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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  • anactoraaron - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Forgot to mention that it is a 5tb archive drive. Didn't realize that it would take me 3 days to archive 3tb to it.
  • kmmatney - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    While all this new tech sounds great, all I want out of a HDD is reliability. In my house, HDDs are now just used for backup - I would gladly sacrifice performance, and even density, just to get a drive that I know will last 10 years. I still have G1 Intel SSDs from 2010 that are working fine as OS drives - so it's just a matter or GB/$ why I don't back up to SSD. It still seems like HDDs are nit-or-miss when it comes to reliability.
  • Lolimaster - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    4x6TB WD blue and get more drives to mirror data + maybe google drive 10TB plan?
  • AnnonymousCoward - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    Hitachi has significantly better reliability!
  • Lolimaster - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    Right now I wont touch a Seagate even with a 1000km pole. SMR is pretty much cr*ap for consumers. Where are my HAMR? 15-20TB drives?
  • Michael Bay - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    In 2020 somewhere.
  • zodiacfml - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    I have to agree to that first comment that they just have to give up. They are just slowing down their demise.

    Currently and years to come, HDDs will become archival devices were fewer consumer devices will have HDDs in the coming years. The company will need this volume/scale from consumers to lessen the price of enterprise grade hardware.

    If they cannot lessen the price for these enterprise customers, they will prefer SSDs despite costing more or having less capacity due to its higher performance and lower power consumption.
  • James_Edge - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    "While the evolution of consumer HDDs in the recent years was not fast, things are about to change."

    The thing is, nobody needs huge consumer HDDs anymore. The only reason people ever bought large drives was for storing pictures/backups and for their pirated music/film collection. Well cheap/affordable digital streaming services have made a massive dent in piracy, and cloud storage/backup services provide excellent storage.

    I honestly don't know any consumers who use more than 1-2TB of mechanical storage these days unless they are still hording all their VCD/DivX rips and .iso's...
  • jabber - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    Yeah I see the folks who have TBs of ripped anime/porn etc. etc. as having a mental illness. New form of packrat syndrome. Let it go.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    You gotta wonder what's the BOM cost to produce a 0.5TB HDD vs Samsung's single chip 0.5TB SSD. And at 1TB, 2TB, etc. Are HDDs necessarily cheaper, being so much heavier and mechanically complex?

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