Seagate reached the landmark data density with heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), the next-generation recording technology. The current hard drive technology, Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR), is used to record the spectrum of digitized data - from music, photos, and video stored on home desktop and laptop PCs to business information housed in sprawling data centers - on the spinning platters inside every hard drive. PMR technology was introduced in 2006 to replace longitudinal recording, a method in place since the advent of hard drives for computer storage in 1956, and is expected to reach its capacity limit near one terabit per square inch in the next few years.
"The growth of social media, search engines, cloud computing, rich media and other data-hungry applications continues to stoke demand for ever greater storage capacity," said Mark Re, SVP of Heads and Media Research and Development at Seagate. "Hard disk drive innovations like HAMR will be a key enabler of the development of even more data-intense applications in the future, extending the ways businesses and consumers worldwide use, manage and store digital content."
Hard drive manufacturers increase areal density and capacity by shrinking a platter's data bits to pack more within each square inch of disk space. They also tighten the data tracks, the concentric circles on the disk's surface that anchor the bits. The key to areal density gains is to do both without disruptions to the bits' magnetization, a phenomenon that can garble data. Using HAMR technology, Seagate has achieved a linear bit density of about 2 million bits per inch, once thought impossible, resulting in a data density of just over 1 trillion bits, or 1 terabit, per square inch - 55 percent higher than today's areal density ceiling of 620 gigabits per square inch.
The maximum capacity of today's 3.5-inch hard drives is 3TB, at about 620 gigabits per square inch, while 2.5-inch drives top out at 750GB, or roughly 500 gigabits per square inch. The first generation of HAMR drives, at just over 1 terabit per square inch, will likely more than double these capacities - to 6TB for 3.5-inch drives and 2TB for 2.5-inch models. The technology offers a scale of capacity growth never before possible, with a theoretical areal density limit ranging from 5 to 10 terabits per square inch - 30TB to 60TB for 3.5-inch drives and 10TB to 20TB for 2.5-inch drives.
The 1 terabit per square inch demonstration extends
a line of technology firsts for Seagate, including:
- 1980: ST-506, the first hard drive, at 5.25 inches, small enough to be deployed in early microcomputers, the precursor of the modern PC. The 5 megabyte drive cost $1,500.
- 1992: The first 7200RPM hard drive, a Barracuda drive
- 1996: The first 10,000RPM hard drive, a Cheetah drive
- 2000: The first 15,000RPM drive, also a Cheetah hard drive
- 2006: Momentus 5400.3 drive, a 2.5-inch laptop drive and the world's first drive to feature perpendicular magnetic recording technology
- 2007: Momentus FDE (Full Disk Encryption) drive, the industry's first self-encrypting hard drive
- 2010: Momentus XT drive, the first solid state hybrid hard drive, combining traditional spinning media with NAND flash, to deliver speeds rivaling SSDs