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Seagate: New HDD Tech To Enable 100 TB HDDs

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 79 comments

Who doesn't want more storage?

Consistent capacity growth in hard disk drives (HDDs) has become something we take for granted. It isn’t so trivial if you think about the fact that there are in fact physical limits to how much data you can store on one disk and every now and then we are nearing a limit that can’t be topped anymore. The last limit was hit in 2005 and the next seems to be arriving in the 2013 – 2015 timeframe. However, a new technology breathes new life into HDDs. HAMR will bring massive storage growth and propel the industry far beyond 100 TB.

When Samsung announced its new 2 TB Spinpoint HDD last week and mentioned that it can now store 667 GB on one 3.5-inch disk, I remembered how far the current perpendicular recording technology has come since its launch in 2006. The first 3.5-inch PMR drive, Seagate’s Cheetah 15K.5, packed only 75 GB on one disk. Back then, the storage density of PMR disks was just over 100 GB/inch2 and the industry forecasted that PMR will reach about 1 TB/inch2 until it runs out of room.

It was a natural question to ask where the current Spinpoint drive stands. It turns out that it is over 700 Gb/inch2 already, while Seagate’s mass market drives have reached 541 Gb/inch2. At the current pace, it appears that the industry will run out of room in the not too distant future. So I called up Seagate to find out more.

Seagate SVP Mark Re told me that Seagate in fact believes that there will be just a few more PMR product generations and a new technology will be necessary within 3 to 5 years as PMR may reach its end just north of 1 Tb/inch2. Re said that the industry has a choice to transition to patterned media or heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) to decrease the distance between bits on the disk and increase the maximum areal density. Re declined to pinpoint the potential of HAMR exactly, but said that Seagate currently expects a soft limit to arrive at about 50 Tb/inch2. If the 3.5” HDD form factor survives, then we should see PMR to top out at about 5-6 TB per drive. With roughly 50x the potential of PMR, HAMR should lead the way beyond 100 TB drives and possibly into the region of 200 – 300 TB in the 2020 to 2025 time frame.

Given the fact that the first HDD stored 4.4 MB on 50 24-inch disks, this is a truly stunning prospect. Imagine the storage capabilities of a 100 TB drive. 250,000,000 average MP3 songs or 250,000,000 12 MP photographs. Or 2000 completely filled Blu-ray discs or hundreds of 3D movies. While data volumes of content will continue to evolve, HDD capacity will evolve as well and it is reasonable to expect that single HDDs will be able to store the digital lives of multiple generations of a family. And even if the end of HAMR is reached, Seagate expects HDD technology to continue to evolve. Beyond HAMR, Seagate believes that patterned media will emerge and enable further capacity increases. If the current trend continues, then we should HDDs to remain with us as an affordable mass storage technology well beyond 2025. Flash will not be able to touch the value proposition HDDs in terms of price, capacity and performance, Re said.

According to the executive, Seagate has built HAMR prototype drives already, but the technology is not yet at a point where it could be commercialized. In fact, while HAMR is derived from a technology called “optical assisted magnetic recording” that was developed by Quinta, a company Seagate acquired in 1998, HAMR is a much more evolutionary approach. In contrast to Quinta’s optical read/write head, HAMR will use a traditional read/write head. The change to current HDD technology will be somewhat moderate, but also require companies to change the surface coating of the disks. Instead of a cobalt material, HAMR will use iron-platinum.

What will remain the same is the reliability of HDDs. Despite the massive increase of storage capacity that may be frightening to some users, given the amount of data that could be lost, Re said that there will be no major changes from today’s technology. The company will continue to drive reliability innovation through software and make backups easier.              

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Top Comments
  • 30 Hide
    mavroxur , August 10, 2010 7:00 PM
    Lots of good this does with every major broadband provider toying with the idea of bandwith caps :-) Now you'll have tons of hard drive space, and no way to fill it.
  • 27 Hide
    nukemaster , August 10, 2010 7:16 PM
    CushgodSSD's will win the race. Not some mechanical solution.

    Not without a massive increase is capacity and a drop in price.
  • 21 Hide
    cushgod , August 10, 2010 7:06 PM
    In years Ill be able to afford SSd.
Other Comments
  • 30 Hide
    mavroxur , August 10, 2010 7:00 PM
    Lots of good this does with every major broadband provider toying with the idea of bandwith caps :-) Now you'll have tons of hard drive space, and no way to fill it.
  • 21 Hide
    cushgod , August 10, 2010 7:06 PM
    In years Ill be able to afford SSd.
  • 18 Hide
    theuerkorn , August 10, 2010 7:08 PM
    Quote:
    What will remain the same is the reliability of HDDs. Despite the massive increase of storage capacity that may be frightening to some users, given the amount of data that could be lost, Re said that there will be no major changes from today’s technology.

    So in other words, every other drive may still be DOA.
  • 0 Hide
    Anomalyx , August 10, 2010 7:10 PM
    Quote:
    In 3 Years, Your HDD Will Hold 100TB or More

    Quote:
    With roughly 50x the potential of PMR, HAMR should lead the way beyond 100 TB drives and possibly into the region of 200 – 300 TB in the 2020 to 2025 time frame.

    10 to 15 = 3 ?

    I guess it would depend on how that sentence is sectioned...

    With roughly 50x the potential of PMR, HAMR should lead the way beyond 100 TB drives (and possibly into the region of 200 – 300 TB in the 2020 to 2025 time frame).
    would allow the title to be correct

    With roughly 50x the potential of PMR, HAMR should lead the way beyond 100 TB drives (and possibly into the region of 200 – 300 TB) in the 2020 to 2025 time frame.
    would make it a wrong title.

    Curse you, ambiguous English language!
  • 8 Hide
    ssddx , August 10, 2010 7:14 PM
    xerroz, only if you copy the physical media. If not then you prove his/her point.

    As for SSD replacing mechanical drives? I doubt this will happen until storage capacities, pricing, and reliability fall in line with the mechanical drives. Until then it is worth investing in non-ssd solutions.
  • 27 Hide
    nukemaster , August 10, 2010 7:16 PM
    CushgodSSD's will win the race. Not some mechanical solution.

    Not without a massive increase is capacity and a drop in price.
  • 20 Hide
    tipoo , August 10, 2010 7:16 PM
    Thats alot of porn.
  • 6 Hide
    hannibal , August 10, 2010 7:16 PM
    Well this would be usefull for your own Blu-ray rips. You would not have to find your blu-ray disk among the 200-300 disk collection. You just start you video streamer NAS with 300TB raid 5 capacity and watch what you want...
    ... it just happen to be illegal to rip you own Blu-Ray disks...

    We need some sort of system that would allow at least that!
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , August 10, 2010 7:18 PM
    That my friend is true in the united states and Australia and Canada but
    something is going to have to change the only reason they can get away with it now is because people don't have a choice to shop elsewhere like with other products or services. Bandwidth costs have dropped for providers over 20% every year for the last 5 years so when they complain the bandwidth is costing them to much and that you should be capped or charges per bandwidth use they are BOLD OUT RIGHT Lying!
  • -4 Hide
    hannibal , August 10, 2010 7:22 PM
    As a side note... we need much more competition in SSD market. There seems to be too few produsers at this moment... Yeah there are many companies as a brand name, but really few who actually make those memory chips for those SSD's we have. It is allmost a monopoly...
    But so far so good, the price of SDD has come down, but maybe not as fast as we have hoped it will do...
  • 1 Hide
    lukeiamyourfather , August 10, 2010 7:24 PM
    JoannTubelNobody needs that space. They should focus on other things, we can keep 1TB HDDs through 2020. Why collect 250,000,000,000,000 MP3s. This is so dumb,


    The point is not to store a crap ton of MP3 files, just a comparison since that's a popular way to advertise storage devices on the market right now. Even if most consumers are using SSD by then this magnitude of storage capacity is very meaningful for the scientific and research communities. Hopefully Seagate and others are able to deliver what they estimate.
  • 10 Hide
    kaska52 , August 10, 2010 7:24 PM
    I always thought the idea of having an external 1TB drive filled with porn would be just a funny thing to have and say to your friends... "hey look, this is a TB of porn" as you hold it in front of their faces. But now, imagine being able to say that with 100TB! The potential to terrify/intrigue people is endless.
  • 10 Hide
    bison88 , August 10, 2010 7:26 PM
    Ehhh this is all great and everything, but unless there is a drive that is currently half what they are saying, then three years is unrealistic even in a prototype stage. I believe in the phrase "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched." Remember in 2001 we were promised 10Ghz single core CPU's and that didn't happen. It is still possible but not with the standards we are accustomed to, we would have massive power hungry processors with huge heat issues if that were the case.

    Given HDD manufactures records we will see a slow pace of doubling once we hit 4TB. 3TB drives are expected at the end of this year with 4TB by the end of next. That is already a year down. The highest I see in 3 years if that actually happens on time would be between 12-20TB's give or take. Of course they have plenty of technology designs to pursue unlike microprocessors, but the pace has definitely slowed since we hit 1TB. Once High Definition becomes more mainstream that will be the ultimate app that pushes forth consumer DEMAND for bigger hard drives and more space. My question is, how are SSD's going to fare. Right now they are taking this lag in the physical sector to build up their capacities, perfect their designs, improve their memory chips, and lower prices to build up a solid consumer base. I definitely see Hard Drive Wars back again in the next 3 years as the CPU Wars are sure to pick up next year.

    I ask one thing, can we have more than 4GB dimms pl0x? I would greatly love to take advantage of the 192GB limit of Windows (even if yeah yeah we don't need it). Its been forever since memory has competed with anything other than faster clock speeds (usually just overclocked by manufactures). Now that people are starting to move to 64 bit OS'es this may actually happen. Oh things should get interesting in 3 years.
  • 18 Hide
    thebigt42 , August 10, 2010 7:33 PM
    That is a lot of 2TB partitions
  • 1 Hide
    cadder , August 10, 2010 7:33 PM
    I would be happy to keep my 750GB hard drive, just make it 10 times as reliable and 10 times as fast. And I want my cpu to be at least 10 times as fast too.
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