Seagate, TDK Show Off HAMR to Jam More Data Into Hard Drives
They will demonstrate the heat-assisted data writing technology in a HDD
Mon, September 30, 2013
IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau) — Seagate Technology will demonstrate HAMR, a technology it's counting on to fit more data onto hard disk drives, at the Ceatec show this week.
HAMR (heat-assisted magnetic recording) uses heat delivered by a laser to help write data onto the surface of HDDs (hard disk drives). This allows drives to write bits of data closer together so more information can be stored in a given amount of space on a disk platter. At this week's huge electronics show in Tokyo, in partner TDK's booth, Seagate will demonstrate HAMR on a 2.5-inch, 10,000-rpm HDD designed for enterprise blade servers.
Seagate expects to start selling HAMR drives in 2016, Chief Technology Officer Mark Re said. The technology, which other HDD vendors are also developing, has been in the works since the middle of the past decade. But that's not very long for new hard-drive technologies, Re said, citing more than 10 years of development for NAND flash.
Conventional HDDs are expected to run into a wall on data density about the time manufacturers have reached about 1Tbit per square inch, per platter. (Current drives pack in about 750Gbits per inch.) Hard drives store data by changing the magnetic polarity of cells on the disk, and smaller cells are more likely to turn unstable and change polarity. Cells' ability to hold the charge they've been set with is called coercivity, and HAMR is one technique to increase it, IDC analyst John Rydning said.
The looming limit applies to how densely bits can be written to disk at normal temperatures. With HAMR, the write head on the HDD heats up the area where data is being written, so Seagate can use a different kind of disk media with higher coercivity.
Seagate expects the first HAMR drives to break through the 1Tbit ceiling, and later generations can keep getting more dense until they reach about 5Tbits per inch, Re said. By 2020, it will make possible a 20TB hard drive, Seagate believes.
HDDs have to get more dense so users can continue to economically store the growing volumes of data they are creating and accumulating, IDC's Rydning said. The problem is most acute in enterprises, which store a lot of data that doesn't need to be used immediately, he said. In addition, growing density should help HDDs keep their cost-per-byte advantage over solid-state storage, though the growth of solid-state is being driven by a need for speed, not density, he said.
The density of HDDs has already grown many times over, which is why storing 4TB only takes one drive today, versus eight or more drives just a few years ago. More data on fewer drives means lower cost, heat and power consumption, Rydning said.