In the recent months, Seagate has made several significant announcements regarding the future of HDD technology and unveiled a number of important products. In particular, late last year the company has said that hard disk drives would continue to evolve in the following 20 years, implying that Seagate is exploring multiple technologies to improve capacities and performance of HDDs. Additionally, Seagate introduced the first shingled magnetic recording (SMR) based consumer drives for mobile PCs, which marks a significant milestone in the development of the technology.

The Evolution Continues, New Challenges Arise

While solid-state storage devices are evolving fast in terms of performance and getting more affordable every year, they are not going to match hard drives in terms of cost-per-GB anytime soon. Still, with economic feasibility in place, HDDs are poised to keep evolving with larger capacities and better performance. Throughout the history of hard drives, the evolution of HDDs has involved multiple factors, including materials (platters), mechanics (motors, arm movers, internal structure, and so on), read/record heads, controllers and firmware.

The keys to additional capacity and performance of HDDs have remained generally the same over the years: small pitches and narrow tracks as well as a high rotating speed respectively. The evolution of HDDs in the future will rely on platter density and new heads, as well as the compute capabilities of their controllers. The performance of HDD controllers in the coming years will matter more than ever.

For our coverage, we approached Seagate and spoke with Mark Re, SVP and Chief Technology Officer of Seagate, to discuss their plans to announce HDDs featuring other important technologies. Rather than a question/answer discussion, what follows is a culmination and expansion of topics discussed.

Sources and Recommended Reading:

Seagate: Hard Disk Drives Set to Stay Relevant for 20 Years
Hard Disk Drives with HAMR Technology Set to Arrive in 2018
Market Views: HDD Shipments Down 20% in Q1 2016, Hit Multi-Year Low

Seagate to Expand Usage of SMR
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  • drothgery - Saturday, July 9, 2016 - link

    It's complicated. There's a minimum cost to build any mechanical hard drive, and the cheapest possible flash storage device is cheaper than that. That's why you don't see HDDs in any applications that need less than 128 GB or so anymore. It's just that the marginal cost of additional capacity is lower with hard drives (at least, until you start figuring in complex TCO arguments for data centers with very large amounts of storage).
  • zodiacfml - Sunday, July 10, 2016 - link

    It is almost irrelevant due to economies of scale. Right now, HDD are still comfortable with their scale right now. They have to be scared as it might drop non-linear in a few years; their drives will become more expensive that they will have to produce fewer, larger, archival drives.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Sunday, July 10, 2016 - link

    "almost irrelevant"? HDD's entire play is cost/GB, and there's reason to believe they cost MORE below some capacity.

    "economy of scale" - you mean volume? Samsung already ships >10B memory chips per year, far more than Seagate units.
  • Danvelopment - Sunday, July 10, 2016 - link

    Hard drives will remain as long as price/GB stays well ahead of solid state.

    Seeing as manufacturers have been unwilling to maintain that for the last 4 years, all I can see is a death spiral.

    I bought 3x 2TB HDDs in 2012 for $99NZD each. The current cheapest 2TB HDD is $115. And the cheapest HDD or GB is a 3TB at $156 (slightly more/GB).

    Fark HDD manufacturers. They can't win on performance or reliability against Samsung SSDs, all they can do is win on price but that gap has shrunk so much in four years I don't hold much hope for them without a drastic move. SSDs don't have to reach the same price point to take over, they just need to be close enough when accounting for the performance gap.

    It also doesn't help that they've already lost the density crown and in a much smaller form factor.
  • Bobs_Your_Uncle - Tuesday, July 12, 2016 - link

    Just now (7/12/16 @ 19:17EST) heard on The Nightly Business Report (PBS) that Seagate:
    - announced earnings that exceeded analyst expectations
    - raised their projected income guidance
    - experienced their "best day ever" in the markets (measurement metrics not disclosed)

    ... oh yeah ...

    and Seagate announced that they're eliminating 6,000 jobs ...

    The future is certainly looking rosy ... I guess ...
  • neatfeatguy - Thursday, July 14, 2016 - link

    I hear Seagate is looking to close out a major branch location nearing the end of the year or start of Q1 2017. Location in Shakopee, MN or a China branch (sorry, I didn't get what location in China.....rumor is pointing to MN location so far and as early as start of December has been hinted).

    Makes you wonder how well things can really be going for them - unless this is a restructure to help them stay viable in the every fast changing world of storage technology.
  • truemore - Thursday, July 28, 2016 - link

    So I was having a meeting with one of the large corporate storage providers asking when they thought the "mass change" would happen from HHD to SSD for corporate storage.
    Interestingly even their technology people were surprised, but at the enterprise level the inflection point happened this year for primary storage devices. Given much better TCO over time and vast performance improvement with SSDs they have better short and long term ROI due to a better than expected 40% decrease in price per TB in the past 12 months and the large jump in maximum enterprise SSD size.
    According to their people they are pushing all customers as fast as possible to SSD for all hot, and most warm storage. For them it makes perfect sense since they have very few drives break, arrays can easily be upgraded lowering the number of RFPs per $ sold and the performance increase for the customers is frankly amazing in the enterprise compute environment.
    I wonder how this shift will affect us on the bottom, since large storage providers suck a large portion of the overall storage market. They may be the 600 gorilla that forces the market to make a quick move off of HDDs,
    I would also be curious how the better performance and longer life span of SSDs will hurt SSD/HHD producers over the long haul since there will be much fewer sales over the long term.
  • Gothmoth - Saturday, July 30, 2016 - link

    what i want from HDD´s is REABILITY, REABILITY, REABILITY.

    it can´t be that 10+% o harddrives from seagate die on me in the first 6-8 month.
    i have a small renderfarm at home and 8 sytems with 2-4 harddrives each.

    infant mortality of HDD´s is a real problem. and overall REABILITY seems to be getting worse.
  • Gothmoth - Saturday, July 30, 2016 - link

    sorry i meant RELIABILITY... :-)
  • profquatermass - Monday, August 29, 2016 - link

    Oh the Irony......

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