In the recent months, Seagate has made several significant announcements regarding the future of HDD technology and unveiled a number of important products. In particular, late last year the company has said that hard disk drives would continue to evolve in the following 20 years, implying that Seagate is exploring multiple technologies to improve capacities and performance of HDDs. Additionally, Seagate introduced the first shingled magnetic recording (SMR) based consumer drives for mobile PCs, which marks a significant milestone in the development of the technology.

The Evolution Continues, New Challenges Arise

While solid-state storage devices are evolving fast in terms of performance and getting more affordable every year, they are not going to match hard drives in terms of cost-per-GB anytime soon. Still, with economic feasibility in place, HDDs are poised to keep evolving with larger capacities and better performance. Throughout the history of hard drives, the evolution of HDDs has involved multiple factors, including materials (platters), mechanics (motors, arm movers, internal structure, and so on), read/record heads, controllers and firmware.

The keys to additional capacity and performance of HDDs have remained generally the same over the years: small pitches and narrow tracks as well as a high rotating speed respectively. The evolution of HDDs in the future will rely on platter density and new heads, as well as the compute capabilities of their controllers. The performance of HDD controllers in the coming years will matter more than ever.

For our coverage, we approached Seagate and spoke with Mark Re, SVP and Chief Technology Officer of Seagate, to discuss their plans to announce HDDs featuring other important technologies. Rather than a question/answer discussion, what follows is a culmination and expansion of topics discussed.

Sources and Recommended Reading:

Seagate: Hard Disk Drives Set to Stay Relevant for 20 Years
Hard Disk Drives with HAMR Technology Set to Arrive in 2018
Market Views: HDD Shipments Down 20% in Q1 2016, Hit Multi-Year Low

Seagate to Expand Usage of SMR
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  • Notmyusualid - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Just lost my Seagate 4TB 2.5" internal disk last week.

    Luckily my most precious things were backed-up elsewhere, but dam, 2.4TB lost.
    Reply
  • jwcalla - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    I'm honestly fed up with the poor reliability of HDDs. Of the three ones I still had in service, two are dead, and I'll never buy those two brands again. Reply
  • Michael Bay - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Out of not so idle interest, what were they? Reply
  • kamm2 - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    This was in the back of my mind the whole time I read this article. What good is any of this if the damn drives keep dying? Maybe things are different on the enterprise side but I've given up on Seagate drives. Reply
  • jbrizz - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Can we just have 5.25 inch hard drives again? I don't care so much about density at home, but I need to hoard more files! Reply
  • rstuart - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    I like most have move to use SSD exclusively for the, hmm, "boot drive", But I do use HDD's for media storage where only the biggest highest density drive works. SSD's are currently about an order of magnitude more expensive per byte in this area. At a wild guess SSD's might reach price parity in a decade, but for now the HDD's are the only sane choice.

    I'm currently struggling to fit in 6TB. My guess is 10Tb would be enough for the foreseeable future, and 20Tb would cover everything I am every likely to need. So I rather pleased to see Mr Re say they will hit 20Tb in a few years.
    Reply
  • patrickjp93 - Wednesday, July 6, 2016 - link

    Samsung is hitting 15TB this year, so Seagate is done in enterprise. The performance/watt/$ is just vastly superior for SSDs. Once storage density is also in the wheelhouse of SSDs, the scales will tip and never go back. Reply
  • gospadin - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    absolute density (TB/m3) is already in SSD's advantage

    The biggest 2.5" HDD you can buy today is 2TB. In that form factor, Samsung is currently selling 4TB SSD, with 8TB/16TB drives announced.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    Do like me:

    4x6TB WD blues, so should be covers for some time.
    Reply
  • anactoraaron - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    This paragraph was enlightening -
    HDDs that use shingled recording write new tracks that overlap part of the previously written magnetic tracks. The overlapping tracks may slow down writing because the architecture requires HDDs to write the new data and then rewrite nearby tracks as well.

    Which explains why my 5tb seagate with this tech can't seem to get past 40MB/s when writing to the drive.

    Then read this - Ultimately, environments that involve a decent amount of writing might not be impressed with SMR performance, but the key figure here is density.

    Is anyone getting a high capacity drive going to be impressed with 2-40 MB/s?

    No. No they will not.
    Reply

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