Storage capacity is not the only issue when dealing with hard disks.  The rate with which data can be accessed is also becoming an important factor that may also determine the useful life span of magnetic disk-drive technology.  Although the capacity of hard-disk drives is surging by 130 percent annually, access rates are increasing by a comparatively tame 40 percent.

To improve on this, manufacturers have been working to increase the rotational speed of drives.  But as a disk spins more quickly, air turbulence and vibration can cause misregistration of the tracks, a problem that could be corrected by the addition of a secondary actuator for every head.  Other possible enhancements include the use of fluid bearings in the motor to replace steel and ceramic ball bearings, which wear and emit noticeably audible noise when platters spin at speeds greater than 10,000 rev. per minute.

Many industry onlookers foresee a possible bifurcation in the marketplace, with some disk drives optimized for capacity and others for speed.  The former might be used for mass storage, such as for backing up a company’s historical files.  The latter would be necessary for applications such as
customer service, in which the fast retrieval of data is crucial.

In the past, customers typically preferred a bigger drive at the lowest possible cost, even if the product had slower performance.

But new applications are demanding faster drives.  With electronic commerce over the World Wide Web, for example, companies need to store and retrieve customer data on the fly.  In addition, businesses are deploying an increasing number of dedicated file servers for information that needs to
be shared and accessed quickly by a number of employees.

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