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Western Digital Corporation (WDC)

Contributor(s): Wesley Chai

Western Digital Corporation (often referred to as WDC, Western Digital) is a data storage device manufacturer founded in 1970 and headquartered in San Jose, Calif. WDC is known for designing, developing, manufacturing and marketing hard disk drives (HDDs), NAND flash-based storage devices, solid-state drives (SSDs) and enterprise storage platforms.

Western Digital Corporation sells its products under the following brands: Western Digital, G-Technology, SanDisk and WD. Enterprise data storage products are sold under the Western Digital brand. Personal hard drives, flash drives and memory cards are sold under the G-Technology, SanDisk and WD brands.

Throughout its history, Western Digital Corporation has pioneered advancements to data storage controllers and various types of hard drives. After acquiring Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) in 2012 and SanDisk in 2016, Western Digital Corporation became a combination of three Fortune 500 companies.

Business units include data center devices and platforms, client devices, content and retail, and Automotive, Mobile and Emerging (AME) market segments. Recently, Western Digital Corporation has been positioning itself in the market as a data infrastructure company.

History

Western Digital Corporation was founded by Alvin B. Phillips on April 23, 1970, as a mean opinion score (MOS) test equipment manufacturer. Initially, the company was known as General Digital. After receiving additional funds from investment money, the company started manufacturing specialty semiconductors. In 1971, General Digital became known as Western Digital Corporation and released its first product, a universal asynchronous receiver/transmitter (UART). By 1975, Western Digital Corporation became the largest independent manufacturer of calculator chips. In the late 1970s, Western Digital Corporation introduced several more products, such as the MCP-1600 multichip, microcoded central processing unit (CPU) and the FD1771 floppy disk controller.

In the early 1980s, Western Digital Corporation began manufacturing HDD controllers. In 1982, the Winchester disk drive controller was introduced. In 1983, Western Digital Corporation won a bid to provide IBM with a controller for its PC/AT, resulting in the WD1003 controller. By 1985, storage controller sales became the main source of revenue, with Western Digital Corporation providing controllers for the major PC companies at the time: IBM, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Tandy.

In the mid-1980s, Western Digital Corporation ventured into new business initiatives, such as collaborating with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop the Nu machine artificial intelligence (AI) computer that was sold to Texas Instruments (TI). In the late 1980s, Western Digital Corporation began to focus on supplying original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with hard disk storage with an acquisition of drive manufacturer Tandon. Western Digital Corporation also purchased several other small manufacturers around this time: Adaptive Data Systems, Paradise and Verticom.

In 1991, Western Digital Corporation's sales started to shift from hard disk controller boards to other products, such as the Caviar drives, which were found in many different types of personal computers (PCs) at the time. In 1994, Western Digital Corporation became the first multinational U.S.-based company to receive ISO 9001 status from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) .

In 1998, Western Digital Corporation partnered with IBM for the rights to use IBM technologies, resulting in the Expert drive product family. The agreement gave it access to several IBM technologies, such as giant magnetoresistive (GMR) heads.

In 2001, Western Digital Corporation became the first manufacturer to offer mainstream Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) HDDs with 8 megabytes of disk buffer, which was a vast improvement over 2 MB, which was standard at the time. In 2003, Western Digital Corporation acquired most Read-Rite Corporation's assets and offered the WD360GD Raptor, the world's first 10,000 revolutions per minute (rpm) Serial ATA (SATA) HDD. In 2006, Western Digital Corporation released its My Book external hard drives. Western Digital Corporation acquired Komag, a magnetic media maker, in 2007 and introduced perpendicular recording technology to its desktop drives. In the next two years, the eco-friendly WD GreenPower (GP) line of drives was released, along with the WD VelociRaptor series. In 2009, Western Digital Corporation created the first 2 terabyte (TB) internal HDD and entered the SSD market by acquiring SiliconSystems. 2009 also brought about the introductions of the first 1 TB HDD and the first 3 TB internal HDD.

In 2012, Western Digital Corporation became the largest manufacturer of traditional hard drives in the world with the completed $4.3 billion acquisition of HGST. Western Digital Corporation acquired SanDisk in 2016 for $19 billion; in 2017, it acquired cloud storage provider Upthere and flash memory storage array manufacturer Tegile Systems. In 2017, Western Digital Corporation moved its headquarters from Irvine, Calif., to San Jose, Calif.

As of 2020, Western Digital Corporation owns over 14,000 patents and is currently working toward developing its Zoned Storage Initiative. This initiative encourages the adoption of an open data infrastructure based on zoned storage devices (ZSDs).

Products and brands

Western Digital Corporation sells its products under four brands: Western Digital, WD, SanDisk and G-Technology. The Western Digital brand includes data center products marketed toward enterprises. WD, SanDisk and G-Technology brands are sold to consumer markets and include products such as personal desktop drives, network-attached storage (NAS) devices, memory cards, surveillance products and flash drives.

Enterprise products

Western Digital's data center offerings include enterprise-class Ultrastar, OpenFlex and RapidFlex product families:

  • Ultrastar JBOF and JBOD storage platforms;
  • Ultrastar storage servers;
  • Ultrastar SSD and HDD data center drives;
  • OpenFlex non-volatile memory express over fabrics (NVMe-oF) open composable infrastructure; and
  • RapidFlex NVMe-oF controllers.

Western Digital also offers storage devices for mobility, edge and computing. Embedded and removable flash storage products may be specific to automotive, connected home, industrial, internet of things (IoT), mobile or surveillance purposes. Internal drives may be designed for computing, enterprises, gaming, NAS or surveillance.

Consumer products

Western Digital's consumer products are sold under the WD , SanDisk and G-Technology brands.

The WD brand includes consumer storage devices in the My Passport, My Book, WD Elements, WD_Black, ReadyView, WD Easystore and My Cloud product classes. These products include personal HDDs and SDDs, desktop drives, surveillance camera systems and NAS devices.

The SanDisk brand includes consumer data technology products, such as the following:

  • flash drives;
  • micro Secure Digital, SD High Capacity (SDHC)/SD Extended Capacity (SDXC) and CompactFlash (CF) express cards;
  • SSDs;
  • wireless chargers;
  • SD, micro SD Universal Serial Bus (USB), CFast and CFexpress readers/writers; and
  • MP3 players.

The G-Technology brand offers HDD, SSD, platforms and systems products in the G-Drive, G-Speed, G-RAID product families and ev Series product families. G-Technology brand products include drives marketed toward creative professionals who use storage-intensive applications, such as audio/video editing.

Western Digital's hard drives are color-coded according to use case:

  • black -- high performance
  • blue -- general purposes
  • red -- NAS
  • purple -- surveillance
  • green -- eco-friendly
  • gold -- data center

Career opportunities at Western Digital

Western Digital offers various career opportunities across engineering, business and technology departments:

  • firmware engineering
  • research and development (R&D) engineering
  • software development
  • engineering
  • information technology (IT)
  • finance
  • human resources (HR)
  • legal
  • sales
  • marketing
  • administration

Western Digital's headquarters is located in San Jose, Calif. A global corporation, Western Digital has locations all across the world in the following places:

  • North America -- United States, Canada and Mexico;
  • South America -- Brazil and Argentina;
  • Asia-Pacific region -- Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand;
  • Europe -- Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom;
  • Middle East -- Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates; and
  • Africa -- South Africa.
This was last updated in July 2020

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