by Josh Linden

Seagate Pledges 20TB Shingled Magnetic Recording HDD by 2020

Seagate has announced that it has now shipped more than a million SMR hard drives, saying that its technology will enable the manufacture of 20TB hard drives by the end of the decade. According to Seagate, the company's SMR technology will also allow the manufacture of 5TB drives in the nearer future. SMR is Seagate’s approach to overcoming the areal density limitations of current-generation HDDs, which have been a physical limit to maximum capacity.

SMR drives “shingle” the individual tracks of a hard drive in an overlapping fashion in order to achieve higher areal densities by allowing more data in the same physical space. Standard drive read and write components can be adapted for Seagate’s SMR technology, meaning that the company can reuse existing manufacturing and other process in order to achieve faster and lower-cost production than if new production capital was necessary to launch the platform. In addition to increasing maximum capacities or shrinking physical dimensions, Seagate points out that SMR technology can be used to improve reliability by simplifying drives with fewer heads and platters.

Bigger but Slower?

StorageReview had a chance to test engineering samples of SMR drives from Seagate earlier this year, which results showed significant gains in sequential read transfers over a comparable non-SMR enterprise hard drive. There are tradeoffs however; write and random I/O performance needed significant improvement. Our 4K and 8k 70/30 tests showed performance being a small fraction of current-generation hard drives. For applications that can optimize data flow the mixed workload losses may be acceptable in some use cases. The SMR drives Seagate is shipping now are only available to specific customers so it's not clear what sort of performance claims Seagate is making around the drives. 

Availability

SMR drives are shipping now in limited direct availability. Seagate plans to debut its next line of SMR hard drives in 2014.

Seagate Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) technology overview

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