Seagate has become the first hard drive manufacturer to pack 1 terabit - one trillion bits - into a single square inch, a remarkable milestone that will lead to hard drives as large as 60TB within the next decade.
60TB of Information within the Next Decade
Over the next decade, this achievement will lead to standard 3.5-inch drives that can store as much as 60 terabytes of information, said Seagate. The 3.5-inch drives currently available provide three terabytes of storage, packing about 620 billion bits into each square inch. This is really a nice bird-in-hand type of vision of the future, said Mark Re, Seagate senior vice president.
As people upload increasingly more digital data into the proverbial cloud, more and more storage will be needed. Facebook alone is now storing more than 100 petabytes of photos and videos. While many are shifting to cloud storage, Re says Seagate remains fully committed to old-fashioned hard drives as a good storage solution.
To pack a terabit of data into a single square inch, Seagate used heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology, which uses extremely precise lasers to burn data into an iron alloy substrate. Although the technology has been around for roughly six years, it is still in its early stages.
Current PMR Technology
The commercial hard drives available today are generally encoded using perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR), but this technology is more limited. With PMR, when pieces of data are packed closer and closer together on a hard drive platter, in order to increase density, their magnetic properties interfere with each other. With HAMR, however, the laser increases the temperature of the disk to 650 degrees Kelvin in less than a nanosecond, reducing the magnetic interference. This way, the hard drive's write head can encode data in tighter spots than it would at lower temperatures.
The growth of social media, search engines, cloud computing, rich media and other data-hungry applications continues to stoke demand for ever greater storage capacity, said Re. Hard drive innovations like HAMR will be a key enabler of the development of even more data-intense applications in the future, extending the ways of businesses and consumers worldwide use, manage, and store digital content.
HAMR, More of an Evolution than a Revolution
According to Re, this demonstration is more of an evolution rather than a revolution. The Seagate team constantly pushed the substrate, the optics on the recording head and the thermal controls until they managed to bring the system to its current state.
From now on, Re is confident Seagate will release commercial drives based on HAMR technology within the decade. Eventually, believes Seagate, this technology will allow storage densities of 5 to terabits per square inch - an achievement previously believed to be impossible.
(reported by Alexandra Burlacu, edited by Surojit Chatterjee)
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