Seagate Demonstrates 1 Terabit per Square Inch Hard Drive Technology
March seems to be turning into the month for hard drive technology announcements. Last year, Samsung was showing off the first 4TB hard drives. This year, Seagate is showing off the technology that they expect to take hard drives up as high as 60TB. That technology is Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR), a system that uses lasers to flip the bits on a hard drive and is poised to replace Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR), the technology behind current hard drives. For PMR, 1Tb per square inch is the theoretical limit which would leave hard drives topping out at about 6TB. For HAMR, 1Tb per square inch should be just the beginning with headroom for 5-10 times greater areal density in the future. Seagate's tech demo may not have come with any timelines, but Seagate and the other hard drive manufacturers working on HAMR were shooting for 2015 at Diskcon last year, with 2013 maybe being eyed for lower areal density drives to test deployments. I know most of us will be pretty wary of those early drives, but it is exciting to think that expanding hard drive capacities might become a more frequent part of the news cycle once again and give me an excuse to free up some drive bays in the home server.
The press release provides few details on the specifics of the implementation, but HAMR is something Seagate has been working on since at least 2006. Although there's no timeline for when the technology will be ready for mass consumption, the perpendicular recording technology currently used by hard drive makers is expected to run out of steam near the 1Tb/in² threshold.