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Seagate talks about the future of its HDDs

Posted on Thursday, July 07 2016 @ 12:01:28 CEST by

Seagate logo
While hard disk drives served computer users greatly in the previous decades, the future of these mechanically spinnings disks doesn't look too rosy. HDDs have long been outclassed in areas like performance and while they do seem to have better long-term data retention than SSDs, the main selling point of the HDD right now is its significantly cheaper price per gigabyte.

Investors are worried about the future of HDD makers, Seagate's stock is down 51.15 percent versus a year ago and Western Digital's share price also collapsed 43.79 percent in the same time frame.

Against this backdrop, AnandTech had an interview with Seagate CTO Mark Re about the company's future plans for the HDD market and some important technologies that will be implemented in the future.

In the near-term, most HDDs will continue to be made using perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology but Seagate plans to adopt shingled magnetic recording (SMR) rather widely going forward. While SMR enables higher storage density, the drawback is poorer performance so it remains to be seen if this technique will be used in performance applications.

Seagate also confirmed that helium-filled HDDs will remain exclusive for high-capacity applications, at least for the time being. According to the company's CTO, it doesn't make a lot of sense to make a helium-based HDD for the consumer market because it would be too expensive.

About a year from now we're going to see the first Seagate HDDs with two-dimensional magnetic recording (TDMR), a technique that promises to increase areal density by 5 to 10 percent. By combining the SMR and TDMR technologies, Seagate thinks it can increase the areal density of HDD platters by about 10-20 percent versus today's platters. TDMR will be used by Seagate's new generation of 10K HDDs and the firm also confirmed it's working on a new 15K lineup but not a lot of details were shared about the latter.

The next big thing on the HDD roadmap is the long-awaited heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). This technique can potentially increase areal density by 2x but there are several challenges with the technology, in particular in regards to reliability. The first commercial HAMR HDDs are expected in 2018 and the technology may eventually hit an areal density of 5Tb per square inch. Further into the future HDDs may adopt heated dot magnetic record (HDMR) but that's something for 2025 at the earliest.

Seagate and other HDD makers realize the technology can't compete with SSDs in terms of performance. While there will be improvements in HDD performance, the primary concern of HDD makers is to deliver enhances in power efficiency and areal density. Exact products will be made depending on market performance. Full details at AnandTech.

Seagate HDD tech roadmap



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