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Seagate says: 300Tb ain't happening in 2010

Seagate says: 300Tb ain't happening in 2010

We might see 37.5TB drives in 2020, if we're lucky. Forget about 300TB for now though...

The other day, we wrote an article that claimed we would see 300TB hard drives from Seagate in the year 2010, with thanks to a technology called Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR).

In fact, most of the web ran with this rather sensational story and I'm sure that many of you will be sad to learn that it has turned out to be nothing more than a distant fantasy.

A story on TechWorld a few days ago has rubbished that rumour, as they managed to get a rather clear-cut response from Seagate:

"By 2010, perpendicular recording will remain as the technology used and 3.5-inch drives will range from 1200 to 3000 GB capacities depending on the applications (desktop class drives that don't require the same performance densities as enterprise drives are expected to have the higher capacities). Seagate research's estimates are that 50 terabit-per-square-inch density may be achievable using HAMR with perhaps a combination of Bit Patterned Media but that's moving well past the 2010 timeframe."

Taking that and the recent announcements from Seagate and Hitachi into account, we can see hard drive capacities tripling in the next three years. The Seagate representative also went on to say that "HAMR will begin to emerge in products around that same time as well and begin the transition."

The spokesperson then went on to say that 50Tb per square inch areal density drives (i.e. 300Tb or 37.5TB, not 300TB as originally claimed) are at the bleeding edge limits of HAMR and that kind of areal density will see the light of day closer to the year 2020. Finally, the representative finished by explaining that "current perpendicular recording technology is extensible to somewhere between 0.5 and 1Tb per square inch before another technology like HAMR is required."

21 Comments

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DeX 10th January 2007, 11:23 Quote
Seemed a bit unlikely to be honest. Technology never moves with such large bounds.
Mankz 10th January 2007, 11:27 Quote
awwwhhh.....

there goes 300Tb of p*rn on one HDD.....


i have to admit that it did seem unlikely, and also, who really needs that much ??
Mister_Tad 10th January 2007, 11:31 Quote
of course it isn't happening in 2010.

No hat eating for me anyway :p
r4tch3t 10th January 2007, 11:31 Quote
I guess Mister_Tad wont be eating any hats then.
DougEdey 10th January 2007, 11:46 Quote
Damnit, was looking forward to it. Oh well.


But this just means HDDs right? What about other forms of media?
kenco_uk 10th January 2007, 12:02 Quote
Aye, I was going to say 5TB at the most, given current technology. I don't think there'll be a massive jump until/unless the storage medium changes drastically.
Paradigm Shifter 10th January 2007, 12:04 Quote
Not surprising, really - but a little disappointing. ;) Still, even 37TB is rather a lot. I wouldn't fancy losing that much data at once, so RAID1 will become very important...
specofdust 10th January 2007, 12:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister_Tad
of course it isn't happening in 2010.

No hat eating for me anyway :p

Gotta love that feeling..that feeling of being right
Mister_Tad 10th January 2007, 12:34 Quote
Must have been the new guy that gave the interview/email/whatever claiming the 300TB capacity, not realising the difference between Tb and TB. Though the 2010 vs 2020 ETA can only be put down to that person being a tool. :)
DXR_13KE 10th January 2007, 18:32 Quote
NOOOOO!!!!!! what about my pron??? :p
EQC 10th January 2007, 19:04 Quote
2020!!?? I'm betting that affordable flash storage will be up to at least 40TB by then.

Okay, everybody meet back here January 10, 2020 at 9:00am to see if I'm right.
David_Fitzy 10th January 2007, 21:42 Quote
<CHANT>WE WANT SPEED, WE WANT SPEED</CHANT>

I can see very little use in such big drives, those who need the space run RAID those who don't, don't. but what everybody can agree on is that hard disks are slow.

It's a bit like intel's MHz race they've focused too much on one element, Gb's.

I will most likely be looking into at least one solid state drive for my next build (granted that may well be 2010 with my ability to save;))
specofdust 10th January 2007, 21:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by EQC
2020!!?? I'm betting that affordable flash storage will be up to at least 40TB by then.

Okay, everybody meet back here January 10, 2020 at 9:00am to see if I'm right.

You're crazy then. Right now it costs just over £200 for a 750GB hard disk. The flashdisk just announced by Sandisk is 30GB for £300. £100 more, 730GB less. Why do you expect that flash will overtake a technology that has just as much if not more research being done into it.

I do think we'll see affordable flash over the next few years, perhaps integrated into our regular disks. I don't expect we'll be seeing more than a few hundred GB's per (affordable) disk though by the time Seagate are giving us multi-TB drives.
speedfreek 10th January 2007, 22:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by specofdust
You're crazy then. Right now it costs just over £200 for a 750GB hard disk. The flashdisk just announced by Sandisk is 30GB for £300. £100 more, 730GB less. Why do you expect that flash will overtake a technology that has just as much if not more research being done into it.

I do think we'll see affordable flash over the next few years, perhaps integrated into our regular disks. I don't expect we'll be seeing more than a few hundred GB's per (affordable) disk though by the time Seagate are giving us multi-TB drives.
Thats probably how it will go, if there were a sudden huge leap it would be welcomed but a TB is enough for a little while for me. It just keeps filling itself up, how does it keep doing that? :D
Woodstock 10th January 2007, 22:53 Quote
Well, if there claiming that there top models in 2010 will be at "3000GB" so tripling the announced 1TB drives, then could 1 TB be the sweet spot triple the current 300-320GB (rounded since there is no announced drives in the 900 Gb range), if so id be happy to slap a 3-4 in raid 5 for a home-media server
Aankhen 10th January 2007, 23:39 Quote
That sucks. I want my 300 TB (not Tb) drive right now. :(
EQC 11th January 2007, 06:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by specofdust
You're crazy then. Right now it costs just over £200 for a 750GB hard disk. The flashdisk just announced by Sandisk is 30GB for £300. £100 more, 730GB less. Why do you expect that flash will overtake a technology that has just as much if not more research being done into it.

I do think we'll see affordable flash over the next few years, perhaps integrated into our regular disks. I don't expect we'll be seeing more than a few hundred GB's per (affordable) disk though by the time Seagate are giving us multi-TB drives.

Sorry for the long post, but I like messing around with numbers...

So, first-off: you're comparing a 1.8" (and 2.5") laptop flash drive at 32GB to a 3.5" desktop hard drive...but read on anyway for a more thorough argument.

Perhaps I'm wrong on this...but it seems like flash memory is still increasing in size quickly, while increases in hard drive capacity are coming slower and slower.

"Historically," hard drives have increased in size fairly rapidly...however, that seems to have slowed down lately:
  • Late 1999: Top of the Line = 20GB
  • Early 2005: First 500GB drive becomes available
  • Early 2006: 750GB Becomes available
  • Early 2007: 1TB to become available
  • by 2010: 3TB expected
  • Around 2020: 40TB Hard Drives expected

From 1999 to 2005 (roughly 5.5 years), that's a factor of 25 increase. If you assume a roughly constant increase in hard drive size in that time frame, it comes out to 79% growth per year!!! (20GB * (1.79)^5.5 = 500GB). I don't have much data in the middle there, but I'd be willing to bet that around 2000, it was more like a 100% increase per year, and that decreased as 2005 approached. But for the sake of argument, I'll only use the data points I have:
  • During the years 1999 - 2005, we saw on average a 79% increase/year.
  • During the year between 500GB and 750GB, we saw "only" a 50% increase.
  • During the year between 750GB and 1TB we will see "only" a 33% increase.
  • Seagate expects 3TB by 2010: a slight increase to 44% per year.
  • From 2010-2020, going 3TB up to 40TB: average 30%/year increase

Clearly, Seagate does not even expect to see the same increases in traditional hard drive capacity that we were seeing back in 1999. There are indeed many research dollars in this field, but physical limits are being reached asymptotically and there are diminishing returns on those research dollars.

Now, regarding flash memory in general, we can't really analyze Solid State Hard Drives since we have exactly 2 data points: before now, 0GB. Today: top-of-the-line is 32GB. I would like to point out, though, that while the top-of-the line flash drive has much less capacity, it is of a similar price (ie: not 10x more, just 50% more) than a top of the line hard drive.

Anyway, my best reference point for flash memory is in terms of USB drives. From the related Wikipedia article:
  • The first flash drive made it to market in 2001 at 8MB
  • 2003: 64MB
  • early 2007: I say that 4GB is reasonably priced at around $80 on Newegg, but you can find them up to 16GB for around $250--roughly the same price/GB.

So, if we just use the two endpoints (2001 - 2007), we see an increase of 8MB - 4GB (or 16GB for top of the line). On average, that's a factor of 500 in 6 years if you use 4GB (a factor of 2000 if you use 16GB). The corresponding rate is on average 182% increase/year, since 8MB*(2.82^6) = 4GB. If we use the 16GB number, it's an increase of 254%/year, since 8MB*(3.54^6) = 16GB.
I can't do too much with the point in 2003 since I don't have months on the dates...I could easily argue that 2001-2003 saw anywhere between 166% and 800% increases.

But, my point is this:

At this point in time, Flash Memory is increasing in capacity at a much faster rate than Hard Drives. The year-on-year increases are surely decreasing for Hard Drives. They may be decreasing for Flash Memory too....but I guarantee you you'll see 32GB USB drives before 2008 (still a large 100% increase). As a semiconductor product, Flash Memory benefits from advances in many different sectors of semi-conductor research. For Flash to achieve 40TB by 2020 (from today's 4GB), you only need a 102% increase/year on average. If you use 16GB as a starting point, you're only looking at an 82% increase/year. And, this is for a USB drive! A hard drive in a desktop is about 8x larger than that, allowing for more storage space (or cheaper technology) to achieve these capacities.

Does it seem crazy for me to expect such a trend? When for the last 6 years flash has managed to increase by roughly 200%/year?

It is surely possible that physical limits will be struck for Flash Memory as well...but we're already very near those limits with hard drives, and Flash still has a long way to go.
David_Fitzy 13th January 2007, 08:49 Quote
Could y'all vote on this poll please

Based on the previous post and the results (when they come in) of this poll we could see whether HDDs will even be in such demand by 2015, let alone 2020.
Havok154 13th January 2007, 10:01 Quote
I'll have to agree with David_Fitzy, they need to start working on improving speed over size. They constantly make drives larger in massive increments but rarely increase the speed other then "enthusiast" models that are small in size and overpriced (Raptors). If they put 1/2 the time and money into speed research, raptors would be obsolete by now.
armadilloben 16th January 2007, 21:45 Quote
i find this kinda silly because in 2020 half of pcs will probably be using solid state drives and with 45nm proceses we will probably reach 300 tb with solid state then with pdr or HAMR

also wat about holographic recording well probably excede pedabytes with it assuming that readers arent 15 grand 13 years from now
Smilodon 17th January 2007, 18:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Havok154
I'll have to agree with David_Fitzy, they need to start working on improving speed over size. They constantly make drives larger in massive increments but rarely increase the speed other then "enthusiast" models that are small in size and overpriced (Raptors). If they put 1/2 the time and money into speed research, raptors would be obsolete by now.

It will always be a choice here. Some want mass storage, and some want speed (in many cases, both. OS on a fast drive, while media (music, videos and pictures) will be on a bigger, slower drive. Cost is always a factor, you know. raptors aren't the only option. You can get 300GB SCSI drives, but few of us want to shell out for one when a slower drive is enough)

This will be like comparing a racecar and a picup truck. (i guess the Dodge RAM SRT-10 will be the 300GB SCSI drive here ;) )
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