Western Digital Announces Tech Breakthrough for Hard Drives

Western Digital demonstrates world’s first microwave-assisted magnetic recording HDD

That honor now returns to hard drives thanks to a stunning jump reported Wednesday by Western Digital Corp.

Western Digital is able to demonstrate MAMR gains significantly above PMR by leveraging three breakthroughs: the design of a head structure in dimensions that allow for high track density, the selection of magnetic and non-magnetic materials that provide the right excitation and a manufacturing process that makes it feasible to mass produce at the required performance and reliability levels. For context, WD is now currently offering 14 TB drives to datacenter customers and 12 TB drives are just entering the general market. The event, held at the company's headquarters in Silicon Valley, included a demonstration of the world's first microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) HDD and presentations from company executives and the inventor of MAMR technology, Professor Jimmy Zhu from Carnegie Mellon University.

The new technology was demonstrated at the Innovation to Fuel the Next Decade of Big Data event, meaning that the technology works.

UBS says Seagate's sales could suffer in 2019 if the company doesn't come up with its own MAMR response. The STO is vital to overcoming this issue, because the microwave field it generates permits modification of the underlying media with a lower-energy magnetic field that's easier to generate.

Western Digital and Seagate (NASDAQ:STX) were both investigating heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) for the same objective but UBS thinks MAMR will prove the better solution.

The Hs14 is built using Western Digital's fourth-generation HelioSeal technology, which fills and seals the drive with helium rather than air. Not only would HAMR require completely new manufacturing techniques, but servers would also need new driver software to manage wear leveling caused by the rapid and repeated heating. Only MAMR demonstrates the reliability and cost profile that meets the demands of data center operators. The result is higher density without a complete redesign of the drive's internals.

MAMR has inherently better reliability than HAMR. Costs of HAMR-based drives are also driven up by a reliance on costlier glass platter substrates and iron-platinum magnetic coatings, instead of the cobalt-platinum media and aluminum substrates used in today's drives.

In the press release announcing the new technology, Western Digital quoted IDC analyst John Rydning as saying "Western Digital's demonstration of MAMR technology is a significant breakthrough for the hard-disk-drive industry". More information on WD's MAMR technology is available from the official website.

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