Heat or microwave… which one will win the storage capacity race?

Two technologies, which have been developed over the past few years, have recently broken onto the market. Both promise to deliver a rapid increase in hard drive capacities, but can both be sustained, or will one emerge as triumphant?

Heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) is being developed by Seagate while Toshiba is investing in microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR).

MAMR is also being developed independently by Western Digital after it switched in 2017 from pursuing HAMR. “MAMR is one of two energy-assisted technologies that Western Digital has been developing for years. The company recently innovated a breakthrough in material and process that provides the required reliable and predictable performance, as well as the manufacturability to accelerate areal density and cost improvements to an estimated average of 15% per year.

“Developments in the other energy-assisted technology, specifically HAMR, present new material science and reliability challenges that are not a factor in MAMR. Only MAMR demonstrates the reliability and cost profile that meets the demands of datacentre operators.”

As the name suggests, HAMR uses heat to increase the amount of data that can be stored on hard drives. The drive surfaces are heated during writing, making them more receptive so allowing data to be stored on smaller segments.

As Mark Re, Seagate’s Chief Technology Officer, stated: “HAMR is a technology designed to enable the next big increase in the amount of data that can be stored on a hard drive. It uses a new kind of media magnetic technology on each disk that allows data bits, or grains, to become smaller and more densely packed than ever, while remaining magnetically stable. A small laser diode attached to each recording head heats a tiny spot on the disk, which enables the recording head to flip the magnetic polarity of each very stable bit, enabling data to be written.”

Seagate says it is already shipping HAMR drives and according to The Register “Seagate has set a course to deliver a 48TB disk drive in 2023 using its HAMR technology, doubling areal density every 30 months, meaning 100TB could be possible by 2025/26.”

MAMR is a much easier technology to implement than HAMR, says solutions engineer David Wachenschwanz. Thanks to MAMR, WD predicts that we will see 100TB drives in 10 years or so.

The fact that Seagate has pegged its future to the HAMR mast, with Toshiba pursuing a MAMR alternative is interesting. That WD switched from one to the other really poses the question which one will win the storage capacity race; heat or microwave? Crucially, what will all this mean for the future of the HDD market?

One thing that is for sure, Exertis Hammer will be keeping a watchful eye on the two technologies and will be best placed to offer insight and advice. Talk to your account manager today.


Source: Hammer
Published Date: 18/03/2019

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