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Want a 100TB disk drive? You'll have to wait 'til 2025

Lucas Mearian | Nov. 26, 2014
An industry consortium today released a roadmap that new recording technologies could yield 100TB hard drives in about 10 years.

An industry consortium today released a roadmap that new recording technologies could yield 100TB hard drives in about 10 years.

That density, 10 times the capacity of today's biggest hard drives, will be achieved through the use of up-and-coming techniques such as laser-assisted recording technology.

The roadmap, released by the Advanced Storage Technology Consortium (ASTC), indicates technologies such as Bit Patterned Media Recording (BPMR) and Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) will result in up to 10-terabit-per-square-inch (Tbpsi) areal densities by 2025, compared with today's .86 Tbpsi areal densities.

"This implies that a 3.5-inch HDD built with that technology could have about 10X the capacity of the 10TB HDDs in 2025, or 100TB," industry analyst Tom Coughlin wrote in a recent blog post.

Today, the leading-edge hard drive technologies are add-ons to conventional perpendicular magnetic recording methods, where bits are arranged upright and side-by-side on a spinning platter.

Western Digital's HGST division has been sealing helium gas in its enterprise drives to reduce friction created by spinning platters, thereby allowing it to pack them more tightly together. Its Ultrastar HelioSeal product line now has 8TB and 10TB hard drives.

Seagate's largest capacity drive using conventional recording is 6TB. The company has been using a technology called Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR), which overlaps data tracks on a disk platter like shingles on a rooftop to increase that to 8TB.

SMR technology, however, isn't likely to continue adding areal density, and adding helium also has limitations, according to Coughlin.

As disk drive densities increase, the potential for data errors also increases due to a phenomenon known as superparamagnetism, where the magnetic pull between bits on a platter's surface can randomly flip them, thus changing their value from one to zero or zero to one.

"Thus higher storage capacities requires the introduction of new digital storage technology," Coughlin wrote.

Seagate believes it can produce a 30TB drive by 2020 using (HAMR). HAMR integrates a semiconductor laser onto a hard drive recording transducer. The lasers are able to set down smaller bits, but ones that are also harder to overwrite, which makes the media more stable by reducing overwrite errors.

The marketing campaign Seagate has used is "20TB by 2020," but Seagate CTO Mark Re told Computerworld that's just a target. Seagate is planning to release its first HAMR-enabled drives in 2016.

Last month, Invest Northern Ireland, a regional business development agency, announced that Seagate had dropped about $55 million into further financing its existing wafer facility in Northern Ireland; that facility is developing HAMR technology. The Dublin plant is one of two working on HAMR; the other is in Minnesota.


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