Conclusion

While the evolution of consumer HDDs in the recent years was not fast, things are about to change. Use of SMR will help to increase capacities of hard drives in the coming quarters and then TDMR will help to drive capacities again in the coming years. One thing that should be clear at this point is that the evolution of HDDs in the future will be slightly different from their development in the past. The reason for that is segmentation of the HDD market and the need for optimized configurations based on the application. Makers of hard drives tend to tailor their models for particular applications and one size does not fit all even in a segment of the market.

For example, archive, nearline, NAS, DAS and secondary HDDs for desktop PCs benefit from high capacities. However, performance barely matters for archive or DAS hard drives, whereas nearline and NAS have to be offer both storage space and relatively high performance. As a result, some HDDs just offer vast capacities and performance with the help of PMR, helium and 7200 rpm motors, whereas other rely on SMR and come with a lower spindle speed.

Things will not get any less complicated in the coming years because the technology to build HDDs that satisfy demands of end-users and cost reasonable amounts of money is not easy. As a result, some technologies, or a combination of technologies, will not be used to build all types of HDDs. Some things will remain mostly in the data center for Seagate (such as helium), other will be strictly aimed at the consumer (hybrid drives).

Moreover, Seagate and its rivals understand that HDDs cannot compete against SSDs when it comes to performance, especially random read/write performance. Therefore, while hard drives will get faster in the coming years, do not expect manufacturers to make performance their primary concern. At least, not when it comes to competition against SSDs. Density and power are primary concerns with a base level of performance.

Seagate's roadmap includes SMR, TDMR, HAMR as well as multiple other technologies. The company has been developing a set of technologies that should enable capacity, performance, reliability, and endurance of future HDDs featuring the aforementioned recording methods. What the company cannot be sure about is exact demand from various market segments, for example, demand for data center HDDs does not seem to be growing rapidly, but yet this is a segment that Seagate pins a lot of hopes on. Client storage is changing in general and while it is possible to predict what future client HDDs should offer, demand for client hard drives are still up for debate.

The situation with some of the upcoming technologies is pretty clear and exact products will be developed based on market performance, keeping in mind financial viability. Recently Seagate announced plans to adjust its manufacturing capacities in a bid to maintain financial stability, which will inevitably have an impact on its future products. 

We would like to thank Mark Re for his time in discussing Seagate's future.

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

HAMR: Over 2 Tb per Square Inch, and Onwards
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  • JoeyJoJo123 - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    It's ogre. HDDs are dead. SSDs won.

    Just give up.
    Reply
  • pancakes - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Not until SSD's offer the same or better capacity/$. SSD's don't make sense for archival data or large amounts of data that does not need to be accessed at higher speeds. Reply
  • ShieTar - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Well, HDDs barely make sense for archival data either, you still can get tapes at less than a fifth of HDD prices for the same capacity.

    On the other hand, I think SSD builders do keep an ace in the hole by currently not offering 3.5" SSDs. As soon as the prices for NAND-Chips drop into the right region, they do have the chance to drop the $/GB ratio quickly by just adding a significantly higher number of NAND-Chips to a single controller and DDR-Cache.

    HDDs won't vanish within the year, to be sure, but I would somewhat agree to Mr. Ogre in saying that the HDD will be running out of usefullness in the near future.
    Reply
  • mkozakewich - Thursday, July 07, 2016 - link

    If we get multiple terabytes per square inch, I wonder if tapes can even keep up. Surely some of these advancements (like shingles) can be brought over to tape, too. Reply
  • cm2187 - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Plus I think you can kiss goodbye your data if you leave an SSD 2 years unpowered Reply
  • Morawka - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    SSD's under the endurance rating typically last over 10 years. There is even a article here on anandtech about it. Reply
  • tabascosauz - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    SSD data retention != SSD endurance. There is even an article here on Ananadtech about it, go read it. Reply
  • tabascosauz - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Whoops, didn't read lol. Still, even if SSDs are no problem for client applications, no level headed commercial application requiring long term data retention will choose solid state storage. Reply
  • patrickjp93 - Wednesday, July 06, 2016 - link

    Sorry but BS, especially with respect to rebuilding arrays. And with 3DXPoint, solid state data retention will extend to 5x the length the very best magnetic platter is capable of. Reply
  • slyphnier - Friday, July 08, 2016 - link

    saying a post BS while you saying BS ?
    3DXPoint is still new, it have yet to prove it really give 5x better data retention... if already proved then share some legit data.

    Although it not much cases that a drive need to be stored offline for longtime AFAIK there still none NAND on consumer grade that have data retention as long as magnetic platter.
    Reply

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