The new 80TB hard disk drive has been announced last week as Showa Denko (SDK) disclosed that it has finished working on a new generation of heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) media for hard drives. SDK claims these new platters will achieve areal density of up to 6Tb per square inch, which is between four and five times what current platters offer. If we do the math with what we know today as the biggest hard disk drives on the market offer up to nine platters it means 80TB hard drives are just around the corner.

The biggest hard disk drive currently available is a 20TB hard disk drive from Western Digital, the Ultrastar HC650 which uses a different technology called shingled magnetic recording (SMR). SMR is a magnetic storage data recording technology used in hard disk drives to increase storage density and overall per-drive storage capacity by writing new tracks that overlap part of the previously written magnetic track, leaving the previous track narrower and allowing for higher track density. Thus, the tracks partially overlap similar to roof shingles. This approach was selected because physical limitations prevent recording magnetic heads from having the same width as reading heads, leaving recording heads wider. Seagate has been shipping Device-managed (DM-SMR) hard drives since September 2013, while in September 2014, HGST announced a 10 TB drive filled with helium that uses HM-shingled magnetic recording, followed with a 10 TB helium-filled drive that uses conventional non-shingled perpendicular recording. The overlapping-tracks architecture may slow down the device since writing to one track overwrites adjacent tracks, and requires them to be rewritten as well. DM-SMR devices hide this complexity by managing it in the firmware, presenting an interface like any other hard disk making them extremely unpredictable and prone to data loss.

On the other hand the press release from Showa Denko corporation Denko, the largest independent manufacturer of hard disk drive platters will enable future higher capacity hard disk drives and not relying on SMR technology is exciting. In February 2019 SDK stated they will begin shipment of newly developed 3.5-inch hard disk platters for microwave assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) – promoted by Western Digital, while Seagate is pushing for heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), both forms of energy to assist reliable magnetic recording. Toshiba is expected to use new platter technology in their MAMR HDDs with 18 TB and conventional (CMR) perpendicular magnetic recording. Just over ten days ago SDK said that it has developed media for HAMR with a new structure of magnetic layers and new ways of controlling temperature during hard disk drive media production.

The new product has magnetic coercivity several times as high as the existing advanced hard disk drives media, while achieving low noise due to very small crystal grain size and tight grain size distribution control.

While Western Digital Corporation is shipping what they called energy assisted perpendicular magnetic recording (ePMR) hard drives with 18 TB (CMR) and 20 TB (SMR) Seagate announced that their 20TB HAMR hard drive by mid 2020. These drives may use Seagate’s internally manufactured HAMR media, but may also use SDK media. Toshiba is expected to use SDKs MAMR platters in their 18 TB hard drives later this year as well. In the future, however all big three: Western Digital, Seagate and Toshiba will likely use MAMR and HAMR with or without SMR technology for its high capacity hard drives.

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