At the 5th Annual Virtual Wells Fargo TMT Summit Conference this week, Western Digital revealed numerous crucial pieces of information about its hard drive strategy. The business is bullish about the need for HDDs in the next years and anticipates that its existing technology will offer drives with capacities of up to 30TB in the coming years. It will, however, eventually have to resort to heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology. Surprisingly, the corporation no longer discusses its microwave-assisted magnetic recording technology (MAMR).
There are two general methods for increasing a hard drive’s capacity. One option is to install larger capacity platters, which may need the use of new magnetic recording technology (e.g., HAMR) and several new components in addition to new discs. Another option is to add extra platters, which necessitate a switch to thinner platters and, in some cases, new mechanical components. Hard drive manufacturers typically mix techniques, so the market gradually moves to new magnetic recording technologies as well as platforms with additional discs.
Western Digital’s most sophisticated HDDs, the Ultrastar DC HC560 20TB and the WD Gold 20TB, include nine 2.2TB platters, energy-assisted perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR), and OptiNAND technology. However, if Western Digital chose to use the same discs, the business appears to already know how to add a 10th platter platform capable of providing 22TB of storage.
“We can deliver our 20TB on nine platters, we can add the 10th, and we get another 2.2TB of storage,” said David Goeckeler, chief executive of Western Digital (via SeekingAlpha).
Western Digital’s OptiNAND-enabled hard drives (HDDs) have a NAND UFS embedded flash drive (EFD) to improve performance, durability, and useable storage. Western Digital will continue to use this technology in conjunction with PMR. It will also be used with shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology to give additional capacity to clients who have optimized their software for SMR.
Western Digital thinks that its PMR and OptiNAND technologies will enable it to manufacture HDDs with capacities of up to 30TB. That statistic is fairly astounding since it necessitates the corporation increasing the areal density of its platters by 36% over the next several years, as well as increasing the number of discs to ten. However, Western Digital will need to deploy HAMR technology on drives larger than 30TB.
“So, we really have that staircase to take you to 30TB, and then you get on the HAMR curve and you go for quite a bit longer,” said Goeckler. “So, I think it is a really good roadmap for the hard drive industry.”
What’s odd is that Western Digital hasn’t mentioned anything about their MAMR technology, which was supposed to push the capacity of the company’s hard drives up to 40TB. Western Digital has long seen its PMR technology as a bridge between traditional PMR and MAMR, which would eventually be superseded by HAMR.
At the time, the destiny of MAMR remains unknown. However, based on the fact that Western Digital no longer mentions the technology, it appears like PMR will come before HAMR, whilst MAMR may never see the light of day, at least in terms of Western Digital’s drives. We are still waiting for clarity from the company.