Hidden deep in Seagate's financial report released late last month was a brief roadmap update for the company's heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology. As noted in the latest update, Seagate is now planning to begin mass production of its 32 TB HAMR in early 2024, which is a slight delay from what the company announced early this year. Meanwhile, the company expects to start production of 40+ TB HDDs in about two years' time.

"Qualification and revenue ramp plans for our 30-plus terabyte products remain fully on track with high-volume ramp starting early in calendar 2024," said Dave Mosley, chief executive of Seagate, during conference call with financial analysts and investors. " These drives deliver capacity starting at 30 terabytes and offer customers the same flexibility to adopt either CMR or SMR configurations to further boost aerial density into the mid-30TB range."

As noted back in October, Seagate's Exos X24 series of HDDs will help set the stage for HAMR-based hard drives, as the latter will keep using the same 10-platter platform – albeit with new platters as well as write heads with lasers to heat the media surface. Those Exos drives will use 10 2.4 TB perpendicular magnetic recording disks and will begin shipments in the first half of calendar 2024. Around the same time — in early calendar 2024 — Seagate plans to start volume ramp of 32 TB HAMR HDDs.

Even with the volume ramp and enviable capacity, Seagate is only expecting to sell a modest number of HAMR HDDs in the first quarters of their availability. The company believes that it can move around one million units in the first half of 2024, though the firm does not disclose whether the number is limited by its ability to produce the drives, or by demand from customers who need to qualify such products before deploying them in their datacenters.

"We will start our HAMR revenue fairly strongly in the first six months of the calendar 2024," said Gianluca Romano, chief financial officer of Seagate. "We think we have about a million unit as opportunity to be sold."

Another interesting disclosure found in the document is that Seagate intends to start producing HAMR-based HDDs featuring 4+TB platters within the next two years, which would have them arriving sometime in late 2025 or early 2026. This is somewhat is behind the company's optimistic schedule revealed a few years back, which anticipated 50+TB HDDs in calendar 2026. Though it's arguably a more realistic schedule that's in line with the development cadence thus far, especially given how development and deployment of hard drive proceeds these days.

Another noteworthy thing is that Seagate's brief roadmap update does not mention HDDs with more than 10 platters. Meaning that the company seems to be done adding platters to gain additional capacity, at least for now. Perhaps, the company believes that increased areal density that is enabled by HAMR will enable it to offer competitive capacities and it does not need to throw in any additional disks. Or maybe installing over 10 HAMR platters is risky from yields point of view as of now, so the company prefers not to mention such a technological option.

Source: Seagate (via StorageNewsletter)

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  • flyingpants265 - Wednesday, November 8, 2023 - link

    Google asked them to make drives with more platters and larger platter sizes ages ago... We could have had 100TB drives by now. An extra 0.5 inches makes a large difference in area. Nobody cares about maintaining compatibility with 3.5" drives which are ancient.
    Also, what's with consumer pricing never falling below around $50/2TB, the price back in 2009?
  • HaninAT - Wednesday, November 8, 2023 - link

    changing the physical format of the drives would be a huge issue as everything is setup for that form factor. From drive enclosures to the servers themselves, even half an inch/~12mm, would cause chaos in the ecosystem and would take years to fully take effect. Remember, even the new EDSFF SSD formats (E1/E3) are taking a while to get incorporated into the drive pools because servers needed redesigns.
  • meacupla - Wednesday, November 8, 2023 - link

    3.5" drive spec allows for up to 41mm height.
    Not that anyone has made that in some 2~3 decades.
    We're talking back when Maxtor was still in business and there wasn't an ATX standard.
  • flyingpants265 - Friday, November 10, 2023 - link

    Like I said in my first comment: nobody really cares about the standardization, it is an artificial limitation. That just means they decided not to do it yet. You can make a new standard if you so choose. It doesn't need to "fully take effect", it just needs to exist. Datacenter customers (like Google, who suggested the changes) would appreciate the 50% reduction in drive count, controllers, etc.
    A diameter increase of 0.5" would increase drive sizes by 34%, if you add more platters, 50% or more.
  • meacupla - Friday, November 10, 2023 - link

    The edge of a 7200rpm 3.5" disk is already moving at around 120km/h, and the drive heads have to float on this disk at 5nm height.

    If you increase the platter diameter, it's going to change quite a lot of other factors on the disk.
    For instance a longer actuator arm, stronger motor. Maybe even stronger platters.
    I just don't think it's as simple as increasing disk diameter.
  • lucaB75 - Wednesday, November 8, 2023 - link

    what happens with the price…simply no competition. idiotic antitrust authorities around the world allowed the market to consolidate in 3 competitors that simply agree prices between themselves
  • James5mith - Wednesday, November 8, 2023 - link

    Consumers aren't driving larger drives, enterprise is. And enterprise customers can eat the higher costs. There is no reason for it to become cheaper.
  • nandnandnand - Wednesday, November 8, 2023 - link

    Some people would definitely care about compatibility, and more platters have been added to helium-filled drives.

    We could have 100 TB drives without resorting to making them larger if HAMR hadn't been about a decade behind schedule.
  • flyingpants265 - Friday, November 10, 2023 - link

    Yes, some people, but not all. By adding more platters, I'm talking about stretching the drive height-wise. And that 100TB would become 150-200TB with a larger drive.
    So far, I haven't heard any real reasons not to make each drive larger. There's a reason we don't use servers full of 1.8" iPod HDDs.
  • Samus - Saturday, November 11, 2023 - link

    50TB in 2 years from a company that was 3 years late delivering 22TB just last year. So they think they can more than double capacity in 2 years?

    Companies are so ridiculous now. Their product disclosures and timelines are outright lies, containing technology they say is on schedule that is destined to be vaporware (or like HAMR, a decade late.) It's as if nobody cares about actual product execution anymore. Look at Tesla. 5 years late on Cybertruck. That's an entire lifecycle for a vehicle. Cybertruck should be on V2 by the time V1 materializes.

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