Western Digital is promising massive 40TB capacity hard drives by 2025

Doris Richards
October 12, 2017

For about the past year and a half, flash memory storage devices have held the honor of stuffing more data in less space than any rotating magnetic storage (hard disk drive) device. That's about to change as Western Digital introduced the worlds first microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) HDD.

At its "Innovating to Fuel the Next Decade of Big Data" event today, Western Digital Corp. Data centers are constantly after higher capacity drives, and Western Digital thinks MAMR is the way to do it. The company recently unveiled a breakthrough in material and process that provides the required reliable and predictable performance, as well as the manufacturability to accelerate areal density and cost improvements to an estimated average of 15 percent per year.

The breakthrough, Western Digital explains, comes from the development of a spin-torque oscillator which is able to generate a microwave field to increase the ability of the magnetic read-write head to address significantly higher areal densities.

If MAMR works out, it would most likely replace Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) and the next generation standard.

Western Digital is talking about the possibility of 40TB enterprise hard drives using MAMR by 2025, which is a mind-boggling amount of storage. The concept isn't new - the original patent for using heat to increase the stability of magnetically-stored data was granted in 1954, and the technology itself saw brief usage in magneto-optical drives from the 1980s before writeable CDs cornered the market for low-priced write-once mass storage - but Western Digital claims MAMR is now ready for prime time.

WD also showcased advancements in microactuation and Damascene recording head technology.

John Rydning, IDC's research VP whose focus is on hard disk drives and semiconductors, said the product is attractive to hyper-scale cloud operators and cloud providers because they are adding storage capacity at a fast pace, and the more capacity each hard drive has, the more they can store within a single data center's footprint. "Commercialization of MAMR technology will pave the way to higher recording densities, and lower cost per terabyte hard disk drives for enterprise datacenters, video surveillance systems, and consumer NAS products".

Western Digital's latest advancement, however, looks to prolong the transition by at least an additional decade. The Damascene process involves precise depositing and etching layers of magnetic and non-magnetic materials to arrive at a finished head.

Hard drive makers have talked about releasing 14TB, 16TB, and even 20TB in the not too distant future, but what Western Digital is cooking will blow them all away. The company is driving the innovation needed to help customers capture, preserve, access and transform an ever-increasing diversity of data. Western Digital data-centric solutions are marketed under the G-Technology, HGST, SanDisk, Tegile, Upthere and WD brands.

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