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HAMR, HDMR, and Seagate's New 16TB Hard Drive

Posted by Integrity Global on Jul 10th 2019

HAMR, HDMR, and Seagate's New 16TB HDD

HAMR, HDMR, and Seagate's New 16TB Hard Drive

Technological innovation is advancing more rapidly than ever before, as anyone who owns a smartphone understands. It seems like you’ve barely purchased the latest device before something new is available. Of course, not all technology is replaced at lightning speed. Some things require more time to develop in order to deliver truly revolutionary results.

For years, Seagate has been working to push the boundaries of what is possible in terms of data storage, seeking solutions that provide for increased virtual storage without having to exceed acceptable limitations on physical space. It wasn’t that long ago that 100 terabytes of storage would take up an entire server room. These days we’re approaching technologies that will deliver the same function in a much more convenient package.

This is largely thanks to the technological leaps made by Seagate through the development of HAMR, or heat-assisted magnetic recording devices, which significantly increase data storage capacity without increasing device size. How is this possible and what does it mean for the future of data storage?

The Evolution of Data Storage

The engineering behind virtual data storage is complex, to say the least, but the longstanding problem has always been how to increase storage capacity while decreasing storage device size. This has been a 60-year process, and it hasn’t been without stalls and failures, but ultimately, some truly pioneering technologies have resulted. The modern era of data recording could be said to start with perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology, whereby bits sit in a perpendicular configuration as a way to create a larger field for written data.

This, in turn, evolved into shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology, so called because rather than attempting to further reduce bit size, potentially leading to instability, it relies on overlapping tracks to achieve greater areal density and fit more data into the same amount of space. While SMR was a fantastic leap forward, increasing data storage capacity significantly, the pioneers at Seagate knew more was possible. It quickly became clear that even PMR and SMR technologies wouldn’t be enough to keep up with increasing demand for data storage, and this growing concern ultimately led to the development of HAMR.

The Leap to HAMR

As the name implies, heat is a major component of HAMR technology. How does it work? Essentially, media is heated to expand the surface, data is written during expansion, and then media is cooled to reduce back to normal size for storage. Incredibly, this entire process takes under a nanosecond to complete.

Based on existing PMR technology, which maxes out at about 1 terabyte per square inch (tbpsi), HAMR has the potential to increase storage to 5 tbpsi or more, essentially quintupling the storage capacity without having to reduce bit size or take up additional physical space with devices.

This is made possible with the use of a HAMR writing head that is similar to a PMR head, but for the addition of a laser, an optical waveguide, and a near-field transducer (NFT) integral to heating the media prior to transference. Continued development of this technology led to reliable plug-and-play devices of 2 tbpsi density as of 2017, and now, Seagate has announced a 16TB capacity device, with plans to expand to 20TB by 2020.

HAMR Today

The announcement of Seagate’s fully functioning, 16TB hard drive, in the standard 3.5-inch form factor, no less, is nothing short of astonishing. The introduction of this device marks the single highest capacity hard drive ever produced. Testing has confirmed that these devices offer simple, plug-and-play functionality that delivers easy integration for enterprise applications, a must to ensure convenience for users.

HAMR devices require no significant system changes to use, and that includes architectural changes. Drives can simply be plugged into existing systems, just like any other hard drive, thanks to standard sizing. Plus, the technology has proven the ability to fit more data into the same amount of space without decreasing stability, a development that is not only functionally, but fiscally sound, helping to reduce costs for data storage.

The 16TB HAMR units are remarkable by today’s standards, not only exceeding typical storage capacity by an incredible degree, but also surpassing industry standards for power efficiency, reliable storage, and lifetime data transfer capabilities, according to in-lab reliability testing. This product has met and exceeded standard testing benchmarks to earn the confidence of customers, paving the way for the next stage of development and advanced storage technologies of the future.

The Future of Seagate and HAMR

The near future holds no surprises for Seagate or customers seeking enterprise solutions from HAMR technology. By next year, HAMR products are expected to exceed the 20TB range, and Seagate is eager to continue on this track. Not only does the industry leader already have 24TB drives in the testing phase, but they’ve announced the ambitious plan to roll out 40TB drives by 2023. If previous successes are any indication, they’re well on the way. This forecast predicts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of data density of roughly 30%, year over year.

That’s not all, though. The successor to HAMR is already on the horizon. Just as HAMR took PMR and SMR to the next level, HDMR, or heated dot magnetic recording, is slated to be the next evolutionary phase in efficient storage technology, built on devices and engineering that came before.

This technology will meld HAMR and bit patterned media to create the potential for much greater storage capacity. It is estimated that when HDMR is fully developed, it will have the potential to deliver up to 100TB of storage in a compact device. HDMR isn’t expected to be available until at least 2025, but in the meantime, Seagate will continue to deliver scheduled advances in HAMR, providing the convenient and cost-effective enterprise storage solutions businesses expect, now and in the future.

The 16TB hard drive from Seagate is a revolution years in the making, but the wait is over, and the heavy lifting will lead to growing successes in the years to come. With more and more businesses demanding increasingly efficient storage solutions, HAMR and HDMR look to be the gift that keeps on giving.