Being a bit ahead of the industry with its hard drives that use energy-assisted magnetic recording (EAMR) technology, Western Digital started commercial shipments of such HDDs back in July. By now, the company has manufactured over a million of its 16 TB, 18 TB, and 20 TB EAMR hard drives. In addition, Western Digital's 20 TB HDD had passed qualifications by one of its customers, and the company has started its commercial shipments. (Via Western Digital/SeekingAlpha, Western Digital (opens in new tab)).
Western Digital's EAMR Lineup
Western Digital's family of energy-assisted magnetic recording (EAMR) HDDs currently includes three capacity points: 16 TB and 18 TB drives that use conventional magnetic recording (CMR) and are aimed at a wide range of capacity-hungry applications. And the Ultrastar DC HC650 20 TB HDD that uses shingled magnetic recording (SMR) and is designed for hyperscale applications tailored for sequential writes.
All of these hard drives are based on the 6th generation HelioSeal platform that features a nine-platter design, a 7200 RPM top and bottom attached motor, and triple-stage actuators. Since all of Western Digital's EAMR HDDs are designed for multi-drive environments, they have various enhancements to improve their reliability and guarantee consistent performance, including top and bottom attached disk clamps, RVFF sensors, and humidity sensors, just to name a few. The drives feature a 2.5-million MTBF and are covered by a five-year limited warranty.
Over One Million EAMR HDDs Made
Unlike Seagate, Western Digital did not have a 16 TB HDD based on 'regular' perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR), so its customers were eager to qualify the company's latest 16 TB and 18 TB HDDs for data centers, desktops, enterprises, NAS, and surveillance systems as soon as they were released. The company says that the ramp of its EAMR platform has been very rapid, and its pace exceeded that of its previous-generation platforms.
"I'm pleased to announce that we [have] reached our goal of producing over one million energy-assisted drives," said David Goeckeler, Western Digital CEO. "We are seeing strong engagement with customers as we build on our capacity to aggressively ramp this platform. We have completed nearly 100 qualifications, and including with one cloud titan and have an additional 125 qualifications in process, including with two more cloud titans. We're excited about the progress we've made and expect the 18 TB capacity point to be the sweet spot in the industry."
Qualification of CMR drives takes months to complete, so it will take Western Digital some time to sell millions of its latest HDDs. Meanwhile, Western Digital this week announced that it had started revenue shipments of the industry's highest-capacity hard drives — the Ultrastar DC HC650 20 TB — after they had successfully passed qualifications at Dropbox.
"On Monday we announced qualifications have been completed on the 20 TB platform and we have already started shipping for revenue," said Goeckeler. "You may recall, several years ago we committed to delivering a 20 TB product to our customers by 2020."
Dropbox is one of the companies that have tailored their software for SMR HDDs. The company has been one of the primary adopters of SMR, so it is not particularly surprising that the company is the first to use the Ultrastar DC HC650 20 TB hard drives.
"We look forward to deploying these higher capacity 20 TB SMR hard drives to further our cost savings and to provide our customers with even more value," said Andrew Fong, vice president of engineering, Dropbox.