Japanese manufacturer Showa Denko has announced the shipment of 3.5-inch hard disk media with a storage capacity of 2.6 terabytes (TB) per platter — potentially allowing for hard drive capacities of 30TB or more by late 2023.
The Showa Denko Group produces hard disk platters, but doesn’t sell directly to consumers. The company’s innovations will likely show up in the products of the major hard drive manufacturers (in other words, if you think of the name of a major hard drive brand, there’s a good chance that Showa Denko is part of their supply chain).
Why Hard Drive Capacities Are Growing
The new hard drives will use shingled magnetic recording (SMR) and energy-assisted magnetic recording to reduce the size of the data tracks on each platter, allowing for a much higher areal density.
While SMR and related technologies aren’t new, they’ve become more commonplace in recent years. Many enterprises depend on SMR hard drives for long-term storage applications, and with the rise of cloud computing, drive capacity — and total cost per gigabyte — are essential metrics.
“The new HD media have pioneered the age of HD media having recording density of 1TB/in2 or higher, and we successfully combined technology to produce fine crystals of magnetic substance with technology to improve rewrite-cycle endurance on the surface of HD media, while maintaining compatibility with shingled magnetic recording (SMR),” Showa Denko wrote in a press release.
“We will accelerate development of new HD media further, and aim to realize near-line HDD having storage capacity of more than 30TB by the end of 2023.”
Of course, hard drive manufacturers will need to tweak controllers, enclosures, and HDD firmware to take advantage of the new technology. While 26TB hard drives are already on the market, manufacturers may need some time to cross the 30TB threshold.
Consumer Hard Drives Won’t Reach 30TB Anytime Soon
Hard drive capacities will continue to improve, particularly for enterprise applications. However, the innovations that allow for 30TB capacities aren’t ideal for most consumers.
SMR hard drives overlap data, reducing the total size of each track. This increases density, but reduces drive performance, particularly when writing large files or when writing data randomly.
Most consumers don’t have 30 terabytes of data, period — and few would sacrifice speed to get a near-endless amount of storage. The good news: Manufacturers have introduced technologies to counteract performance concerns, including larger buffers and improved data management tools. Several companies have introduced SMR technology to the consumer hard drive market, and SMR drives are capable of providing excellent performance for many consumer-level applications.
At extremely high capacities, HDD speeds may suffer, but for servers, write performance is less of an issue. RAID configurations can write data to multiple drives with extreme efficiency, and while SMR diminishes write speeds, many enterprises are willing to make that trade-off for the substantial benefits of higher drive capacities.
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