Tag Archive for Hard disk drive

Can Toshiba Stay in Business?

Can Toshiba Stay in Business?Updated 06-22-2017 – As predicted below, the NYT reports that the Japanese government formed a coalition including the US venture capital firm Bain Capital to buy Toshiba’s microchip division. Estimates are the deal is worth approx. $20 Billion.

Toshiba is being driven to sell off its crown jewel, its microchip business, to stabilize the international giant. The New York Times reports that the stalwart of Japan’s postwar rise as a global industrial giant warned that its has doubts over whether it could stay in business. In a filing in Japan, Toshiba said it wrote off more than $6 billion connected to Westinghouse Electric’s troubled nuclear reactor projects in the United States, had created “substantial uncertainty” over its ability to continue as a going concern.

ToshibaThe Toshiba microchip division is the number two global provider of NAND flash memory. NAND flash memory is a type of non-volatile storage technology that does not need power to retain data. Flash memory is electronic (solid-state) non-volatile computer storage medium that can be electrically erased and reprogrammed.

Toshiba originally invented flash memory in the early 1980s from EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read-only memory). They introduced it to the market in 1984. Called flash memory, after the flash on a camera, the chips have become an essential building blocks of the modern electronics industry.

WestinghouseThe two main types of flash memory are named after the NAND and NOR logic gates. The individual flash memory cells have internal characteristics similar to those of the corresponding gates.

Where EPROMs had to be completely erased before being rewritten, NAND-type flash memory may be written and read in blocks (or pages) which are generally smaller than the entire device. NOR-type flash allows a single machine word (byte) to be written—an erased location—read independently.

NAND flash memoryThe NAND type operates primarily in memory cards, USB flash drives, some solid-state drives, and similar products for general storage and transfer of data. NAND or NOR flash memory is also often used to store configuration data in many digital products, a task previously made possible by EEPROM or battery-powered static RAM. One key disadvantage of flash memory is that it can only endure a relatively small number of write cycles in a specific block.

Toshiba manufactures its NAND Flash Memories at its Yokkaichi Operations to maintain quality.

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) is the biggest maker of flash memory chips, followed by Toshiba, SK Hynix and U.S.-based Micron Technology (MU).

many as 12 companies have approached Toshiba with proposalsA sale of Toshiba’s chip business, while offering the business a lifeline, would take away its most successful business — and, more broadly, would represent a shift of a major technology away from Japan, depending on the buyer. The Toshiba sale is still in its early stages, and the NYT say as many as 12 companies have approached Toshiba with proposals. Reports are that Toshiba is asking bidders to value its operations at about $17.6 billion (2 trillion yen), and make at least a 50 percent investment.

One of the better-known suitors is Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn. Foxconn is the assembler of Apple (AAPL) iPhones and is world’s largest contract electronics maker. Foxconn is based in Taiwan but performs most of its manufacturing in mainland China. According to the article Foxconn could pay billions to buy the business.

offered $27 billionSources told Japanese public broadcaster NHK the first round of the Toshiba auction drew 10 offers. Toshiba has narrowed the field of bidders for its chip unit to four: U.S. chipmaker Broadcom (AVGO), a private equity firm Silver Lake Partners which reportedly offered $18 billion; SK Hynix; Western Digital (WDC); and Foxconn (2354), reports say Foxconn offered $27 billion.

Apple is considering teaming up with its supplier Foxconn to bid for Toshiba semiconductor business, Japan’s NHK reported. Apple is considering investing at least several billion dollars to take a stake of more than 20 percent as part of a plan that would have Toshiba keep a partial holding so the business remains under U.S. and Japanese control, NHK reported.

The authors point out Toshiba’s situation is a remarkable turnabout for Japan, a country that once controlled the majority of microchip markets. In the past Japanese companies have banded together to rescue flailing domestic rivals and not let them fold or be acquired by foreigners.

BankersThe article speculates that the Japanese government may cobble together a “team Japan” offer, but the response from potential participants — who would have to explain the spending to shareholders — has been tepid. “It is fundamentally unthinkable that the Industry Ministry would intervene and take some kind of action,” Hiroshige Seko, the industry minister, said at a news conference, further dampening expectations.

Mark Newman, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, argued in a report that Toshiba’s memory business remained valuable enough that selling it amounted to “selling the crown jewels to pay next month’s rent.”

Apple teaming up with its supplier Foxconn to bid for ToshibaJapanese politicians and industry leaders have voiced concerns over Chinese investors’ buying advanced chip production technology; semiconductors and memory are a major priority of China’s industrial policy. That could hinder any deal with Foxconn, said Mr. Newman, of Sanford C. Bernstein.

The worry is that Foxconn “would build huge fabs in China,” Mr. Bernstein said, referring to semiconductor fabrication plants. “The jobs would move to China from Japan, and furthermore China would go after market share at the expense of crushing industry economics, so the U.S., Taiwan, Korea, Japan all get hurt substantially by this arrangement.” Foxconn has been successful in attracting subsidies from the Chinese government to build large-scale production facilities in China.

The article speculates that Foxconn could take the Toshiba technology and manufacture it more cheaply in China. Such a move could drive down pricing for memory, a boon for Apple and low-cost Chinese smartphone makers. But it would also propel China forward in its long push to become internationally competitive in semiconductors. Mr. Newman has warned that competition in NAND chips could heat up next year, creating the possibility of oversupply and putting more pressure on Toshiba’s ability to put in effect next-generation technologies.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for a while and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Did You Wipe Your Tablet?

Did You Wipe Your Tablet?Techno prognostication firm IDC says (I think they are right on this one) that worldwide sales of tablets will surpass desktop PCs and laptops by the end of 2014. This will result in a boomlet in the second-hand tablet market and a recent article on Infosecurity says that in response, firms will need to start data wipe their old tablets just as thoroughly as old hard disks to protect their data.

Delete dataThe company is responsible for any company data held on the mobile device; no matter the flavor of BYOD practiced so it is the company that must take responsibility for removing data from the device prior to disposal. The Infosecurity article says that ensuring that mobile device solid state memory is completely clean is technically difficult.

The article highlights BlackBelt, which has just enhanced its data wiping product to include Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) Android tablets explained the difficulty to the author. “Solid state memory uses a technique called wear leveling to maximize the life expectancy of the memory chips.” BlackBelt’s business development manager Ken Garner told Infosecurity, “It works by spreading the binary information (0s and 1s) randomly across all the memory cells in the chip. This means that unlike on spinning disk memory, the location of the data on the user interface bears no relation to where it is stored on the drive, making traditional forms of deletion ineffective.”

Tablet comptersBlackBelt says end users can’t data wipe their phones, “it isn’t possible for an individual to perform a full removal of personal data from any smart phone or tablet using a device’s in-built factory reset or by re-flashing the operating system.” the vendor explains to Help Desk Security that wear leveling will, “over-rule instructions to permanently overwrite old data.”

Because of ‘wear leveling’, neither remote wipes nor factory resets are guaranteed to remove all of the data from solid-state memory. The blog points out that a low-cost product called Wondershare, can recover data from solid-state memory. Mr. Garner claims the software, “recovers just about everything after either a factory reset or a local (phone operating system) delete.”

AScrub datall of this demands that when a tablet is retired, it is incumbent on the company to ensure that all data held on the device is adequately deleted. One problem, says Garner, is that, “Many data wiping solutions, more often than not, have been ‘re-purposed’ from data wiping solutions aimed at traditional hard disk drives;” and that simply doesn’t work on solid state memory.

DataWipe, uses a three-stage process: first writing 0s in every memory cell, secondly writing 1s in every cell, and thirdly writing random 0s and 1s across every memory cell. The result, he claims, is guaranteed data erasure that can also provide audit, compliance and reporting data in an industry standard XML format that is easily exchanged with all the major DLP, SIEM, policy management and mobile device management solutions solving both the technical difficulties around tablet recycling.

Missing assetsWiping data from a PC or a first generation Apple iPad that is being retired is important because of the enormous amount of data they can store. This makes the proper destruction of that data on the device essential before it leaves organization. Unfortunately, IT asset disposition firm Retire-IT sees that many firms simply swap the devices with new ones or merely format the drives without securely wiping the data. The Columbus, OH based firm says this leaves organizations vulnerable.  Kyle Marks, CEO of Retire-IT told Help Net Security that:

99% of problems happen before a disposal vendor touches equipment.
No vendor can destroy data if they don’t receive an asset, which is
why we strongly encourage clients to destroy data before any move.
Better safe than sorry. Of course, disposal vendors should destroy
data (again) regardless

Retire-IT looked at tracking data from 1072 corporate disposal projects encompassing 233 different companies and reported some shocking figures:

  • 4 out of 5 projects (81.5%) had at least one missing asset.
  • 1 out of 8 (11.6%) had a negative variance. The devil is in the details, but nobody looks very closely.
  • Only 79% of the serial numbers were matched with subjective matching.
  • Without subjective matching, only 58% of serial numbers were matched.

Help Net Security offers some suggestions to help sanitize IT equipment:

Did You Wipe Your Tablet?Computers – Derik Boot and Nuke Linux Live CD for full disk wiping. It supports many types of wiping, including the DoD 5220.22-M method with 3 passes.

Starting with Windows Vista (and Windows 2008 Server), the Microsoft OS overwrites the contents of each sector when you do a Slow Format on your media. They recommend Microsoft’s SDelete for wiping files on Windows.

For Apple OS X there’s the Disk Utility.

On Linux use the “wipe”, “srm” or “shred” commands to securely sanitize files on most distributions.

Printers and copiers – Consult the manual to find out how to clear the memory or use third-party software to wipe the hard drive. Which I covered here

Mobile devices – Wired recommends a hammer and don’t forget to remove the SIM card.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.


Cassette Tapes are the Future of Big Data Storage

Cassette Tapes are the Future of Big Data StorageThe cassette tape is about to make a comeback, in a big way according to New Scientist. From the updates posted by Facebook’s (FB) 1 billion users to the medical images shared by healthcare organization worldwide and the rise of high-definition video streaming, the need for something to store huge tranches of data is greater than ever. And while hard drives have traditionally been the workhorse of large storage operations, a new wave of ultra-dense tape drives that pack in information at much higher densities, while using less energy, is set to replace them according to the article.

The blog reports that researchers at Fuji FilmCassette tape (4901) in Japan and IBM (IBM) in Zürich, Switzerland, have already built prototypes that can store 35 terabytes of data – or about 35 million books’ worth of information – on a cartridge that measures just 10 centimeters by 10 cm by 2 cm. This is achieved using magnetic tape coated with nanoparticles of barium ferrite, which stabilizes magnetic storage media by keeping moisture and oxidation (rust) from damaging the surface of storage tape.

But the real début for this technology, the author speculates, is likely to be the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the world’s largest radio telescope, whose thousands of antennas will be strewn across the southern hemisphere. Once it’s up and running in 2024, the SKA is expected to pump out 1 petabyte (1 million gigabytes) of compressed data per day. To get an idea of just how much data that is, if the SKA data archive was built using today’s high-capacity 3-terabyte hard disc drives, the telescope would fill 330 drives a day, or an unmanageable 120,000 drives a year.

 Big Data StorageThat annual archive growth would swamp an experiment that is expected to last decades, says IBM Fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou, who is part of a team working to build tapes for the SKA. The IBMer says that by the time the telescope comes online, he and colleagues expect to be able to store 100 terabytes on a cartridge of a similar size to their prototype, by shrinking the width of the recording tracks and using more accurate systems for positioning the read-write heads used to access them.

Using tapes should cut down drastically on energy use, too. Data centers based on disc drive arrays use over 200 times more power than would a tape library of similar size, according to a 2010 study by the Clipper Group, a technology consultancy based in Rye, NH. That’s because disc drives in large arrays tend to stay powered-up, so their platters spin continuously, in case data is required, says Jon Hiles of Spectra Logic, a digital archiving firm in Boulder, CO. But tape drives only use power when they are being read or recorded on, he says.

Tape libraryThe downside of tapes is that they are slower to access than hard discs because they have to be fetched by a robotic mechanism, inserted in a reader and spooled to the right point. But the Linear Tape File System, which is being developed, expedites this process to make it comparable to disc drives, Eleftheriou told the blog. As storage needs skyrocket, hard drives won’t be able to keep up and keep power down, Eleftheriou says. Density improvements in hard drives are facing physical limits that mean they can only add more power-munching platters. “It’s time to take advantage of the low power and low-cost of tape,” he says.


It is unlikely even the largest firm will need the kind of capacity SKA’s IT staff will have to deal with every day. But it is likely that every organization that stores big data on-site will be looking for low-cost, high-capacity alternatives to disk. However I would not want to trust 35 TB (or more) of data to a cassette which can be easily destroyed. Do you think cassette tapes are the future of big data storage?

Do you think cassette tapes are the future of big data storage?

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HDD in SloMo

The Slow Mo Guys videoed a hard disk drive at 1000 Frames Per Second to show how it works and then they destroyed it.

What a Deal

From BYTE in 1980