December 4th, 2018 by Michael Rink
Seagate Achieves 16TB HAMR HDD
Seagate announced it has made the first formatted and fully functioning 16TB hard disk drive in a standard 3.5-inch form factor, which makes them the producer of the highest capacity hard disk drives yet. The drive utilizes Seagate’s heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) process, and Seagate expects to make drives with even higher capacities soon. They expect to have a 20TB drive in 2020.
We last talked extensively about HAMR drives in 2015, so its probably worth reviewing the technology. A major limitation on HDD capacity is the minimum size of the magnetic fields that can be created and used to write data. HAMR gets around this limit by temporarily, very temporarily (we’re talking durations under a single nanosecond here) heating the area to be written to make it more receptive to magnetic effects. The difficulties in both generating enough heat (above 400 °C) and focusing it precisely enough are obvious. Seagate’s solution is to use a small laser diode attached to each recording head to heat the target location.
The new drives will still be delivered in the same form factor as current HDD. Once they’re released, they could potentially be swapped out with your current drives and provide a significant boost in storage capacity. Every time they’ve discussed the new drives Seagate has been quick to say that HAMR HDDs are at least as reliable as current technologies.The company’s HAMR technology set a record in reliability demonstrating that a single head can transfer 3.2PB over a five-year period, twenty times the amount required for the industry’s nearline specification.
I wish I could say the new HAMR drives will be available next year. Unfortunately, the entire current run of over 40,000 drives is being used to run the tests customers commonly use when integrating hard drives into enterprise applications. So far the results we’ve heard about are very good, but there have been several schedule slips over the several year development cycle. Last year, 20TB drives were expected in 2019, but now Seagate is predicting 2020, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see commercial drives before then. This shouldn’t be taken to reflect poorly on Seagate. That they’ve progressed as far as they have as fast as they have is truly astounding.