Seagate last week clarified its high-capacity HDD roadmap during its earnings call with analysts and investors. The company is on track to ship its first commercial HAMR-based hard drives next year, but only in the back half of the year. Before that, Seagate intends to ship its 18 TB HDDs.

It is expected that Seagate’s 18 TB hard drive will be based on the same nine-platter platform that is already used for the company’s Exos 16 TB HDD, which means that it will be relatively easy for the company to kick off mass production of 18 TB hard drives. Overall, Seagate’s HDD roadmap published in September indicates that the company’s 18 TB drive will use conventional magnetic recording (CMR) technology. In addition to this product, Seagate’s plans also include a 20 TB HDD based on shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology that is due in 2020.

Seagate says that its Exos 16 TB hard drives are very popular among its clients and even expects to ship more than a million of such drives in its ongoing quarter, which ends in December. The launch of its 18 TB HDD will maintain Seagate’s capacity leadership in the first half of next year before Western Digital starts volume shipments of its HAMR+CMR-based 18 TB and HAMR+SMR-based 20 TB hard drives.

Seagate itself will be ready with its HAMR-based 20 TB drive late in 2020. Right now, select Seagate customers are qualifying HAMR-based 16 TB HDDs, so they will likely be ready to deploy 20 TB HAMR drives as soon as they are available. It is noteworthy that Seagate is readying HAMR HDDs with both one and two actuators, as to offer the right performance and capacity for different customers. This would follow Seagate's current dual-actuator MACH.2 drives, which the company started shipping for revenue last quarter.

Dave Mosley, CEO of Seagate, said the following:

“We are preparing to ship 18 TB drives in the first half of calendar year 2020 to maintain our industry capacity leadership. We are also driving areal density leadership with our revolutionary HAMR technology, which enables Seagate to achieve at least 20% areal density CAGR over the next decade. We remain on track to ship 20 TB HAMR drives in late calendar year 2020.

As drive densities increase, multi-actuator technology is required to maintain fast access to data and scale drive capacity without compromising performance. We generated revenue from our MACH.2 dual actuator solutions for the first time in the September quarter. We are working with multiple customers to qualify these drives, including a leading US hyperscale customer, who is qualifying the technology to meet their rigorous service level agreements without having to employ costly hardware upgrades. We expect to see demand for dual actuator technology to increase as customers transition to drive capacities above 20 TB.”

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Source: Seagate

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  • danielfranklin - Tuesday, November 05, 2019 - link

    Bring back to 20MB HDD! Reply
  • Scott_T - Tuesday, November 05, 2019 - link

    so you can play space quest without having to switch floppys Reply
  • GreenReaper - Tuesday, November 05, 2019 - link

    I wonder if hard drives have the same aspect of "binning" as CPUs? I know there are factory defect lists, but do they pull the not-so-great platters and specifically put them into lower-capacity drives? Reply
  • shabby - Tuesday, November 05, 2019 - link

    Yes... they put them into the consumer drives 😂 Reply
  • RedGreenBlue - Wednesday, November 06, 2019 - link

    There have been some good innovations in hard drives in recent years, but this is pathetic. Their roadmaps have slipped so many times, they make Intel’s 10nm process look like it was on time. HDD manufacturers have slipped their timelines so much that anyone without a short memory should see this like a go-fund-me/crowd-sourced business plan. As I said originally, this is pathetic. I understand HAMR and MAMR are hard to get going by the fixed costs, but it’s just ridiculous 3-5 years after their promises. Investors should be upset to say the least, especially during an expansion. Reply
  • Beaver M. - Wednesday, November 06, 2019 - link

    The wonderful world of price fixing.
    You can actually see it happening when Toshiba entered the market and made HDDs that could keep up with Seagates and WDs. A sudden dip in prices. And then, after a few months, they suddenly were all friends and the prices got stable again, even went up again on some models.
    Reply
  • TheOtherOn - Wednesday, November 06, 2019 - link

    Just a simple (maybe dumb) question from avg Joe. Why can't they increase the physical size of HDDs? Why does it HAS to be 3.5"? I know there are standards set for size and the PC Case designs are based on that but those can also be changed. Reply
  • npz - Wednesday, November 06, 2019 - link

    I used to have thicker SCSI 3.5 hard drives. There were two standard heights for 3.5" drives back then and the taller one used more platters. Similar to the different heights of 2.5" we have now: 7mm, 9.5mm and 15mm. As far as expanding width / platter area wise, it's definitely possible and my older friend told of hard drives that were actually bigger, but two issues arises: balance / vibration problems with larger diameter platters and industry trends for being more compact Reply
  • AdditionalPylons - Wednesday, November 06, 2019 - link

    There are (almost) no dumb questions. There have been many different larger form factors, as discussed briefly at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_disk_drive#Form...
    This includes the 24-inch IBM 350, which is part of the one-tonne IBM 305 RAMAC computer system (lots of fun reading about these old things), and 14 and 8-inch sizes before more common sizes such as 5.25, 3.5, 2.5 and 1-inch drives.
    There were consumer products based on the 5.25" form factor, such as the Quantum Bigfoot (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_Bigfoot), which I remember having in the 90s.
    With a larger drive you can have more total drive area per actuator (the arm that moves to put the read/write heads in place). This can be good in terms of cost efficiency, but the number of I/O operations per second (IOPS) goes down.
    I think Seagate is currently working on putting multiple actuators within the same drive, so this partly negates this.

    I can think of a few reasons why 5.25" drives are not coming back:
    - smaller drives mean more drives in the same physical volume, which in turn means more IOPS (many servers moved to 15000rpm 2.5" drives before moving to SSD, which now can have all sorts of exotic form factors like m.2 and long narrow "ruler" designs)
    - smaller drives means more flexibility in terms of case designs
    - the main advantage with larger drives would be cost efficiency, but it possible that quality control issues when producing large discs mean more material is discarded due to small defects (but this is likely not at all as bad as in semiconductor manufacturing)
    - I think there were also some material strength/tension/homogeneity issues with keeping high enough rotational speed at large sizes

    In the end it likely comes down to the available market though. Very few people would opt for a physically larger drive when small do the job better but are potentially just slightly more expensive.
    If there are some hard drive engineers on the forum I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong.
    Reply
  • bsd228 - Wednesday, November 06, 2019 - link

    Google and others at the OCP started talking about alternate form factors a few years ago, and yes, it's likely to occur. But the cloud storage customers have additional different criteria that doesn't play well for the home user, like reduced error correction in the hardware.

    Right now, us data hoarders benefit from the density progress, but I think at some point there will be a divergence and we won't be able to make use of it. Then again, maybe irrelevant. I can't even justify bumping my 6TB NAS drives to the 14s or 16s.
    Reply

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