It has been a long journey, far too lengthy and drawn out, with promises upon promises that were never fully confirmed. Fortunately, after taking small steps to secure their path, Seagate has announced what many have been waiting for – the mass production of their 30 TB HAMR hard drives, which will begin arriving within this quarter.
This is great news for several reasons. First, because we finally have this technology available to everyone, not just for large data centers. Secondly, it is the prelude to the next steps in terms of capacity, and possibly speed. Lastly, it will slow down, even if only slightly, the price increase of NAND Flash.
Seagate versus the world: mass production of 30 TB HAMR hard drives and ultimate victory
Seagate has faced criticism within the storage industry for years. NAND Flash has rapidly overtaken them, and WD has not been able to counter strongly, confirming that hard drives were seemingly in a dead-end situation.
However, the wall at the end of the dead-end had a small opening through which the path behind it could be glimpsed, and now, Seagate has managed to break through. But, what exactly is HAMR, and why is it so important?
In short, HAMR is a heat-assisted magnetic recording technology, where its main advantage is that it requires less space to store each bit of information. However, to accomplish this, heat is necessary – a laser beam impacts the disk, reducing the field’s intensity while exposing it to a higher final temperature, but in exchange, less area is needed to store information.
New materials, new capacities, lower energy consumption
One of the challenges Seagate faced once the technology was stabilized was cost, and although we do not know the price per Gigabyte for the consumer market, it will likely be somewhat higher. This is due to the materials that had to be used to manufacture these hard drives and mass-produce them using HAMR technology.
The disks feature a special coating of magnetized iron and platinum, which is essential to ensure that the laser’s heat does not cause deterioration over time. Additionally, Seagate reportedly had to create a much more powerful SoC for each HDD due to the intense control needed for laser engraving.
As a result, although not much has been revealed, it is known that the SoC is manufactured by TSMC using a 12 nm lithographic process, which is another revolution within the hard drive industry. This technology as a whole is called Mozaic 3+ and will reach up to 3 TB this year.
From Mozaic 3+ to Mozaic 5+ in 3 years
Seagate already has successors in the pipeline, as their Mozaic 4+ architecture will raise the bar to over 4 TB per disk next year, and Mozaic 5+ will do the same with over 5 TB per disk starting in 2027. Here, we must also discuss efficiency; Mozaic 3+ will consume only 10.5W per 30 TB HDD, nearly doubling the capacity of the previous generation with PMR technology while using just 1W more.
Therefore, it is expected that the rest of the Mozaic architectures will advance, although we do not know if they will maintain the scalability demonstrated now; however, they will be more efficient, with the question being how much more.
Seagate has done it: they reached mass production of their 30 TB HAMR hard drives, making a significant impact within the computer sector.