Seagate is spearheading a new initiative in conjunction with the SATA IO Commission to bring sanity to the SATA interface and allow for mass storage devices that can be quickly swapped between devices such as PCs, DVRs, or docking stations. This initiative is called USM, or Universal Storage Module, and Seagate hopes to make this acronym as ubiquitous as USB in the near future.
USM is a specification rather than a product, and Seagate has reportedly been working on this initiative with the SATA IO Commission to ensure that other companies can develop products based on this spec (be it competing or complimentary) without having to pay licensing fees to do so. What’s that you say? You don’t believe that Seagate is doing this out of the kindness of their hearts? What’s in it for them? That is exactly what we asked them.
While Seagate would like you to believe they are doing this for the good of the industry, any altruism takes a back seat to the bottom line as is generally the case. As a pioneering partner of this specification, Seagate already has a plethora of products ready to launch and a 1 year+ head start on the rest of the industry. Also by opening up the specification they hope to create an ecosystem of products that accept these storage modules and in turn help them sell more shiny platters. The thought process behind this is that proprietary interfaces have a pretty shaky track record of success (unless you’re fortunate, or large, enough to make one become industry standard) and by opening it up there is a greater chance of mass adoption by third party companies and consumers which translates into profits for Seagate.
The specification is actually rather simple. It states the X, Y and Z heights of the drive container (for hot-swap caddy style implementations) as well as the location of the bog standard SATA+Power connectors you find on any 2.5 or 3.5 inch SATA drive today. In addition it dictates the position of the host receptacle the drive plugs into to ensure compatibility between devices. The dream is to be able to plug one into a DVR or similar device and then be able to simply yank it out like a USB drive and plug it into your computer in another room to watch your recorded shows, or transfer files to and from the drive.
To ensure flexibility, and future proofing the specification allows for dongles which can connect to any interface. For instance if you have a USB 2.0 dongle, you could go out and purchase a USB 3.0 or Firewire dongle and be able to connect the same drive to those ports by simply swapping the dongle to match the desired port. This should in theory allow you to connect the drive to current and future interfaces as they are developed. S|A