Something to look forward to: Manufacturers have spent years trying to push spinning disk drives over the 30TB mark, and the goal appears to be imminently within reach. Seagate's investment in emerging HDD technology has struggled to reach acceptable yields, but the company remains determined to press onward.
Seagate's recent fiscal statement confirms their commitment to initiate the production of 30TB hard drives in early 2024. Although achieving this capacity has been a longstanding challenge, the company is intent on accelerating its efforts throughout the decade.
The company's latest quarterly report outlines plans to boost the volume production of HDDs with a 3TB per platter capacity early next year. Seagate's largest drives that cater to enterprise clients incorporate 10 platters, making up for a 30TB capacity. HDDs with fewer platters may soon be offered to consumer-level users.
Industry trends suggest that conventional magnetic recording techniques have plateaued at around two and a half terabytes per platter. Seagate plans to produce 24TB and 28TB drives using the mature technology by the end of the year before fully transitioning to HAMR (Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording), which it sees as the future, in 2024.
HAMR technology employs lasers to transiently heat specific disc segments, enhancing data density while preserving thermal stability. Seagate has faced hurdles in achieving acceptable yields with HAMR for some time but has managed to produce a limited batch of 32TB drives using second-generation HAMR for release in late 2023.
Should Seagate manage to scale up production at the onset of next year, the subsequent milestone would be 4TB per platter, potentially leading to 40TB HDDs within the following two years, as projected in their reports. Drives with a 50TB capacity, holding 5TB per platter, are anticipated by 2026, with preliminary roadmaps aiming for 100TB by 2030.
Seagate is not the sole contender in the HAMR space. Western Digital initially bet on microwave-assisted magnetic recording but shifted to HAMR after several years. Earlier in the year, the company indicated it was about one to one and a half years from volume production with HAMR.
Like Seagate, WD recognizes that conventional recording technology is reaching the end of the road in the 20s. The company, too, aspires to eventually reach 50TB and possibly beyond.
Solid-state drives of comparable capacities, such as the 61.44TB Solidigm P5336 geared toward enterprise use, already exist. Nonetheless, some consumers may continue to favor HDDs for their considerably lower cost.