Earlier this week, Western Digital released financial reports for the fourth fiscal quarter and full year. Alongside financial results, it said the company will soon begin testing 28TB hard drives designed for use in data centers (DPCs).
We’re talking about hard drives that use energy-saving Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (ePMR) and the latest version of “Tiled” Magnetic Recording (UltraSMR) to provide unprecedented storage capacity. “We are preparing to begin qualifying our 28TB UltraSMR drive. This state-of-the-art product builds on the success of our ePMR and UltraSMR technologies and offers the performance and reliability trusted by our customers around the world. We are preparing this product for rapid qualification and scaling as demand grows.”Western Digital CEO David Goeckeler said during an interview with analysts and investors.
A curious feature of Western Digital’s 28TB hard drive is that it’s based on second-generation ePMR technology with improved recording heads that allow for higher recording densities and thinner tracks. Because UltraSMR technology increases storage density by 20% compared to traditional magnetic recording (CMR) technology, the company needs a 24TB hard drive to create a 28TB UltraSMR drive.
Western Digital began shipping 26TB UltraSMR hard drives last quarter. The qualification testing process for these drives took a long time because the companies participating in the tests had to evaluate the behavior and performance of the new technology. This is because UltraSMR includes a number of hardware, firmware and software innovations.
Western Digital’s 28TB drives will compete with Seagate’s 32TB drives, which are based on Heated Magnetic Recording (HAMR) technology. Seagate’s products currently being evaluated are expected to launch in early 2024 and will offer increased capacity and performance, especially for writes. However, Western Digital’s hard drives are more familiar to customers who already use SMR and UltraSMR drives, potentially giving the company a competitive edge.
With at least 1.5 years to go before Western Digital’s HAMR-based hard drives come to market, the company intends to leverage a combination of second-generation ePMR and UltraSMR technologies in the coming quarters to deliver products with bring higher capacity to the market. “The next step on the roadmap will be moving from 20TB to 30+TB with a range of ePMR, OptiNAND and UltraSMR technologies. We still have a few steps to take.— said David Gekeler at a meeting with investors.