HAMR: The Data Density Future Will Reside in Your Hands!

In early 2017, news propagated about the first Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR)—that will be shipped to the customers by the end of 2018. In the year 2018, they were sent for the customer integration tests, and the results were as expected! Just like any other drives, the HAMR drives are easy and straightforward to use and to integrate. These drives have passed all the tests that they underwent with the predictability they have engineered into them.

HAMR is a technology that is a way forward to allow a significant increment in the amount of data to be stored on a hard drive. It involves the latest magnetic media technology on each disk that enables each bit of data to become even smaller to get densely packed than ever. And, all this should be attained while remaining magnetically stable.

There is a small laser diode attached to every recording head that is heated by a tiny spot on the disk. Heating of a tiny spot on the disk is responsible for allowing the recording head to reverse the magnetic polarity of each bit—allowing the writing of data.

In Development for Ages

For years now, manufacturers of hard disk drives, heads and HDD media have been working on technologies to aid HAMR-based HDDs. As soon as they realized that they would be requiring HAMR technology to build hard drives with higher capacities, they were on it. They worked hard on this laser-diode technology for over a decade, and now it is achieved. There is a mood of happiness in the world of technology after this win.
Though the idea was initiated in the late 90s, various manufacturers started working on HAMR technology in the mid-2000s. For instance, back in 2013, Western Digital showed a 2.5” hard drive that used HAMR technology. Then, in 2015, Seagate showcased a NAS, powered by several hard drives which that feature heat-assisted magnetic recording. It was just the beginning for the future to behold the power of HAMR hard drives in their hands.

Futuristic Higher-Capacity HDDs

It all seemed far away in the future when anybody talked about HAMR hard drives, but with continuous efforts and hard work, the future of data density is here.
Other hard disk brands are also putting efforts into something exciting and useful. If we talk about SDK, in 2016, it started volume production of its ninth perpendicular magnetic recording platters. Then, the company announced that the ninth-gen PMR disks for 2.5” HDDs would feature 1TB capacity. Finally, the tech could be applied to 3.5” platters to increase their size up to around 2TB.

Earlier in 2015, Seagate presented a 2TB hard disk drive in 2.5” form-factor that was just 7mm thick. That drive was based on two 1TB platters that featured cutting-edge 1.3Tb/in² areal density. Inevitably, the same technology was used for 3.5” HDDs that enabled Seagate to introduce enterprise-class hard drives with 10TB capacity and even over. There is no doubt about the fact that HAMR is the future of data areal density and it is now all set.

What is the need for higher data density?

According to a recent study report by IDC, it was predicted that by Data Age 2025, data creation would grow to a considerable number of 163 zettabytes (ZB). This number is ten times the data produced in 2018 or 2019.

IDC also concluded that hard drives would be central in managing a 70% share of the datasphere. It implies that the hard drives’ future is very bright as they will witness more technological evolution to enhance their storage capacity. Considering the recent scenario, HAMR is the need of today. As we are the bystander of rapid growth in data generation, its management, and storage, we require more advanced storage devices.
Hard drive manufacturing companies have seen a long way and will keep on witnessing future progression to embark on the various pain points lying in the data center. An excellent hard drive company will always strive for a laser-focused innovation to support the ever-progressing exabyte demand. They will also continue to be adopting the advanced innovating technologies to better IOPS and latency and also fulfill the TCO requirement with Helium and other SMR initiatives.

HAMR —the path to areal density headship

The best hard disk manufacturing company typically stays ahead in the game of adopting the latest trends so that they can enable their customers to store as much data as they want. If we consider the present age of data, HAMR is the only technology that would be able to provide the necessary way forward in areal density. But, with the Perpendicular Magnetic Recording limitation, HAMR has successfully brought us on the path of evolution of areal density. It is the only technology that is capable of enabling 10 Tbpsi when coupled with BPMR (Bit Patterned Media Recording) that gives ten times more improvement over PMR over the next up decade.

HAMR has delivered 20TB+ drives since 2019, and it is forecasted that 30% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) in the data density is to achieve 40TB and even higher capacities by 2023. This growth rate in data density is incredibly unique to HAMR. Also, it is very critical to ensure an advantage in TCO that data centers need from the hard drives.

In reality, however, new HAMR components put some extra cost on a per-head basis. HAMR drives in their entirety can deliver a reduced price for 1 TB as compared to PMR drives due to the increase in total storage capacity per disk.

If paired with SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) and TDMR (Two-Dimensional Magnetic Recording), HAMR can offer the industry prices that have never been seen before for cost-per-TB and coupled with parallelism techniques. And, not to mention, the performance can scale up, and capacity also increases. The advantages of HAMR hard disks cross all segments. HAMR allows its clients and enterprise products to grow with the performance and capacity and performance demands of every market.

HAMR technology is all set now!

Nearly a decade ago, the development and the delivery of the progressive and advanced head and media designs for HAMR seemed complicated and hard to achieve. Back then, we didn’t have enough resources and practical knowledge to put that into consciousness and work upon it. We needed to develop and define a new media coating that would magnetically be enough to prevent even smaller bits of data from randomly flipping the polarity. This means it was “soft” enough that it used to get heated and cooled to allow those bits to be flipped by the recording head. Then, there arose questions on how to integrate laser diodes and the near-field transducer into recording heads.

Adding laser to every head is a relatively complicated job. But, with the progressive advancements in technology, there is no “how to do it” question left today. HAMR architecture has become simpler than any other approach made in the direction of delivering higher data density after PMR.

Till today, millions of hard disks have been built and put to the test; these drives are reliably offering you the transfer over 2PB of data on a given head. It implies that you can transfer 35PB of data in a five-year life on a 12TB drive—beyond expectations in the real world, right?
In these hard drives, the glass media reliability is well established, and many hard disk manufacturers assure you such a feature. Some HAMR hard disk manufacturers’ supply chain of glass media has demonstrated 2.5M MTBF with shipping products.

Heat, power, and the reliability of related systems are almost insignificant. HAMR heads are integrated into customer systems that consume under 200mW power while writing. It is a small share of the total 8W power that is used by a hard drive during random writing and maintains total power consumption that equals to standard drives. Therefore, there is no surge in the drive temperature. But, that doesn’t mean HAMR hard drives don’t get heated. They get heated by the laser diode during the writing process-but every ‘bit’ is heated and then cools down in the miniscule fraction of a second, so the HAMR laser has no significant impact on drives temperature or stability, reliability of the media overall.

In 2019, by introducing a 14TB drive with multiple actuators, Seagate has shown the usage of PMR technology drive. This hard drive showed the high-capacity drive that offered more performance than single actuator drives. In 2020, Seagate is all set to introduce its very first multi-actuator disk drives that uses Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) tech offering capacities over 20TB. This revelation was made at the Open Compute Project summit, which took place at the San Jose Convention Center. It will be followed by a multi-actuator HAMR drive with 20+ TB capacities in 2020, followed in turn by 30+TB drives in 2021/2022 and 40+TB around 2023. Hence, the data density future is now progressing with the speed of light.