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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  • nandnandnand - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    They explained how to mitigate SMR performance issues in the article. Reply
  • romrunning - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Sure, you can try to mitigate the performance, but I feel the initial performance design should have been aiming higher than existing PMR performance. That's why SMR is disappointing to me. I feel like they were dumping R&D into HAMR, and they weren't getting results as fast as they wanted. So they go the SMR route to get the desired results (more storage density) in the interim.

    It's not like SSDs. While SSDs were lower in capacity initially, the speed increase was dramatically better. SMR-based drives are only slightly better in capacity, but they are more noticeably worse in performance. Thus it didn't have the same impact - it doesn't have enough of the "wow" speed factor to help overlook its performance shortcomings.

    It's like when Honda introduced the new Insight hybrid. It wasn't better or even at the same level of "MPG" as the Prius; that's why it didn't fare well.
    Reply
  • JimmiG - Thursday, July 07, 2016 - link

    Well, SMR is a stopgap solution, but it's here now and it works. HAMR sounds great on paper, but show me where I can buy an 8 TB HAMR drive today, for under $250?

    My 8TB Seagate Archive has the lowest cost/GB of any drive at the time, and it works fine as a secondary storage/backup drive. Just manually dumping files to it or running scheduled backups work great, with performance that doesn't really "feel" any different than my 5900 RPM 4 TB PMR drive.
    Reply
  • romrunning - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    I also say this coming from someone who liked the Seagate 600 Pro SSD. They could have done a lot more years ago to compete for the market lead in consumer SSDs; basically Samsung dominates right now. Reply
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Even as an individuaI, I mostly don't care about storage performance. OS and apps and "live" data files get an SSD. That <5% of my storage. Media, archives and backups get an HDD. That's >95% of my storage. I don't care about performance for SSD nor HDD, both are OK for the uses I dedicate them too even in their cheapest crappiest incarnations.
    I'm more interested in cost, space, reliability, and durability.
    Reply
  • serendip - Friday, July 08, 2016 - link

    Amen to that, beyond the tiny but vocal enthusiast community there are loads of users who want cheap, huge and reliable storage. I hope the SSD and HDD manufacturers don't forget this market and just concentrate on enthusiasts or enterprise customers. Reply
  • paulemannsen - Saturday, July 09, 2016 - link

    +1. I could even live with 10/10 mb read/write speeds, just give me more reliability and space. Reply
  • Nozuka - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    There are already 13TB SSDs... currently extremely expensive, but it's only a matter of time... Reply
  • XZerg - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    you mean 16TB - from Samsung - http://gizmodo.com/samsungs-16tb-ssd-is-now-an-act... Reply
  • Lolimaster - Friday, July 08, 2016 - link

    The 13TB was from fixstars (japan based). They were the 1st in multiterabyte SSDs 3-6-10-13TB. Reply

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