Seagate Reaches 1 Terabit Per Square Inch Milestone

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News Posted: Mon, Mar 19 2012 5:49 PM
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 technology
  • 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)
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JvanHummel replied on Tue, Mar 20 2012 10:40 AM

Is it possible to estimate how this affects latencies? Naturally higher data density means more throughput, right? But are the heads going to work in a different way, or will latencies remain the same?

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epobirs replied on Tue, Mar 20 2012 1:12 PM

Mechanical movement across the platters will remain the biggest limitation on reducing latency. But as drives like the Momentus line and motherboard features like Intel's SRT become more common the latency will be less of a problem for the most often accessed files. Right now, Intel 20 GB cache drive for SRT is a somewhat expensive option at around $120. But as the price drops it will come to be seen as a necessity.

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realneil replied on Tue, Mar 20 2012 10:15 PM

Lordy! A 6TB platter drive would be awesome. Put four into a NAS box and never look back.

I have a 60GB OCZ Solid SATA-III 6GBs SSD in my 2600K system as the Intel RSTcache for a SATA-III 6GBs Western Digital 1TB Black. It's much faster than just the WD Black alone is, but  when I put my 240GB SSD into the box it's speed goes crazy.

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Kiristo replied on Thu, Mar 22 2012 5:01 PM

I'll take a 60TB drive.

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