512e Drives – what are they?

Hard DriveWe’ve recently had some customers inquire about HP’s new 512e drives (sometimes called 4K Sector drives) and decided to create a blog post to answer some common questions.

What does “512e” stand for?

512 = 512 bytes
e = emulation

Okay great, but what does that mean?

The drives currently in production will conform to the new industry standard of 4,096-byte (4k or 4 KiB) sector size.  This is eight times the previous standard of 512-byte sectors, which has been the standard size for over half a century.  Bottom line here is – the new standard allows for a great deal more data to fit on the same-sized physical media. This is a huge development for the storage industry.

Why are these 512e drives so expensive?

Like any other major technological advancement, it’ll take some time for the market to settle on pricing for these 512e drives.  In the meantime, early adopters will pay a bit of a premium until the supply (increased production as a result of increased demand) brings down cost of production per drive.

Are these drives compatible with my current (512-byte) server hardware and operating systems?

Absolutely! That is where the ‘e’ comes in. The drive manufacturers use emulation to produce backward-compatible drives that support all the current hardware and software.  More information on this topic here.

What’s the bottom line?

As of now (2015), 99% of our customers are opting to use the legacy drives instead of being early adopters of the new 4K standard, due to the value difference ($ per GB) but anyone that is populating a Gen8 or newer server from scratch (or wants to upgrade ALL of their drives) should certainly consider moving to the new standard.

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