You can't touch this: It's HAMR time for WD

One year later, Seagate rival unveils its own hot-pressing drive


In September 2012, Seagate boss Steve Luczo gave a presentation using a HAMR technology disk drive. Now, more than a year later, a WD exec has done the same with the company's own HAMR tech drive.

There's got to be a joke here: WD exec nailed it with HAMR? If all you have is a HAMR every disk is a nail? (Give it up - Ed)

HAMR, Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording, deals with the problem of shrinking magnetised bits of disk platters, randomly flipping bit values by using a much more stable recording medium with localised heating needed to make the pesky little bits mutable so data can be written.

This will enable areal density to increase five times or more beyond the current Perpendicular Recording Technology (PMR) limit facing us beyond 800Gbits/in2 or so.

But HAMR is expensive, and requires lots of new equipment, and so its onset has been delayed while HDD manufacturers add platters and use stop-gap shingled magnetic recording (SMR) to increase disk drive capacity while still using PMR equipment.

Luczo teased the industry with his HAMR-based pitch a year ago and now WD's CTO, Bill Cain, has done the same at the 2013 China (Ningbo) International Forum on Advanced Materials and Commercialisation earlier this month.

His pitch was called "Magnetic Hard Disk Media: Enabling High Density Data Storage" and the slides came from a PC powered by a "fully enabled WD HAMR 2.5-inch hard drive." Great: it exists but you can't buy it.

A WD release had a canned Cain quote: "WD is focused on hard drive innovations that will enable future storage capabilities, and HAMR technology is a key step in the migration path.”

Cain thinks we could see HAMR make 4,000Gbit/in2 or 4 terabits per square inch areal density possible. We must be looking at forthcoming 8TB 2.5-inch disk drives at that level – 2TB ones with 1Tbit/in2 areal density.

But when? WD isn't saying.

At the same time as WD is HAMRing ahead, its HGST subsidiary is increasing disk capacity by adding platters inside a helium-filled drive enclosure with the He 6 product. If the Chinese regulators finally allow WD and HGST to properly merge and combine technologies, we could see a Helium HAMR drive offering 3TB at a 1Tbit/in2 density. Bring it on. ®

Bootnote We haven't yet seen the contents of Cain's presentation. Now that would be interesting. Readers who can help should email here.


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