How the 100TB HDD Could Become a Reality

The amount of data that can be stored on HDDs is currently limited by existing technology, with current models topping out at around 8TBs. At the recent Magnetism and Magnetic Materials Conference, however, a number of new technologies were discussed which could, when combined, potentially result in HDDs capable of storing up to 100TBs of data.

New technologies such as hermetically sealed, helium-filled HDDs and shingled magnetic recording (SMR) have allowed manufacturers to develop drives with greater storage capacities by decreasing resistance in order to squeeze more platters into a drive and by writing data together more closely respectively. These technologies alone are unlikely to help the likes of Seagate and Western Digital to develop drives which boast capacities greater than the 10TB models that are expected to be unveiled in 2015, however.

Thanks to techniques that are currently being developed, though, it was predicted at the conference that 100TB HDDs will be available by 2025. What, though, are the key developments that will facilitate the creation of such a drive?

Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording, which is expected to increase the storage density of platters by up to one hundredfold, is set to be rolled out in 2017. This is likely to be followed by bit pattern media (which will allow drives to record data in small magnetic islands) in 2021. By 2025, these two technologies are expected to be combined with SMR and experts have claimed that this will increase the areal density of drives to 10TBs per square inch. As current HDDs offer areal densities of up to 0.86TBs per square inch, it is conceivable that the HDDs of 2025 will indeed boast storage capacities of 100TBs.

Western Digital Announce Better-Than-Expected Quarterly Revenue

Hard drive manufacturers Western Digital Corporation have outperformed expectations having recently announced that their revenue rose by approximately £3 million more than had been forecast previously.

The company have attributed this growth to the fact that a large number of businesses have been upgrading their storage systems by updating their PCs, servers and data centres.

Western Digital’s main rivals, Seagate Technology PLC, also reported better-than-expected quarterly results on Monday which, coupled with the fact that WD’s chief executive Steve Milligan has been quoted as stating that the industry is stable in terms of supply and demand, would suggest that the HDD sector is still in rude health in spite of the growth in popularity of flash storage devices such as SSDs.

This, many including Fields Data Recovery would argue, is due to the fact that demand for HDDs will remain until the cost per GB of flash storage falls significantly. Equally relevant is the fact that the demand for online storage is growing with data centres needing to meet this demand by purchasing affordable, high-capacity storage media.

Yes, SSDs are almost certainly the storage media of the future but, for the moment, there’s plenty of life left in the HDD yet!

Could Data Storage Devices Double Up as CPUs?

Storage media like HDDs, SSDs and flash drives are vitally important parts of computers. Without them, we would be unable to store simple electronic data like word documents and spreadsheets, let alone larger files such as those containing audio or video. Now, though, scientists at the University of Sheffield feel that they could be performing an even more important role as Central Processing Units.

According to researchers at the institution’s Faculty of Engineering, HDDs are able to store information when they are not powered due to magnets, any computer that utilised a HDD as a CPU as well as a storage device would be extremely energy efficient as they would consume very little power compared to current machines.

The process of transforming HDDs into devices that can not only store data but also devices that can carry out instructions issued by programmes is not simple, though. The team theorise that it is possible to create logic gates from magnetic materials by using them to create what are known as magnetic vortex domain walls.

Researchers are expected to begin preparing experimental prototypes soon.

Seagate Release World’s First 8TB HDD

Last week, hard drive manufacturer Seagate began shipping the world’s first HDD capable of storing 8TBs of data.

The 3.5 inch SATA drive has been designed with data centres in mind and is currently only available to selected consumers, but is expected to be available to the wider market within the next six months.

Whilst it has been designed to predominantly be used in data centres, however, the company have also noted that their latest drive has the potential to be used by businesses and home-users that are looking for a secure means of backing up large amounts of data.

Surprisingly, Seagate have been somewhat coy with regards to their latest effort’s capabilities with the drive’s spin speed and platter arrangement still a secret. The company have claimed, however that the drive is the most power-efficient drive available in terms of watts to storage space and also boasts the lowest cost per TB of any HDD currently available.

It is generally presumed that SSDs (solid drives with no moving parts) will eventually overtake HDDs as the most used type of storage device worldwide but, whilst these drives are quicker than those with moving parts, they are currently unable to match HDDs for storage capacities, with many arguing that there is still a future for HDDs – particularly in data centres – as a result.

HDD Hardware Failure is Still the Most Common Cause of Data Loss

Mechanical failure is still the most common cause of data loss amongst UK businesses and private users according to a recent survey.

Two-thirds of those that responded to the survey reported that they had lost data as a result of mechanical problems with their HDD compared with 14% who had suffered data loss through human error and 10% who attributed their data loss to problems with software.

Of respondents that used SSDs, only 13% reported data loss, compared with 74% of those that used HDDs. In comparison, 6% of RAID users reported data loss as did 5% of smartphone users.

Of those surveyed, 57% reported having lost personal data and 27% data concerning their businesses. Additionally, 11% of respondents reported that losing data had had both a substantial and adverse effect on their businesses.

Temperature Does Not Affect Hard Drives According to Study

Conventional wisdom has always dictated that if your storage media operates within too hot an environment it is significantly more likely to fail. Now, though, a recent study has suggested that this may not be the case.

Cloud storage provider Backblaze (who previously wrote about the failure rates of hard drives by brand) have studied the 34,000 hard drives currently present within its data centre and have found that there is no correlation between failure rates and temperature.

The study’s author, engineer Brian Beach, noted that different models of drives run at different temperatures and that this is what has affected previous studies into the effect of temperature on hard drives.

Of the 19 different models of drive examined, only one – the Seagate Barracuda – was more likely to fail in high temperatures. Even then, the correlation was relatively small.

Interestingly, whilst the correlation was only slight, Hitachi’s Deskstar 7k2000 drive was more likely to fail at lower temperatures.

A prior study conducted by Google also found no correlation whilst another by Microsoft found a clear relationship between high ambient temperatures and increased failure rates.

It must be added that none of the drives in this study operated in an ambient temperature of above 60˚C and that all hard drive manufacturers collectively recommend that hard disks be kept cool in order to prolong their lifespan.

What do you think, are hard drives more likely to fail at higher temperatures or are manufacturers simply playing it safe?

Seagate’s Latest HDD Stores 6TB Without Using Helium

Other HDD manufacturers may be intent on upping their drives’ maximum capacities by hermetically sealing helium inside, but Seagate’s latest effort achieves exceptional storage space without it.

Whilst sealing helium within a HDD reduces friction and heat, meaning that an additional two platters can be used inside the drive and increase its capacity, Seagate have upped their newest drives capacity by instead increasing the drives areal density. In other words, whilst each square inch of the platters utilised within their drives could previously store 831 bits, this figure has increased to 1,000.

Seagate claim that their latest drive is also 25 per cent faster than drives that use helium and that, thanks to superior rebuild functionality built onto the drives SAS controller, data rebuild times are significantly reduced in the event of a drive error – something that is certain to appeal to data centre owners.

No news has emerged on whether or not Seagate’s latest effort can match helium-filled drives superior power consumption or longer lifespans, however.

585 Million HDDs Predicted to Ship in 2015

HDDs will continue to be the most popular means of storing data for some years according to market research undertaken by Dublin based Research and Markets.

According to a press release that the market analysts made available earlier today, HDDs will continue to lead the data storage market as, whilst SSDs are continuously growing in popularity, HDDs still offer higher storage capacities and a more competitive cost per gigabyte of storage.

The release also states, however, that SSDs will begin to become more attractive to both manufacturers and consumers as the cost of NAND flash memory declines.

The company also estimated that 585 million HDDs will be shipped in 2015.

Inventor of the Modern Hard Drive Awarded €1m Prize

Professor Stuart Parkin, whose work allowed storage media to become smaller whilst storing larger quantities of data, has been awarded for his achievements with the Millennium Technology Prize, along with a reward of no less than €1m (£824,000).

The physicist utilised ‘spintronics’ in order to develop a new type of head that was able to detect weaker and smaller signals than those used previously in 1988. Prior to this, he had gained a PHD in physics from Cambridge University in 1982.

The award, which is issued annually, is given to individuals whose creations have, quite literally changed the world for the better; something that is certainly true of Parkin.

It is because of his breakthrough that a single hard drive is able to store as much as 1TB of information; following IBM having begun utilising Parkin’s discoveries in 1997, the maximum storage capacity of hard drives consistently quadrupled on an annual basis for several years. Without his work, the digital world would be a very, very different place and many online services, such as online streaming and cloud storage services, would simply not exist.

Parkin is currently in the process of developing new technology dubbed Racetrack memory that will, he hopes, create a new form of storage media which, whilst still using mechanical drives, consumes less power and provides performance similar to that provided by solid state drives.

Global Shipments of Hard Drives Predicted to Rise

We recently wrote about a new series of SSDs from Sandisk that have been designed in order to challenge hard drives positions as the leading type of storage media used in data centres. Today, we’ve stumbled some news that is likely to leave the California based flash memory specialists feeling more than a little disappointed: IT research and advisory firm Gartner is not expecting the HDD market to shrink over the coming years, but to experience modest growth.

Overall, Gartner have predicted that an additional 83 million hard drives will be being shipped annually by 2018; an overall annual growth rate of just under three per cent.

Most noteworthy of all, though, is their prediction that this growth will largely stem from new helium-filled high-capacity business critical drives which have been specifically designed for data centres and cloud storage providers.

So, what do you think? Will SSDs become the de facto storage media used in data centres or is the helium-filled HDD set to be the king of mass-storage?