Seagate demos HAMR tech to produce 20TB hard drives by 2020

Heat-assisted magnetic recording can blast through current data density limits, but don't expect drives using the technology before 2016.
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor

At the CEATEC 2013 show in Tokyo this week, Seagate is demonstrating a new technology that could breathe new life into the old magnetic hard drive.

Using current technology, the data density of a typical hard drive platter is expected to max out at about 1 terabit per square inch, which means that not a lot more terabytes of data will be squeezed into traditional hard drives.

Enter heat-assisted magnetic recording. As its name suggests, HAMR works by heating the platter area with a laser to make it possible to increase the data density significantly. How much? According to Seagate, the limit could jump from 1 terabit to 5 terabits per square inch.

That could mean that 20TB hard drives will be possible, a fivefold increase in capacity from the biggest drives offered today. Unfortunately, Seagate doesn't expect one of those drives to be commercially available until 2020, and the first HAMR-based drives aren't expected on the market until 2016.

Nonetheless, Seagate is displaying a 2.5-inch prototype HAMR drive spinning at 10,000rpm at CEATEC. It may not be as sexy as the latest innovations in solid-state drives, but the ability for manufacturers to wring more capacity out of that storage standby, the humble hard drive, after all these years is remarkable, too.

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