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Seagate promises 60 terabyte 3.5-inch hard drives within 10 years

STORAGE MAKER Seagate today claimed it has become the first hard drive maker to demonstrate hard drive storage density of one terabit – a trillion bits – per square inch.

In a demonstration the data storage company said its latest manufacturing technology will enable it double the storage capacity of today’s hard drives. But before we get too excited, introduction of actual products that we can buy based on the technology will not be until “later this decade”. However, when they finally tip up, the super-dense drives will be able to squeeze up to 60 terabytes into a standard 3.5-inch hard disk drive.

In an interesting aside Seagate pointed out that the number of bits in a square inch of disk space at this high density far outnumber stars in our Milky Way galaxy, which astronomers estimate at between 200 billion and 400 billion.

The technology behind the super-dense drives is heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). According to Seagate it will rapidly replace the presently standard hard diak drive technology, Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR), which records data on the spinning platters inside hard disk drives. PMR will reach its “capacity limit” near one terabit per square inch in the next few years, the storage firm predicts. It noted that the maximum capacity of today’s 3.5-inch hard disk drives is three terabytes (TB) at about 620 gigabits per square inch, while 2.5-inch drives top out at 750 gigabytes (GB), or roughly 500 gigabits per square inch. The first generation of HAMR drives, at just over one terabit per square inch, will likely more than double these capacities to 6TB for 3.5-inch drives and 2TB for 2.5-inch models. The technology offers a theoretical areal density limit ranging from five to 10 terabits per square inch, or 30TB to 60TB for 3.5-inch hard disk drives and 10TB to 20TB for 2.5-inch drives.

The company went on to explain that hard disk drive manufacturers increase areal density and capacity by shrinking a platter’s data bits to pack more within each square inch of disk space. They can also tighten the data tracks, the concentric circles on the disk’s surface that contain the bits.

“The key to areal density gains is to do both without disruptions to the bits’ magnetisation, a phenomenon that can garble data,” Seagate said.

“Using HAMR technology, Seagate has achieved a linear bit density of about [two] million bits per inch, once thought impossible, resulting in a data density of just over [one] trillion bits, or [one] terabit, per square inch – 55 per cent higher than today’s areal density ceiling of 620 gigabits per square inch.” µ


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