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WD is developing 40TB hard drives powered by microwaves

13 October 2017

Considering we have only just seen 12TB drives, the jump to 40TB in 8 years seems a little optimistic, and it is unlikely these will be consumer drives.

Western Digital is planning a new range of HDDs based on MAMR technology, with 14TB, 16GB, 20TB and beyond HDDs to surely arrive between now and then. Some systems have a secondary spinning drive for bulk storage because they're cheaper per gigabyte, but spinning drives can't match the speed of an SSD. Data centers are constantly after higher capacity drives, and Western Digital thinks MAMR is the way to do it. The temperature during write (Tc) is lower for MAMR. This addition doesn't require a complete redesign of the head, though.

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. Developments in the other energy-assisted technology, specifically, heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), present new material science and reliability challenges that are not a factor in MAMR. The company's head manufacturing operations are the only internal supplier to utilize Damascene processing to manufacture heads with the precise tolerances and complex structures required for reliable and cost-effective recording at ultra-high densities. However, repeatedly heating the hard drive platter to several hundred degrees would cause a reduction in longevity.

The company says its Damascene head-making process is the second key component in bringing MAMR technology to a manufacturable state.

MAMR doesn't heat the recording medium at all, and the technology to make it work is invisible to the host machine. HAMR requires a new substrate, new media materials, new head materials and a new manufacturing process. WD claims that MAMR drives should easily match the lifespan of current drives.

WD and its competitors have been working on drives using a similar energy-assisted recording concept called heat-assist magnetic recording for over a decade, with prototype drives demonstrated all the way back in 2007.

The first MAMR hard-disk drives will be running in data centres by 2020, according to WD, but will quickly find their way into an array of different products, including consumer products, according to IDC.

WD is developing 40TB hard drives powered by microwaves