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Dec 08 2018

Seagate Benchmarks Pre-Release 16 TB HDD

Seagate has revealed a fresh batch of positive results from ongoing internal standard benchmark tests of its newly-built pre-release HAMR 16 TB HDDs, which are listed as part of the company's Exos product line for servers and would be "the highest capacity hard drives ever produced" should they appear on the market.

Worldwide, enterprises need readily deployable HDDs for server farms and will need them for years to come, as AI and Big Data applications must access ever-larger datasets to extract useful information. At the same time, hardware suppliers know that new drives may not exceed a certain price limit if the aim is success in the mass market. HDD manufacturers such as Seagate and WD are trying to fulfill such seemingly conflicting demands by raising both areal density and overall storage capacity per platform unit, with both industry-leading competitors working on their respective homegrown technologies.

In the process, Seagate champions its inhouse development HAMR, an acronym for Heat-assisted Magnetic Recording. HAMR uses lasers to compress magnetically stable data bits to a tinier size than hitherto possible as well as to pack them more densely than ever. "A small laser diode attached to each recording head heats a tiny spot on the disk, which enables the recording head to flip the magnetic polarity of each very stable bit, enabling data to be written," explains Seagate's Marketing and PR chief John Paulsen on the company blog.

Following promising in-lab tests in 2017, Seagate is currently executing the final benchmark tests on a 16 TB pre-release model of its Exos series of server HDDs. According to Jason Feist, the firm's senior director of enterprise product line management, "[t]hese are the same tests that customers use to qualify every new drive" and include, among others, power efficiency tests as well as so-called "four-corners tests" that measure performance during read, write, random, sequential and mixed workloads. The tests are said to have been successful; most importantly, Feist and Paulsen claim they proved that "HAMR drives are plug-and-play and operate just as any other hard drive in standard enterprise application environments." In other words, the high-capacity drives may be incorporated into existing systems and data centers without architectural changes. The findings add further weight to a series of reliability tests Seagate carried out in the runup to last spring's OCP Summit and during which the HAMR drives exceeded customer requirements as well as regular HDD specifications "by a factor of 20."

These positive test results notwithstanding, Paulsen did not specify a possible release date for the 16 TB drives. However, Seagate claims to be "on track" to have HAMR HDDs with 20+ TB capacities ready by 2020.


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