Seagate eyes brighter future after tough year

Hard drive maker Seagate Technology believes it has turned the corner following layoffs, restructuring and a loss of $US530 million on revenue of $US6.8 billion for the past 12 months. In its most recent quarter the company rebounded, netting a profit of $US22 million on revenue of $US1.6 billion.

Hard drive maker Seagate Technology believes it has turned the corner following layoffs, restructuring and a loss of $US530 million on revenue of $US6.8 billion for the past 12 months.

In its most recent quarter the company rebounded, netting a profit of $US22 million on revenue of $US1.6 billion. But the ongoing efforts of Seagate's new CEO, Stephen Luczo, to get the $US6.8 billion company out of its financial slump and revitalise its business model will be closely scrutinised following former CEO Al Shugart's ousting by the company's board of directors in July.

US analysts cite increased competition from relatively new players Fujitsu, Maxtor and IBM as partly to blame for the company's previous losses, and Dave Anderson, Minnesota-based director of Seagate's system storage architecture division, says there was also a general market slowdown.

"The worst is behind us," says Anderson, who is responsible for defining and marketing Seagate's hard drive architecture, though he acknowledges there is still a lot of pressure in the industry.

Andersen, on a fleeting educational visit for media and customers, believes Luczo will be good for the company. Though he says he has great respect for Shugart, Luczo is "young and technically far more astute" across the range of the company's technology. Industry stalwart Shugart's greatest expertise was in the low end of the PC market, he says.

Andersen believes the concepts of network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SANs) will cause a sea-change in storage perceptions for both customers and vendors. A SAN is a specialised network that enables fast, reliable access using a diverse mix of technologies such as fibre channel, FDDI, ATM and IBM's SSA; protocols, including TCP/IP and variants of SCSI; and storage types — mainframe disk, tape and RAID — to be shared by different kinds of servers.

NAS is essentially a mini-SAN for LAN segments that is able to deliver some of the same benefits. A NAS device is a specialised server that does nothing but serve up files. It attaches directly to the LAN like any other node. Andersen says the full SAN technology set including disk sharing and full management technology will not be available until about 2001, but the "physical parts" — host adapters, fibre channel links and drives, etc — can be bought now from a number of vendors.

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