Large-capacity HDDs have appeared on the hard disk market. But it is unlikely to help the market

Large-capacity HDDs have appeared on the hard disk market. But it is unlikely to help the market

Seagate Company announced about the start of the supply of hard drives with a capacity of 30 TB or more. At the moment, this is just the beginning, with the main supply planned for the end of this year. The discs are designed using HAMR technology, which allows you to achieve a very large capacity. But most likely it will be a niche product for corporate use, and this novelty is unlikely to help the HDD market.

HAMR technology – what is it?

It is known that HAMR is an abbreviation, it stands for Heat-assisted magnetic recording (“thermomagnetic recording”). The technology allows you to achieve a recording density of 2.32-7.75 Tbit/cm². According to American technojournalists who love comparisons, only one disk with a volume of 37 TB will be able to record all the materials of the US Library of Congress in a compressed form.

The essence of the technology consists in local heating by a laser and remagnetization in the process of recording the surface of the hard disk plates. The laser built into the disk head allows you to heat the surface of the plate up to 500 degrees Celsius. Accordingly, the desired area of ​​the plate is magnetized even with a relatively weak magnet in order to record data. The developers of the technology report that neither the physical nor the chemical properties of the plate change. But the capacity – yes, it can be significantly increased, and after cooling the plate, the data is not lost, they can be counted without problems.

The technology itself is far from new, it has been developed at Seagate since 1998, and a whole division called Seagate Research is engaged in this work. In 2018, i.e. 5 years ago, the first 16 TB hard drive developed using HAMR technology was released.

Are the discs working yet?

At the moment, some of the released disks are already installed in the Exos Corvault storage system, which is also developed by Seagate. The 4U form factor rack accommodates 106 HDDs connected using the SAS interface.

Accordingly, the company’s clients who purchase HDDs receive new disks with a record capacity. As far as we can understand, the company is simply not able to release a large volume of high-capacity HAMR drives to the market right now, but in a couple of months, shipments of HDDs will begin separately, and not just as part of the HDD.

The volume of deliveries will gradually increase and will reach the usual indicator for the company at the end of 2023 — at the beginning of 2024.

What else?

Seagate continues to develop new HDDs and with the use of other technologies. In particular, SMR and PMR, which makes it possible to produce high-capacity HDDs without the need to heat the plate with lasers. As for SMR, the technology is called “cranial recording.” Thanks to it, the recording density on the plate is about 1248 Gbit/inch².

At the same time, the recording process can be controlled in two ways. The first is using a disk controller. The second is using the software of the system to which the disk is connected. HDDs from Seagate belong to the second type. Their maximum volume is 24 TB, but it is quite possible that SMR HDDs with a larger volume will soon appear.

PMR is a perpendicular magnetic recording technology that allows data to be placed on parallel tracks. However, discs made using this technology seem to have reached a technological limit. Recently, Seagate, having released a 24 TB HDD, stated that this is almost the maximum for PMR technology, so further work in this direction does not make sense.

Will the new drives help refresh the HDD market?

Hardly, since the products are quite niche, discs of this capacity are a corporate product, they are not intended for the consumer market. Accordingly, records from Seagate will not be able to somehow influence the situation in which the hard disk market found itself.

And the market has big problems. For example, in the first quarter of 2023, the volume of sales of hard drives decreased by 35% compared to the same period in 2022. In the 1st quarter, about 35 million HDDs were sold, this is the total figure for the three largest manufacturers of hard drives, Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba.

The situation is difficult both with corporate and user segments. The latter showed a drop in sales of 24% for desktop HDDs and 33% for 2.5-inch drives.

Some hard drive manufacturers believe that sales may increase, but this is probably just the desire of companies to show confidence in the future. Of course, HDDs will not disappear anywhere, because there are many industries where they are used. But SSDs, solid-state drives, are becoming increasingly reliable, capacious and cheap. Over time, they capture an increasingly large share of the HDD market. Most likely, this trend will only intensify over the next few months, let alone years.

SSDs are installed in more and more desktop PCs and laptops, and you can buy them at a very good price, which can already be compared with the price of HDDs of the corresponding volume. But it seems that not long ago, SSDs seemed like a technological exotic, available only to a select few.

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