware.
To resolve the problem it offered customers the choice of replacing the firmware with a previous version where the problem did not occur, or replace the drive with IBM's own hard drives.
Leslie Finn, marketing manager for Quantum Europe, was unable to comment on the company's OEM agreement with IBM, but said demand for high capacity drives was outstripping supply. "We have experienced an incredible demand for 2Gb and 4Gb drives. Demand is going through the roof. I am not surprised there is a scarcity in the market."
The drives in question use the latest magneto-resistive (MR) head technology to squeeze as much capacity as possible onto the hard disks. David James, technical marketing manager at Xyratex Test Systems, which provides test equipment for drive manufacturers, believes suppliers can't build reliable drives. He added manufacturers unfamiliar with the technology cannot produce MR drives in volume.
"The MR sensor is a special piece of technology. Major process and chemical issues have to be addressed," James said, adding that the MR head requires a whole new regime for handling in the clean room. For instance it is sensitive to static and prone to chemical contamination from materials such as adhesives that are used within drives.
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