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WD chooses MAMR HDD Recording Technology, hoping to launch HDDs up to 40TB

WD chooses MAMR HDD Recording Technology, hoping to launch HDDs up to 40TB

Western Digital picks MAMR(Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording) as its new HDD recording technology, which can enable HDDs up to 40TB by the year 2025. The MAMR technology has been in development over few years but it certainly stands in contrast to Seagate’s plans for using the laser-assisted (Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording) as the route to higher storage density.

The transition to the new recording process isn’t immediate, but WD plans to have initial products shipping by 2019 and it had working demo models this week at its event in San Jose. The improved recording technology is needed to keep HDDs cost-competitive with the surging SSDs, but economics dictate that SSDs will never replace HDDs entirely, especially as the volume of data continues to grow exponentially; WD predicts that HDDs will account for ~90% of data center storage in 2020.

MAMR hard drives will debut in the data center and eventually filter down to NAS and video surveillance HDDs, but unfortunately, WD says that it will not bring the drives to the consumer market. The tactic makes some sense for WD, which also has a large presence in the SSD market due to its SanDisk acquisition.
HDDs are being replaced quickly in the client space. For instance, if we include data stored worldwide, such as in desktop PCs, laptops, and other devices, WD predicts that only 70% of data will be stored on HDDs in 2020. In either case, it is surprising that WD isn’t planning on bringing higher-capacity MAMR drives to the desktop. We imagine WD will use the existing low-performance (Shingled Magnetic Recording) to extend HDD density in the client market.

The HDD has evolved over the last 60 years into smaller devices as the industry shrunk the size of physical components to increase storage density. Shrinking the components, such as disks, heads, and the case, brought about huge improvements, but eventually the industry ran against the practical limits of reducing the size of the mechanical components. The HDD industry spent tremendous time and treasure developing 1-inch HDDs (which debuted in 1999), envisioning that the tiny spinners would make their way into mobile products, such as the then-conceptual smartphone. That didn’t go well, thankfully, and the mobile industry transitioned to flash for those types of applications. In the meantime, the HDD vendors continued to improve recording technology.

HDDs store data by magnetizing small bits aligned on a platter into tracks, and density improvements come by shrinking the TPI (Tracks Per Inch) and BPI (Bits Per Inch). In the past, longitudinal recording was the go-to method for recording data on a hard drive. Longitudinal recording aligned the poles of each magnetic element () horizontally.


Shrinking the bits required stronger (higher coercivity) materials that could hold the magnetic charge within a smaller volume. Materials with higher coercivity are more thermally stable, which is important due to the superparamagnetic limit. This limit denotes that bits can be spontaneously de-magnetized by local thermal fluctuations if the magnetic regions of the bit are too small, resulting in data loss.

But the write heads of the era could not force enough energy into the smaller and stronger bits without disturbing surrounding bits. With PMR (Perpendicular Magnetic Recording), vertically aligning the poles allows the head to drive more directed energy into the material by routing the magnetic flux through an additional under-layer (see graphic). That enabled the use of stronger materials.

WD developed a Spin-Torque Oscillator (STO) to reduce the coercivity of the material so the head can impart enough energy into the bits to flip the magnetic state. The STO resides in the center of the recording head and has 10nm multi-layer films consisting of magnetic and non-magnetic material. The head applies DC current to the STO, which in turn creates an electron spin. This rotation creates an electromagnetic field at a microwave frequency (20-40 GHz range), thus reducing the coercivity enough to pump sufficient energy into the bits to flip the magnetic charge. That will eventually allow the to use 4.5nm grains as the technology evolves.

The new writing technique also improves media and track density by writing more well-defined data patterns than PMR or HAMR technologies. PMR’s maximum density is currently predicted to be roughly 1.1 Gbit/inch², but combining it with other new technologies, such as SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording), boosts the density potential up to 1.4 Gbit/inch2. WD predicts that it can reach up to 4.5 Tbits/inch2 with MAMR. That enables a path forward to 40TB+ hard drives.


Credits: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/wd-mamr-hdd-hamr-drive,35682.html

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