While most consumers have turned to faster and faster solid-state drives, some manufacturers have been pushing the limits of hard drive capacity over the past few years. Climbing the 30TB mark will require new technologies, which Seagate believes will be ready later this year. On a conference call this week, Seagate provided new details about its progress in bringing more than 30 terabytes of hard drives to the enterprise and consumer markets by the end of the year. The first publicly available hard drive with HAMR technology has a capacity of 32TB, and the company plans to gradually increase this capacity in the near future.
The largest-sized HAMR drives will consist of 10 platters, with 32TB models containing 3.2TB per platter. The HAMR technology will allow Seagate to steadily increase the capacity per platter, first to 3.6TB for the 36TB drive and then to 4TB for the 40TB drive. The company is currently testing 5TB platters, which would enable 50TB hard drives
This approach will save money as Seagate will be able to offer larger drives without adding platters, limiting the increase in their physical size. The release of HAMR products with fewer platters would also allow for more compact drives that can still hold large amounts of data. The largest hard drives are likely to be used almost exclusively by customers in cloud computing data centers, while the lower tiers are intended for consumers. The technology could increase Seagate’s bottom line while passing some of the savings on to customers.
Heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) briefly heats sections of each platter to increase the density of stored data while maintaining thermal and magnetic stability. Seagate is in the midst of a full transition to the new technology, while discontinuing development of traditional perpendicular or conventional magnetic recording (PRM/CMR), a slightly older technology that can store 2.4TB of data per disk.
The company currently offers IronWolf Pro drives in capacities up to 22TB, but later this year a 24TB drive will be available, which will be Seagate’s last PMR drive. There will be a 28TB model that uses SMR, but everything beyond that will be HAMR.
Western Digital is also using HAMR to push 30TB and 40TB on a similar schedule to Seagate, but it uses stepping stones like OptiNAND to do so. In a previous conference call, Seagate said it aimed to release a 40TB HAMR drive next year or in 2025, with a 50TB variant in 2026. Early roadmaps set a goal of 100TB by the end of the 2020s.