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In an effort to create a fully integrated hard disk drive (HDD) manufacturer, Western Digital Corp. acquired ST Microelectronics’ hard drive controller (HDC) development team along with intellectual property and design tools. The company believes that with media, heads and controllers developed inside the company it can accelerate time-to-market of its products as well as make manufacturing more efficient overall.

“In June, in a further strategic step to accelerate our technology development and deployment, we acquired the hard drive controller IP rights, design tools, and design team from ST Microelectronics. This in-house HDC capability will enhance the efficiencies of our development process with our existing SOC supply partners,” said John F. Coyne, president and chief executive officer of Western Digital.

According to the head of the company, WD has been working hard to gain financial resources and to gather the fundamental technology capability to improve the fundamental efficiency from an engineering perspective and drive the business forward.

“When you own all of the technology pieces, you can better and more efficiently and more timely put together the optimization of the system, and so we did that with heads, we did it with media, and we’ve now brought HDC controller design and development back into the company again. We have had it outside for maybe eight years, I guess, something in that range,” said Mr. Coyne.

Hard disk controller is a critical component of a hard disk drive that allows the system to communicate with the disk via a bus interface (e.g., Serial ATA) in the most efficient way. Usually hard drive manufacturers develop their controllers themselves, co-develop with their suppliers or acquire existing models.

“So we brought that capability back in house and the objective there is to improve the efficiency […]. Just like all of our competitors have their own HDC capability, we now have that [too] and therefore all of the firmware that we write to operate that HDC core can now be common across our multiple drive platforms. We will continue to then embed that technology into the SoCs, paired up with the best channel and the best execution with our existing SoC suppliers,” explained John F. Coyne.

With in-house HDC design team it can be expected that WD will be able to enter new markets of hard drives at a faster pace.

It is interesting to note that Western Digital was a designer of storage, communications, video controllers as well as logic-processing units until 1988, when it acquired hard drive business from Tandon Corp.


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