Seagate has responded to Western Digital’s MAMR (Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording) hard drives with it Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) hard drives. The HAMR technology increases the storage density of the hard drives by using tiny lasers and Seagate has plans to launch 20TB + hard drives in the market by 2019.
Older HDD technologies such as PMR (Perpendicular Magnetic Recording) and SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) have technically reached their performance limits and it will be interesting to see how the new MAMR and HAMR technologies transform the HDD technology landscape.
Western Digital was the first to disrupt the storage industry when it announced that it would use the new MAMR technology that boosts the recording density with the aid of a microwave field instead of using HAMR. It gave plenty of reasons why HAMR wasn’t a viable option but it looks like Seagate has a different opinion. While sticking to its plan to use HAMR, Seagate has produced disclosures that dispute claims made by Western Digital why HAMR was not viable.
According to Seagate, the technology HAMR uses shoots a laser at the tiny recording bits boosting its storage density. This essentially reduces the amount of energy that is required to magnetize the recording media. The tiny laser rides on the hard drive’s recording head heating the recording surface to 400oC or higher. However, this is short-lived because the recording media cools with as little time as a nanosecond. This tiny laser will consume about 200 mW of power to deliver this feat, as such; Seagate believes that these new hard drives will definitely fit within the power consumption of standard hard drives.
Seagate also believes that the HAMR technology can be scaled. It has been able to increase the storage density by 30% every year for the last 9 years and it now boosts of reaching a density of 2TB/in2 . That is incredibly more than twice the current density of PMR hard drives. The company has already built more than 40,000 HAMR and distributed them with their leading customers in the field. The response on performance seems to be positive and that’s likely the reason Seagate is going ahead with its plans.
There are concerns however in regard to the reliability of the lasers, head production costs and new materials for platters. Seagate has allayed those fears by claiming that its recording heads are able to write over 2PB of data without any reliability concerns surpassing the standard for hard drives. With concerns about production costs, Seagate contends that its increased storage density leads to low costs per TB. Moreover, it has built already millions of HAMR heads and is therefore confident of its ability to produce them cost-effectively.
Since HAMR requires newer materials for platters, Seagate plans to use glass substrate platters. These are already in the market and are able to achieve 2.5 million hour MTBF. Furthermore, these do not need wear leveling according to Seagate. They will therefore be plug-n-play with other existing platforms. This coupled with Seagate’s plan to launch their 20TB HDD in 2019 means we only have to wait a little longer before we can start enjoying these increased storage capacities.