Feeds

Storage big three to define HDD way ahead

Suppliers can't go it alone

Boost IT visibility and business value

Comment Is the future of hard disk drive (HDD) technology bit-patterning or heat-assist?

That's what Hitachi GST, Seagate and Western Digital are going to get together to decide, fearing to go it alone because that would be far too expensive and risky.

Making the wrong multi-billion dollar bet could ruin a supplier, and the HDD industry wants to pre-empt a potentially disastrous Betamax vs VHS-type struggle.

This is the picture emerging from the formation of the Storage Technology Alliance by IDEMA, the International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association, the HDD industry trade body.

The STA has been founded by Hitachi GST, Seagate and Western Digital for "the formation of collaborative joint research initiatives among and between storage industry participants, customers, suppliers, universities and laboratories." An IDEMA statement says: "Significant challenges inherent to future storage technologies have proven too costly, risky, and unmanageable for any single company to pursue alone."

The STA is looking for co-operative research efforts across the whole HDD supply chain and hopes to get financial support from governments and associated laboratories. The IDEMA statement says; "The lack of a sanctioned roadmap has resulted in sub-optimal supply chain tuning. STA will sustain a storage industry roadmap the details of which will be the property of STA member companies."

The sub-text here is all about HDD supply chain companies avoiding expensive mistakes by betting on the wrong HDD technology horse. Those horses are starting off as current perpendicular magnetic recording runs into a roadblock as it reaches 1Tbit/in2, because the very small grain collections can't reliably sustain their magnetic charge.

BPM and HAMR

Bit-patterned media (BPM) surrounds the magnetic elements with an insulating ring and requires hugely expensive development of lithography tooling and testing. Heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) uses media in which the recording elements are more stable because heat is needed to change their magnetic charge.

Seagate has been developing HAMR technology whilst Hitachi GST has been associated with BPM investigations. Western Digital's thinking is unknown, beyond the obvious conclusion that whichever way is chosen it will be terrifically expensive. The other two HDD manufacturers, Toshiba and Samsung, will also be very concerned about the future direction.

The HDD supply chain contains head-developing companies, media and substrate preparation and production tool suppliers, test equipment suppliers, and the HDD manufacturers themselves, the five of them. With Samsung's continuing participation being questioned by some observers, there might just be four in a few years time.

Whichever technology is chosen as the way forward then the whole supply chain could co-operate to develop it without wasting money on the wrong horse, and with all the components of the chosen technology finding the widest possible market in the industry, thus lowering overall costs.

For this to succeed some suppliers are going to have to give something up, or keep in their back pocket for the future. It is conceivable that the industry could settle on BPM and then add Discrete Track Recording followed by HAMR, heating the patterned bits in their discrete tracks. That means HAMR research would not have been wasted.

The cartel kite needs to be raised as well, so that it can be shot down as being non-applicable. IDEMA's lawyers better get working on that issue.

It's rapidly become apparent that the transition from PMR technology to whatever follows it is going to be hugely expensive and the main players in the industry want to avoid making the wrong choices. Perhaps IDEMA is looking at the LTO organisation and seeing it as a great model to follow. It will be much more ambitious than the LTO though and require lots of goodwill between HDD supply chain members to succeed. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Docker kicks KVM's butt in IBM tests
Big Blue finds containers are speedy, but may not have much room to improve
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Gartner's Special Report: Should you believe the hype?
Enough hot air to carry a balloon to the Moon
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Dell The Man shrieks: 'We've got a Bitcoin order, we've got a Bitcoin order'
$50k of PowerEdge servers? That'll be 85 coins in digi-dosh
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.