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Seagate ships 8TB ‘customer development’ hard drives

Seagate Technology on Thursday said that it had shipped the first samples of hard disk drives (HDDs) with 8TB capacity to its customers. The company did not reveal any peculiarities regarding the product or the name of its clients.

“We have also delivered 8TB customer development units to major customers and cloud service providers and the initial customer feedback has been very positive,” said Steve Luczo, chairman and chief executive officer of Seagate, during a conference call with financial analysts and investors.

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Seagate did not disclose any details regarding the drive, but there are not a lot of ways to build an HDD of such huge capacity nowadays:

  • Increase the amount of platters per drive. Seagate could follow its rival HGST with sealed hard disk drives. It is possible to fill a drive with a gas that is less dense than the air (e.g., Helium, like in the case of HGST’s Ultrastar He6) and then squeeze seven (or even eight Seagate it manages to develop all-new magnetic recording heads) current-generation enterprise-class 3.5” platters of enhanced capacity (1TB – 1.1TB). Such approach greatly works for server-class drives, but it is clearly too expensive for consumer-oriented HDDs.
  • Increase areal density of platters. Seagate could install six enterprise-class platters featuring shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology into a non-sealed drive. SMR helps to increase areal density of HDD platters by 25 per cent compared to current-gen platters featuring perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology. While SMR is not yet widely used even for consumer hard drives, it is possible that the technology progresses so successfully that Seagate already has samples of enterprise-class SMR platters. Hard drives with five or six platters are usually designed for servers.
  • Significantly increase areal density of platters. Seagate could ship prototypes of drives based on platters that feature HAMR [heat-assisted magnetic recording] technology. Back in 2012 TDK demonstrated 2TB HAMR platters for 3.5” HDDs, so Seagate could use them to test-drive HAMR hard drives with its PC and server customers.

It is unknown which method Seagate chose for its 8TB hard disk drive.

Keeping in mind that Seagate talks about 8TB “customer development units”, the actual commercial drives of such capacity are probably several quarters, if not years, away from mass production and adoption.

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KitGuru Says: It will be interesting to see what exactly Seagate shipped to its customers. All three options are interesting, but if the company is finally on-track to commercially produce HAMR-based HDDs in the foreseeable future, then this is a sensation.

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