Seagate said this week that it had begun commercial shipments of its hard drives featuring heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology back in November and expanded the evaluation program for its dual-actuator Mach.2 HDDs, which offer twice the performance of a standard hard drive. The company is confident that its technology portfolio will enable it to increase capacity and improve the performance of its hard drives for years to come.
Increasing the capacity of hard drives is important, but while capacity, areal density, and linear read/write speeds rise, random read/write IOPS performance per TB drops, which affects how datacenters operate. To increase sequential read/write speeds and increase IOPS per TB performance, HDD makers are developing hard drives with two independent actuators on a single pivot, effectively putting two drives inside one 3.5-inch package. Seagate was the first HDD maker to introduce its Multi-Actuator Technology (MAT) in late 2017 and then started to sample such drives — which have received the Exos 2X14 Mach.2 branding — with select customers sometime in 2019.
By now, interest in dual actuator hard drives has grown significantly, so the company has to expand its evaluation program and increase its shipments.
"Seagate's first-to-market dual actuator technology is gaining interest among a broader customer base require mass capacity storage with higher performance for certain applications, such as content delivery," said Mosley. "We are increasing shipments of dual actuator drives today and expect to see higher volumes as drive capacities increase."
Unfortunately, it is still unclear when Seagate plans to ship its dual actuator hard drives commercially.
Demand for high-capacity nearline hard drives is increasing among exascalers and datacenters, so it is crucial for HDD makers to offer energy-efficient high-capacity drives. Last summer Seagate started shipments of its nine-platter 18TB hard drives, which are going to ramp shortly as soon as its customers qualify them. The platform used to build Seagate's 18TB HDDs is also used for the industry's first HAMR-based 20TB hard drive (so one can easily guess the general specifications).
At this point, HAMR HDDs are available to select customers and as part of Seagate's Lyve storage systems. Later, HAMR drives will be available separately to a broader audience. Meanwhile, mass adoption of current 20TB models may not necessarily happen as Seagate expects HAMR to increase HDDs' capacities at a 20% CAGR, which implies the arrival of 24TB drives in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, Seagate is increasing the pace of its 18TB product ramp as its customers qualify the new HDDs.
"We achieved our technology milestone by shipping 20TB HAMR drives in calendar 2020, paving the way for Seagate’s continued success for years to come," said Dave Mosley, chief executive officer of Seagate. "With HAMR, we can drive aerial density, compound growth rates of 20% or higher to support the scale of our customer's infrastructure investments and enabling Seagate to maintain a significant economic advantage for managing the cost of the applications relative to enterprise SSDs that is expected to persist over the foreseeable future."