HAMR and MAMR: Technologies Bringing a Breakthrough in Hard Disk Drives

Whether you are in business, photography, or even just a student, all your data that you have stored digitally matters a lot for you, and it needs to be secured effectively. This is the reason that the aspect of data management is given a lot of importance these days. Fortunately, technology had made effective efforts to minimize this burden of data management to be an effective support to increase the storage capacity of the hard disk drives.

With the trend of ultra-high-resolution sensors and raw video cameras used at the consumer level, it was becoming a problem for the people. Restricted hard disk drives don’t allow the users to store the bulk of data and completely relying on cloud storage isn’t also an option due to the limited speed of the internet connections as uploading TB of images or files would take a lot of time, especially when you are not using the fiber-optic connection. For the past few years, hard disk capacity has been stagnant, but the good news is that the technologies HAMR and MAMR have been bringing a change.

HAMR and MAMR explained

The limited hard disk space has been bothering people with data storage over the years. In order to clear this trouble, the technologies of HAMR and MAMR are being introduced. The three HDD manufacturers- Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital are already making the most of MAMR (microwave-assisted magnetic recording) and HAMR (heat-assisted magnetic recording) technologies through which they are successfully overcoming the challenges of data storage by successfully increasing the HDD densities.

HAMR makes use of laser-powered heating power to reduce the local magnetic hardness when it writes the data. On the other hand, in MAMR, there is a magnetic wire head that contains a spin torque oscillator (STO) that helps in generating microwaves. These help in lowering the surface resistance of the underlying recording media and make writing bits easier on the hard disk drive. These innovations have been brought to the market due to the reason that the industry has been getting exhausted of all the other options for working on record density improvements like the helium sealing to place more platters in one single case, or making use of smaller grains on the surface.

HAMR hard drive peculiarities

Most people aren’t aware that laser heating has been used prior to writing operations, and the temperature can go up to 400 C, but that usually ended up causing surface degradation. This is the reason that Seagate came up with the idea of new HAMR hard drives with platters made with glass that helps in allowing the use of higher temperatures for recording layers. They included a heat sink and also added an additional surface layer for the purpose of controlling the heat flow in the hard disk drives. This, along with various other hardware requirements, has also been achieved for bringing a change in the production cycle and supply chains, which ended up making the end product more expensive. Focusing on that, Seagate relies on a lower price per TB value to achieve a significantly improved bit-density.

As more and more work is going on in the context of this technology, according to Seagate states that the density for these drives falls into the range of 2 to 5 Tbpsi (Terabits per square inch), while the conventional hard disk drives then to have the density of 1.3 Tbpsi. It has also stated that the potential growth this year can go up to 20TB, while in the coming three years, it can even reach 40TB. It is because of the HAMR technology that the new drives would be able to leverage shingled recording without any noticeable performance degradation because of which the bit density would remain to be the highest in the market, even in comparison to MAMR.

According to Seagate, the final hard drives will be the even better price per TB value that the recently used PMR-based drives. For the purpose of proving the endurance and reliability of the new hard disk drives, Seagate came up with 40,000 HAMR hard drives for presenting in the pre-market stage for the purpose of checking their ability to transfer over 2PB of data through a single drive head.

Also, looking for the aspect of power consumption, HAMR-backed drives would be having a very small laser emitter due to which they will not be consuming much power when compared to the other drives which are currently used.

MAMR drive peculiarities

In relation to HAMR hard drives, MAMR can be considered to be the next-gen technology. It is said so due to the fact that there are a few problems with laser-based writing technology, which are effectively resolved by the MAMR technology. One of those problems which are resolved by MAMR is excessive surface heat and building complexity.

Western Digital makes use of spin torque oscillator (STO) that works with 20-40 GHz microwave frequencies, which is known not to need a complete head redesign. Because of the fact that STO does not deliver too much heat to the surface, this technology can be claimed to be improved HAMR, which has got the same pros but are getting one step ahead because of the lower cons in comparison to the HAMR. The user will definitely get comparable high bit density levels without any side effects in relation to the reliability.

As claimed by Western Digital, it is able to bring a slight change in the existing magnetic head production cycle for supporting the new oscillator coupled heads. But along with this, WD has also mentioned that the development of the new magnetic surface materials for supporting the new technology, which denotes that it is possible that WD has also brought a change in its supply chains. So, for a user, when it would be to buy the hard disk drive, it is important to consider different factors rather than just relying on the prices of the hard disk drive.

HAMR vs. MAMR comparison

Both of these technologies seem to be very similar because of the fact that they both have high bit density and even show amazing performance, better than their older counterparts. But when looked upon precisely, there are certain differences in both of these newer types of hard disk drives. The demo of the HAMR came out of the density of 2 Tbpsi, while MAMR came up with a starting density of 4 Tbpsi. While HAMR is going to reach to 20TB soon, the goals of MAMR would be to reach the density up to 40TB.

These two technologies appear to be quite similar in terms of the user, but when taken fundamentally, they are having different approaches to the aspect of lowering magnetic hardness. The sources that support HAMR claim that the laser technology used in it is quite solid that even allows drives to spin for a long time, without causing any issues. On the other hand, the sources related to MAMR states that the high heat laser technology in HAMR will shorten the life of the hard disk drive. Well, that will all be known when more and more people will step up for using these drives.