back to article It's a hard drive ahead: Seagate hits the density problem with HAMR, WD infects MAMR with shingles

Seagate's next-generation HAMR disk drive will be a drop-in replacement while Western Digital's MAMR drive will not, The Register can reveal. Setting the record straight Current perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) disk drives are running out of areal density improvement prospects. As the magnetic grains that make up their …

  1. Hans 1

    Could somebody inform these two that spinning rust is dead, pretty please!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You think you can get SSDs for even a tenth of the per TB price that these 20 TB beasts will go for? It will be many years before HDDs cease to be viable, especially for cloud storage providers and lower tier enterprise storage, where price per TB dominates.

      Just because they will disappear or at least nearly disappear for consumers doesn't mean they won't play a role in the enterprise world for years to come.

      1. barrejam

        Re: Hardly

        Most enterprises work on a combination of price per TB and price per IOP - when you use this appraoch SSDs are starting to look very attractive.

        Also, prices are partly driven by volumes - once SSD volume starts to overtake HDD, princes will start to drop significantly and spinning rust will very quickly be consigned to the same shelf as betamax i.e. a great technology and still in use for some niche edge cases but ultimately doomed to disappear.

        1. BigSLitleP

          Re: Hardly

          Very few small enterprises work on on price per IOP. They look at upfront cost and on that SSD is not going to get used for large volume storage in those situations. With HAMR and MAMR coming along, HDD will still be around in 10 years time.

          1. Hans 1

            Re: Hardly

            HDD will still be around in 10 years time.

            Maybe, I mean, Windows is still around, so is mainframe, as/400 ... the sooner the better all those are put to rest ....

            1. BigSLitleP

              Re: Hardly

              Considering the ridiculous uptime and reliability of AS/400 systems and the ease of use of Windows, i'd say your sarcastic comment smells of poor technical knowledge.......

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hardly

          $/IOP only matters for performance critical data. Most of an enterprise's data is not performance critical to the extent that an SSD is worth it, and will only go SSD when the price is within a factor of 1.5x or so.

    2. BigSLitleP

      Sorry to tell you this, "spinning rust" is not dead. Not everyone has Amazon's budget. Sometimes you need a large amount of storage on a small budget. SSD is not going to fill that need so HDD are going to be around for a long time. MAMR and HAMR will extend that lifespan even longer for large volume storage solutions.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge


        Mostly agree, but at some point the smallest spinning disk in production is going to be far bigger than I will ever need and a smaller flash device for the same price will be a better choice. Still years away, but there will be an end to consumer spinning disks.

        1. BigSLitleP

          Re: @BigSLitleP

          I agree with this. As far as consumers are concerned, SSD will become the norm. That is just a long way off for enterprise.

        2. Charles 9

          Re: @BigSLitleP

          Didn't someone say that about RAM? I don't know if it's codified, but the more storage you have, the more you tend to store.

    3. Vince

      Not really - they still provide far greater capacity to price - and many of us care about capacity, not speed of access.

      1. DCFusor

        @Vince - two words. Tape drives.

        What everyone uses for your use-case of max capacity/price.

        There are things spinning rust is a step up from, you know.

        1. Charles 9

          ONLY if you don't mind your data being OFFLINE. If you need ONLINE capacity (meaning you need to store it AND be able to re-acquire it without notice) on the cheap, then it's rust or bust.

          Plus tapes stopped being practical as a consumer medium around the turn (I know this personally, having once owned a floppy-bus QIC drive).

        2. muhfugen

          Tape drives have very limited uses cases and only support a very limited number of seek cycles

    4. Dave K

      A 4TB SATA hard drive retails for around £85-£100 (enterprise drives may be a bit more). Meanwhile a 4TB Samsung SSD (couldn't find 6TB ones) retails for around £700.

      If you're fitting banks of these to servers, or even a couple into a home PC for data storage, SSDs at these capacities are still way too expensive. Heck, for the price of a 4TB SSD, I can find 14TB Enterprise class HDDs for cheaper.

      SSDs are fantastic as boot drives, but if you just need somewhere to store loads of documents, videos etc, HDDs are perfectly fine and are far more attractive price-wise than SSDs.

    5. eldakka Silver badge

      I'm not going to be replacing 39TB (61TB raw, 8TB HDD and 3TB HDD arrays) of spinning rust in my NAS with SSDs anytime soon.

      For starters, I only need 12 HDD connectors, using the best value 2TB SSD I can see from pcpartpicker would require 30 units, that's 30 connectors, so even not including the drive price itself, I'd have to add more connectors, either add-in SAS/SATA cards or an expander, either way ~$300-$400. There is a 4TB one that is not quite as good $/GB, however that'd reduce the number of units to 15, which would mean maybe skipping adding more ports to my system, the increase in price between 2TB and 4TB would be less than the cost in adding the extra ports, so would be worth the few extra $. But they are still about 2x the price of my 8TB HDDs, or 4x per TB pricing.

      Which, I have to admit, is a smaller gap than I expected. Maybe, when it comes time for the next capacity upgrade (2-3 years I estimate when I'll probably want to trash the older 3TB drives entirely and use bigger drvies), the price may have dropped enough it might be worth considering. For the relative simplicity of SSDs (lower power, etc.) I'd probably consider a 2x $/TB of SSD over HDD as worth considering an SSD over a HDD for.

  2. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Meanwhile, ssd marches on relentlessly

    Dear Seagate/WD: PLease keep investing huge amounts of R&D into your technologies.

    By the time you have it ready for production SSD will have undercut you(*) and you'll go out of business that much faster

    (*) SSD only needs to be 2-3 times the price of spinning rust to "undercut" it. The other advantages (power consumption, density, seek speeds, no susceptability to loud noises, etc etc) mean it's a no-brainer in a data centre for a hyperscaler just as much as for a domestic user (drives this size are write once read-never anyway, as are shingled drives in general)

    1. defiler

      Re: Meanwhile, ssd marches on relentlessly

      You do realise there's a significant market for small businesses and individuals to store lots of crap, right? And they don't worry about how fast it is, so long as it's big. I'm included there, for example.

      There's also a massive section of businesses who need large capacity data, but not on the Google/Microsoft scale of filling out whole datacentres, where the difference in purchase cost is overwhelmed by the running cost. There's a reason why BackBlaze are spinning platters.

      If it ever came to price parity then yes SSD wins. And there's a sliding scale where more and more people and businesses will pay the premium for SSD as that premium shrinks, but at 2-3x it won't kill the spinning drive market.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Meanwhile, ssd marches on relentlessly

        Even at price parity there are disadvantages in using SSDs as data recovery in case of SSD failure is much harder, so in a so/ho NAS, for example, HDDs would still be preferable

        1. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: Meanwhile, ssd marches on relentlessly

          Backup, backup, backup.

          (I don't, but if my data was that important (it isn't) that I'd be willing to pay thousands for data recovery from a dead HDD, then I'd definitely be using backups, live replication etc.)

      2. Trenjeska

        Re: Meanwhile, ssd marches on relentlessly

        yeah, time to get back to the time of the quantum bigfoots; how much would fit on those half unit 5¼" units nowadays?

        1. Charles 9

          Re: Meanwhile, ssd marches on relentlessly

          Physics got in the way of the Bigfoots. Those huge platters proved to be too hard to scale up without dying of vibration.

    2. Hans 1

      Re: Meanwhile, ssd marches on relentlessly

      You forget "heat", very important that, in a data center ...

      1. BigSLitleP

        Re: Meanwhile, ssd marches on relentlessly

        Considering that under full load SSDs actually run hotter than HDDs........

        1. DCFusor

          Re: Meanwhile, ssd marches on relentlessly

          And even not under full load, often enough. I really care about that here, in a solar powered installation. The spinning rust spins down when not in use, for one thing. Powered up, it seems the SSD's get warmer than the rust does, and they are smaller too. A 250gB SSD from Samsung draws more power than a 2.5" 2tB drive from Seagate here.

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: Meanwhile, ssd marches on relentlessly

            If you use the appropriate devSleep modes, an idle SSD should only use a couple hundred mW. This does depend on model, some models don't have good sleep modes. And the O/S has to support it as well.

        2. defiler

          Re: Meanwhile, ssd marches on relentlessly

          That's a very good point, and my understanding is that SSD heat scales pretty linearly with capacity, while HDD scales with number of platters, so it's a less direct relationship. And, of course, there's the sipndown option.

          (My server is in the attic at home, and I've had to spin up drives when I've felt they've got too cold. About 8 degrees Celcius is a trigger to perform a RAID check.)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Anyone know what happened to the idea of Bit Patterned Media?

    1. Charles 9

      Re: BPM

      Still a WIP. It's such a jump from film-based magnetic media (it would require changes across the entire design) that it's hitting roadblocks such as finding a consistent way to build the patterns into the media.

  4. Ross 12

    Hmmm the shingling sounds like a kludge. It's clever and I'm sure they'll get it to work, but it sounds like reliability might become an issue and the write speed penalty doesn't sound good

    1. Charles 9

      It's still useful for applications where reading is more important than writing: what I call WIRE applications (Write-Infrequently, Read-Extensively) such as multimedia storage.

      1. Hans 1

        SSD is ideal for WIRE

        1. Charles 9

          But still too costly from a capacity viewpoint. Multimedia tends to be one of those where the capacities can build up. SSD can be useful for a near-line application, but lesser-accessed materials can be more-cheaply kept online with rust.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          SSD *caching* is great for some things like this. That way you get the awesome capacity of HDD, but potentially (depending on patterns), fast access of SSD.

          See L2ARC drives in ZFS.

        3. defiler

          I think a few folks missed your icon, Hans!

    2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      I have at least one shingled drive. It's storage (probably backup) so speed's hardly an issue. No problem with reliability either. (Though I seem to remember it's a second replacement. The first two died within a week but was an early adopter so I put that down to teething troubles.) MAMR with shingles (uh) I, of course, have no experience of but I don't see why it should be a problem.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        I'm not trying to be a jerk (generally, I achieve that without any effort at all) but I don't see how you can say "no problem with reliability" then in the very next sentence point out that you've had 2 of the drives die in short order already.

        That kind of failure rate would not make me trust the 3rd drive - just because it hasn't died yet, doesn't mean much, surely?

  5. Mike Shepherd


    They told me in the 1970s that discs would soon be wiped out by bubble memory.

    1. Mike Lewis

      Re: But...but...

      Another bubble that burst.

  6. blue-eyes

    Spinning Rust - not

    Its like calling a black person a nigger or a Jew a kike. They stopped being iron oxide about 30 years ago and is now used as a term of derision.

  7. HamsterNet

    FLASH - Nose Face spite

    Let's hope the recent price decreases in Flash continue. There was a time when HDD days where looking very numbered, with flash only a few generations behind superseding it in both storage volume and price per GB. Then the cartel price fixing started, flash price rocketed and HDD crept up in capacity to keep us all in the past just a little bit longer.

    For storage space, SSDs are already king at over 30TB. It's just the artificially inflated $GB that's saved HDDs so far.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: FLASH - Nose Face spite

      Do you have proof of cartel behavior because from where I sit it's simply a matter of low supply running into high demand: Econ 101 and all.

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