Technology watchers around the world cheered late February 2000 when Seagate announced the long rumored Cheetah X15, the world's first drive to reach a spindle speed of 15,000 rotations per minute. The X15's low access times allowed the drive to shatter performance records. Seagate enjoys a reputation of being first to hit new spindle speeds- 15k RPM was no exception. The X15 stood alone for more than a year as the sole offering representing a higher level of performance. Seagate's monopoly always ends, however... as the new technology matures, competitors roll out their designs.
As usual, Big Blue is the first to join Seagate at a higher spindle speed, this time with its Ultrastar 36Z15. Thankfully, unlike its previous first-generation unit at 10k RPM, IBM's new offering comes in a low profile, 1" high form factor. The 36Z15 flagship features 6 platters each storing 6.1 gigabytes of data... a net capacity of 36.7 GB. This assembly features a 4.2 millisecond seek time. An 18 GB model will also be available. Rather than utilizing the three platters that one would expect, the smaller unit uses four. Through distribution of 18 gigabytes of data across four six-gig platters, the smaller 36Z15 shaves specified seek times down to 3.4 milliseconds. Both drives come equipped with a four-megabyte buffer.
In this review we'll take a look at the flagship 36.7 gig unit. We hope to examine the 18 GB model in the near future. When reviewing SCSI drives, we usually stick to 68-pin LVD models. At the time of testing, however, IBM could only offer us an 80-pin SCA unit along with an adapter to convert the drive down to standard 68-pin data and 4-pin Molex power connections. To expedite results, we accepted the SCA drive. The results presented below also represent the 68-pin LVD unit.
As a drive meant to take on the Cheetah X15. the Ultrastar 36Z15 aims squarely at enterprise-level server and high-end workstation markets where speed is the utmost of concerns. Its 36-gig capacity, double that of Seagate's first-generation X15, allows deployment in capacious applications that previously had to stick to 10k RPM offerings. IBM backs the drive with a 5-year warranty.
Let's see how the 36Z15 stacks up in low-level tests!