Performance Summary: Seagate's Cheetah 15K.6 is an impressive beast, and showcases what modern platter-based storage technologies are capable of. It's definitely a more brute-force approach to storage compared to modern solid state hard drives, but the end results are impressive nonetheless. This 15,000 RPM drive is capable of pushing between 160-170 MB/s speeds for both reads and writes, a very solid improvement compared to prior generations of high-end SCSI or SAS disks. Considering the drives are also capable of holding 450 GB of data, all in all, this is an impressive technological accomplishment. For comparison, our fastest reference 10K SATA drive (WD's VelociRaptor) only stores up to 300 GB of data and peaks at about 120 MB/s read/write speeds.
Of course, there are caveats with the new Cheetah. As you would expect from a drive that spins a series of metal discs at 15,000 RPM, it's not as silent as a desktop-class hard drive. In a closed case environment, the Cheetah 15K.6 drive is tolerable, but don't expect it to be very quiet. Also, it runs substantially hotter than traditional 10,000 RPM hard drives, but is certainly manageable with proper airflow. Also worth mentioning is that you will need a SAS controller in order to run this drive, which can run anywhere from $100 to $1000 on top of the price of the drive itself. Interestingly enough, we've seen some information that more motherboard manufacturers will be integrating SAS controllers on desktop-class boards for their next-generation products, which reduces the cost of entry significantly, should this come to pass.
If you're putting together a high-end workstation or server setup, a couple of Cheetah 15K.6 drives connected via a high-end RAID controller can produce fantastic results. With our four-drive RAID-0 array, we were able to hit nearly 1400 IO's/second, which is pretty amazing for platter based storage, and should certainly be enough horsepower for most modern workstation scenarios. Three or four of these drives in RAID-5 delivers an exceptional performing setup with high reliability as well. These drives are built like tanks and have five year warranties. Given that there is still some uncertainly as to how SSD's will perform three, four, or five years down the line, we can imagine that traditional platter based drives such as this will still be popular in the high-end workstation and server markets.
While SSDs have made major strides in terms of upping performance and cutting costs, they currently don't match the price/performance ratio of a drive like the Cheetah 15K.6. Assuming you don't have an issue dealing with the 15K.6's power consumption, noise, and heat production, the 15K.6 can deliver excellent performance and more capacity with Seagate's top of the line 450 GB model.