Records are made to be broken, and that's exactly what Seagate
is doing. The company has become the first hard drive maker to achieve the milestone storage density of 1 terabit (1 trillion bits) per square inch, producing a demonstration of the technology that promises to double the storage capacity of today’s hard drives upon its introduction later this decade and give rise to 3.5-inch hard drives with an extraordinary capacity of up to 60 terabytes over the 10 years that follow. The bits within a square inch of disk space, at the new milestone, far outnumber stars in the Milky Way, which astronomers put between 200 billion and 400 billion.
The current hard drive technology, Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR), is used to record the spectrum of digitized data – from music, photos, and video stored on home desktop and laptop PCs to business information housed in sprawling data centers – on the spinning platters inside every hard drive. PMR technology was introduced in 2006 to replace longitudinal recording, a method in place since the advent of hard drives for computer storage in 1956, and is expected to reach its capacity limit near 1 terabit per square inch in the next few years.
The maximum capacity of today’s 3.5-inch hard drives is 3 terabytes (TB), at about 620 gigabits per square inch, while 2.5-inch drives top out at 750 gigabytes (GB), or roughly 500 gigabits per square inch. The first generation of HAMR drives, at just over 1 terabit per square inch, will likely more than double these capacities – to 6TB for 3.5-inch drives and 2TB for 2.5-inch models. The technology offers a scale of capacity growth never before possible, with a theoretical areal density limit ranging from 5 to 10 terabits per square inch – 30TB to 60TB for 3.5-inch drives and 10TB to 20TB for 2.5-inch drives.
The 1 terabit per square inch demonstration extends a long line of
storied technology firsts for Seagate, including:
1980: ST-506, the first hard drive, at 5.25 inches, small enough to be
widely deployed in early microcomputers, the precursor of the modern
PC. The 5 megabyte drive cost $1,500.
1992: The first 7200RPM hard drive, a Barracuda® drive
1996: The first 10,000RPM hard drive, a Cheetah® drive
2000: The first 15,000RPM drive, also a Cheetah hard drive
2006: Momentus® 5400.3 drive, a 2.5-inch laptop drive and
the world’s first drive to feature perpendicular magnetic recording
2007: Momentus FDE (Full Disk Encryption) drive, the industry’s first
self-encrypting hard drive
2010: Momentus XT drive, the first solid state hybrid hard drive,
combining traditional spinning media with NAND flash, to deliver
speeds rivaling solid state drives (SSDs)