Western Digital Shares Roadmap Details: 30TB Hard Drives, 10 Drives, HAMR


Western Digital this week unveiled several important details regarding its hard drive roadmap at the 5th Annual Virtual Wells Fargo TMT Summit Conference. The company is optimistic about the demand for hard drives for years to come and expects its current technologies to provide drives with capacities of up to 30TB in the coming years. However, it will eventually be necessary to turn to heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology. What is surprising is that the company is no longer talking about its Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording (MAMR).

22 TB for 2022

There are two general ways to increase the capacity of a hard drive. One is to install platters with a higher capacity, which sometimes requires the use of new magnetic recording technology (e.g. HAMR) and several new components as well as new discs. Another way is to install more platters, which requires a transition to thinner platters and sometimes to different mechanical components. Hard drive manufacturers usually combine approaches, so over time the industry shifts to both new magnetic recording technologies and platforms with more drives.

Western Digital’s most advanced hard drives – the 20TB Ultrastar DC HC560 and 20TB WD Gold – use nine 2.2TB platters, Power-Assisted Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (ePMR) and OptiNAND technology. But apparently the company already knows how to add a 10th tray platform that can provide 22TB of storage if Western Digital decides to continue with the same drives.

“We are able to deliver our 20TB on nine platters, we can add the 10th and we get an additional 2.2TB of storage,” said David Goeckeler, managing director of Western Digital (via SeekingAlpha).

Up to 30 TB with ePMR and OptiNAND

Western Digital hard drives with OptiNAND technology add an integrated iNAND UFS (EFD) flash drive to improve performance, reliability and usable capacity. Western Digital will continue to use this technology with ePMR. The company will also combine it with Magnetic Shingle Recording (SMR) technology to provide additional capacity to customers who have optimized their software for SMR.

Western Digital believes that its ePMR and OptiNAND technologies will enable it to create hard drives with a capacity of up to 30TB. This figure is quite impressive because it forces the company to increase the areal density of its platters by 36% at the time. over the next few years, as well as increasing the number of disks to 10. But from 30 TB, Western Digital will have to use HAMR technology. .

“So we really have this staircase to get you up to 30TB and then you go up the HAMR curve and you go a little bit longer,” Goeckler said. “So I think that’s a really good roadmap for the hard drive industry.”

No mention of MAMR

What is somewhat surprising is that Western Digital has not said a word about its MAMR technology which was supposed to increase the capacity of the company’s hard drives to 40TB. Western Digital has always viewed its ePMR technology as an intermediate step between the regular PMR and the MAMR, which would eventually be replaced by HAMR.

The fate of MAMR is unclear at this time. However, based on the fact that Western Digital no longer mentions the technology, it looks like ePMR will precede HAMR, while MAMR might not see the light of day at all, at least as far as Western Digital readers are concerned. However, we are awaiting clarification from the company.


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