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Forward-looking: In an era where games are bigger than ever, 4K content is readily available, and our phones are recording in 8K, high-capacity storage is essential. Western Digital is planning to throw its hat into the high-capacity hard drive market, announcing its intentions to release HAMR drives within 18 months.
Recently, we covered Seagate's announcement of its impending release of new heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) hard drives. The reveal drew excitement due to the confirmation of consumer-grade 32 TB hard drives reaching buyers later this year. However, this left others curious about what Western Digital, arguably Seagate's largest competitor, had up its sleeve.
For years, Western Digital had been hesitant to adopt HAMR as its method of producing high-capacity hard drives. Instead, Western Digital originally opted to use microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) to develop its drives. However, after years of teases and hype, Western Digital silently moved away from MAMR and began utilizing HAMR in its production.
During a recent conference, Western Digital's CFO and Executive VP, Wissam Jabre, was asked about the company's roadmap regarding HAMR drives. Jabre stated, "I think we're probably on the HAMR side, we're probably one year to 1.5 years plus before we get sort of volume production."
Jabre also emphasized that Western Digital's engineers have completed lots of R&D work regarding HAMR drives and want to ensure that the products are reliable before the drives eventually reach consumers in the near future.
A roadmap released by Western Digital may provide clues for potential capacities from the company's first swings into the HAMR market. Currently, Western Digital's highest capacity drive sits at 22 TB and utilizes its energy-assisted perpendicular magnetic recording (ePMR) technology. Platters using ePMR can hold up to 1.1 TB per square inch.
This platter capacity can be nearly doubled on HAMR drives, with Western Digital hoping it can eventually squeeze up to 2 TB per square inch on a single platter. This could result in Western Digital's HAMR drives featuring storage capacities of 50 TB or even more down the road. However, it took years for Western Digital to reach 22 TB with ePMR technology, so we may be waiting a while for consumer-grade 50+ TB hard drives.
Overall, the coming years could be a great time for those who just want the most storage possible, whether it's for storing games, movies, or 200-megapixel photos. Even better, both Western Digital and Seagate adopting the technology means we may see some competition within the market, possibly resulting in prices lowering quicker than expected.