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HDDs reach 14TB, glass platters will be the future

Western Digital’s new 14TB enterprise hard drives and Seagate’s 12TB hard drives for home users and NAS systems, suggest that 20TB HDDs are round the corner. Your next HDD may have a heart of glass.

HDDs reach 14TB, glass platters will be the future

Designed for different needs, the new hard drives from Seagate and Western Digital confirm the growing data needs but also point to changes in technology. Glass platters may be inside HDDs in the future.

One could almost talk about a terabyte battle, if it wasn’t for the fact that Seagate and Western Digital are pointing their products at different types of users. In fact, the Western Digital  product is the world’s first 14TB enterprise HDD for cloud and hyperscale data centers, while Seagate’s offer is geared towards the growing data needs of large enterprise business, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and creative professionals, including the inclusion in NAS solutions.

What’s interesting in this continued growth of capacity is the speed at which it happens and the technologies involved. It’s a battle where Western Digital and Seagate are not alone, as Toshiba also announced recently the soon to be launched 14TB helium-filled hard disk drive, helium being used to reduce friction inside the drive. The rise in capacity is creating a problem, though: the physical limitations of the actual technology. A Japanese company, Hoya, believes that as HDD rise to capacities of 20TB, around 2020, glass will be used for the platter substrate, as it provides increased rigidity, lightweight, and less expansion due to heat – compared to aluminum.

Hoya started development of glass memory disks in 1980 with chemically strengthened glass. In 1996, the company’s technological partnership with IBM led Hoya to ramp up  production capacity that included glass dissolving and pressing. In later years, surface flatness and superior shock resistance of glass substrates have been appraised in the industry and quickly been adapted mostly to mobile devices. In fact, Hoya knows what it is talking about, as currently the company supplies glass substrates for use in 2.5-inch HDDs designed for laptop computers.

HDDs reach 14TB, glass platters will be the future

According to Hoya, glass platters can deliver a denser platter structure and lower energy use, and the company believes it has the solution. The company has prototyped glass substrates measuring 0.5mm and 0.381mm thick, which would allow the placement of a dozen substrates in a single 3.5-inch HDD, more than allowed in current high-capacity 12TB drives, which have seven substrates.  Another significant advantage of glass substrates is its good fit for heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) tech, which is expected to become the mainstream in the future.

While we wait for the next developments in the technology, the new products from Western Digital and Seagate are reaching the market. Western Digital’s HGST-branded Ultrastar Hs14 delivers 40 percent more capacity and more than twice the sequential write performance of its predecessor, enabling more economical and efficient capture of the growing volume and variety of data.

As data grows exponentially, storing it all in an affordable and accessible manner is an ongoing challenge for enterprise and cloud service data center operators. With a focus on total cost of ownership (TCO), the factors of capacity per rack, power consumption, cooling, maintenance, and acquisition cost are all paramount. To combat the big data challenge, Ultrastar Hs14 drives deliver unprecedented capacity leadership and online watt/TB power efficiency for extremely low TCO by harnessing two core complmentary technologies – fourth generation HelioSeal technology, and second generation host-managed SMR – along with enterprise-class relaibility. Western Digital believes that “these mature, field-proven technologies provide the foundation for delivering efficiency, quality and reliable performance required by cloud and hyperscale environments, perfect for ultra-dense scale-out storage systems running sequential write workloads.”

HDDs reach 14TB, glass platters will be the future

“Over 70 percent of the exabytes Western Digital ships into the capacity enterprise segment are on helium-based high capacity drives and continue to support customers with outstanding reliability, performance and value Quality of Service (QoS),” said Mark Grace, senior vice president of devices at Western Digital. “The TCO and reliability benefits of our HelioSeal platform is the foundation of our leadership in high capacity enterprise storage.”

On Seagate’s side the IronWolf, IronWolf Pro and BarraCuda Pro hard drives are now available at capacities up to 12TB. Offering, according to the company, “the highest capacity, reliability and performance in the industry among network-attached storage (NAS) and desktop HDDs, Seagate’s 12TB IronWolf and BarraCuda Pro drives further extend the capabilities of the leading Seagate Guardian Series to meet the growing data needs of large enterprise business, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and creative professionals.”

A recent study by by IDC and Seagate point to a massive increase in the volume of data created,  indicating that data creation will swell to a total of 163 zettabytes (ZB) by 2025, 10x more than today. Seagate’s latest portfolio of 12TB drives are designed for today’s media storage needs – including augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), 4K resolution and 360-degree videos – and offer scalability for the future with increased space and speed.

“Our storage hungry customers and partners continue to ask for our latest and greatest technology along with increased capacity and performance in our purpose built products,” said Matt Rutledge, senior vice president of Business Marketing at Seagate Technology. “With the 12TB Pro products, Seagate buyers are overcoming capacity constraints in their systems and can access vast amounts of digital data anytime, from anywhere.”

For desktop computers, Seagate brings the 12TB BarraCuda Pro, presented by the company as the fastest, highest-capacity and most reliable hard drive for desktop computing available on the market today. With 12TB of capacity—double the space of its closest competitor — the BarraCuda Pro can meet any number of demanding data management needs from creative editing workflows to gaming to desktop computing. The drive’s high speed means that data-intensive activities like large file transfers and photo-editing are faster when using BarraCuda Pro.

HDDs reach 14TB, glass platters will be the future

The 12TB IronWolf and IronWolf Pro, on the other hand, are indicated for use in NAS systems. Offering “the highest capacity, reliability, performance and system scalability in the industry, Seagate’s 12TB IronWolf and IronWolf Pro HDDs empower customers to centralize their data onto NAS systems to ensure round-the-clock access for multiple users. At 12TB and in only a 3.5 inch form factor, IronWolf and IronWolf Pro offer more capacity in less space, meeting the needs for file-sharing, remote access and backup for SMBs, enterprises and creative professionals. “

HDDs reach 14TB, glass platters will be the future

“Whether it’s storing your family photos, collaborating on important documents at work, or protecting your home with our video surveillance solutions, Synology NAS enthusiasts will be excited by the addition of Seagate’s 12TB IronWolf drives,” said Alex Wang, CEO of Synology America Corp. “By working together, Seagate and Synology are providing great ways for people to safeguard their digital lives and get the most out of their private cloud.”

The new 12TB drives also support Seagate’s leading IronWolf Health Management (IHM) software. Designed to operate on enabled Synology DiskStation NAS, Asustor NAS, and QNAP NAS, populated with Seagate IronWolf or IronWolf Pro drives, IHM improves the overall system reliability by displaying actionable prevention, intervention or recovery options for the user and will be available within the next quarter with NAS partners.

HDDs reach 14TB, glass platters will be the future

“We are excited with Seagate’s launch of the industry’s largest capacity NAS drive – the 12TB IronWolf and IronWolf Pro,” said Meiji Chang, general manager of QNAP, adding “QNAP has collaborated with Seagate for many years on product and technology enhancements, working with them to create the best hard drives for NAS users. We believe that Seagate’s new IronWolf family provides the performance, reliability, and capacity needed to dependably store the vast data generated by virtualization, high-resolution media workflows, the Internet of Things, and other applications driven by modern QNAP NAS solutions.”

The 12TB versions of IronWolf, IronWolf Pro and BarraCuda Pro are now shipping to customers worldwide. Follow the link for more information on the Seagate Guardian Series.

Hard disk drives may be offering higher capacities, but many ask if HDD will be around much longer, with SSD being so popular. According  to one article published by Nikkei, people related to the HDD industry consider that there is no limit on the demand for larger capacity and that HDDs, because of their low cost/high capacity will continue to be preferred for a long time. The development of new technologies for HDD is also a reason why the support is so popular, and the change to glass platters may well represent a drastic step in the dissemination of high-capacity HDDs. Although, with a heart of glass, the idea of a hard Drive crash may gain a whole new meaning.


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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…

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