Disk storage climbs perpendicularly

Disk drives will be between five and ten times more capacious by 2009, depending on who you believe

Perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology, which can make hard drives with up to ten times today’s capacity, will be widespread in 2007 and ubiquitous in 2009, according to analyst firm IDC.

The technology increases the number of bits stored per square inch on a drive, and will appear first in the small drives being aimed at mobile phones and PDAs such as the PalmOne Lifedrive.

PMR works by aligning the magnetic zones used to store bits on a drive vertically, like drinking straws in a box, instead of horizontally -- the default configuration for magnetic recording.

Hitachi has promised that PMR will allow it to deliver 2.5cm (1 inch) drives with 20GB capacity. The company has demonstrated an areal density demonstration of 230 Gbits/inch2 in the laboratory, which will translate to a 20GB Microdrive or a 1 terabyte (TB) 3.5inch drive.

IDC says in its report 2005 Hard Disk Drive Industry: Component Technologies and Business Models that the scientific problems have been solved and predicts the new technology will leap the manufacturing issues just as easily. The analyst firm expects PMR to dominate the 630 million drives expected to ship in 2009.

IDC believes that PMR will multiply drive capacities by five in the next five years -- an opinion that is pessimistic compared with vendors. Hitachi expects to have 60Gb microdrives -- ten times today’s capacity -- in the same time period.