OEMs given terabyte and half-terabyte versions
CES 2013 WD is sending out samples of its 500GB and 1TB hybrid flash hard disk drives to OEM customers and showcasing them at CES in Las Vegas.
According to an Engadget report WD is sampling two hybrid HDDS with its OEMs:
This is more NAND cache than the 8GB seen in Seagate's Momentus XT. Hybrid drives put commonly used data, such as the operating system and application load files, in the NAND cache to speed start-up and application load times to near native-SSD speed, but at a price significantly below SSDs. Hybrids may become known as SSHDs, solid state hard drives, but it hasn't really caught on yet.
Both hybrid drives are in WD's Black range - what used to be the Scorpio Blacks - spinning at 5,400 and 7,200rpm. The 1TB one has a 6Gbits SATA interface and the 500GB unit has a new connector.
If these drives come to fruition they could signal the end of the 10,000rpm Velociraptor drive, beloved of gamers. Data access speed will come from flash, not from the disk spinning faster.
We suspect these two hybrids both use 500GB platters, spin at 5,400 rpm, and might be available in the second half of the year. ®
It's like all our storage Christmases came at once
Seagate aims to ship enhanced capacity shingled magnetic recording (SMR) disk drives later this year and bring in Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) technology next year, a full two years earlier than supposed. Possibly this is its riposte to the helium gas attack mounted by WD subsidiary HGST.
Shingled magnetic recording - the overlapping of data tracks to cram more tracks and hence more data onto a drive's recording surfaces - will be introduced by Seagate on drives this year, according to Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers, who talked to Seagate EVP and chief sales and marketing officer Rocky Pimentel at the Stifel Tech Conference.
The current PMR (Perpendicular Magnetic Recording) process is nearing the end of its development, as any further decrease in the size of the magnetised bits renders them unstable, hence the need for storage firms to move on to newer, denser recording technology.
Pimental said SMR drives would be introduced later this year, and enable a 20 - 25 per cent areal density increase. Taking a 4TB 3.5-inch drive and giving it an SMR upgrade would bump capacity up to 4.8TB to 5TB.
Meanwhile, rival HGST is approaching the same problem with a different solution - filling a drive with low friction helium gas and adding more platters so that, for example, a 4TB 4-platter drive becomes, for example, a 6-7 platter drive in the same enclosure with capacity ranging between 6TB and 7TB, assuming 1TB/platter technology. HGST could well start small, so to speak and intro a 5-platter 5TB drive.
As we explained here, SMR drives take longer to rewrite data because tracks overlapped by the new data track have to be reconstructed before the new data is laid down, thus creating a rewrite time penalty. Helium gas-filled drives won't suffer from this disadvantage.
A HAMR type head
Pimental told Rakers that following the 2013 SMR drive push, we can expect Seagate to ship HAMR disks in 2014. This is two years or so earlier than has been assumed. HAMR uses different recording media in which data bits are smaller than the current perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology and much stabler than equivalent-sized PMR bits would be. This instability is what is closing off further PMR areal density improvement through decreasing the bit size. HAMR bits need to be heated (the H in HAMR) before their magnetic state can be changed, meaning a tiny laser heater has to be added to the read/write head to provide the fast and localised bit heating needed as the head flies above the moving recording medium surface.
Back in March last year Seagate said it had built a HAMR drive with a trillion bits/in2 areal density, some 60 per cent higher than the 620Gbit/in2 seen in a 3-platter, 3TB Barracuda drive. This implies that a 1TB/platter PMR drive could become a 1.6TB/platter HAMR drive and today's 4TB 4-platter 3.5-inch drives could become 6.4TB drives.
So, the Seagate capacity improvement from today's 4TB PMR drives is:
Back in March last year Seagate was talking about 10 years of progressive HAMR technology generations leading to a 60TB 3.5-inch drive. We're looking at a disk capacity race between Seagate using SMR and HAMR, and HGST using helium (and SMR), with Toshiba and Western Digital so far having not declared their technology preferences. Which way will they jump to increase capacity?
Pimental also said Seagate will start shipping 5mm thick 2.5-inch in dual drive and hybrid (flash cache + disk) form for the tablet and thin/light notebook market in the second half of this year, with possibly a million or more such dries shipped by year-end. He says there will bean insignificant price premium for hybrid hard drives, above 1 million shipment volumes.
The Seagate sales and marketing bod also talked about Virident, the PCIe flash card vendor into which Seagate pumped $40m a short time ago, and whose product it is offering its OEMs and channel (as a Seagate PCIe flash card product). He said additional functionality could be provided for the product, such as file management, device awareness and security.
Whoever said disk drive technology and supply was settling into boredom? No way, Jose. ®