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New Magnetic Recording Technologies

X-bit labs: Both Seagate and WD have their own magnetic media production. You continue to buy media from other companies. Maybe it makes sense to bring that in house?

Joel Hagberg: We are virtually, vertically integrated with our long-term partners - TDK and Showa Denko KK. We continue to co-develop with them in our Advanced Technology centers. In addition, the entire HDD industry continues to rely on these vendors for industry leading areal density advancement. Our competitors have significantly larger employee head count requirements to support their component development and manufacturing requirements. Toshiba is able to operate our storage business with significant lower headcount expense with our virtual integration model.

X-bit labs: When do you expect to start to use heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology in your HDDs?

Joel Hagberg: Toshiba is working independently as well as collaboratively with TDK and Showa Denko to develop next generation recording technologies. Thermal Assisted Magnetic Recording is just one candidate. We are also working with other energy-assist technologies as well as discrete track (DTR) and bit pattern media for the possibility of future integration into HDDs.

X-bit labs: Do you expect new HDD media players to emerge on the scene at the HAMR or post-HAMR era? Looks like the media production needs both R&D and capital, companies in that case will be able to stay independent...

Joel Hagberg: It is not altogether clear that HAMR will be the next major magnetic recording system to be commercialized. The HDD business is very capital intensive. We see the virtual vertical integration model as providing access to the best minds and technological expertise required to remain a state-of-the-art supplier on an ongoing and consistent basis. Toshiba feels that it will benefit from its collaborative development and investment model with the current component suppliers for advances in future heads and media design.

X-bit labs: Why do you think that HAMR may not be the next major magnetic recording technology? Seagate has already demonstrated technology and promised 1Tb/inch2 areal density. Meanwhile, DTR is essentially a [+50%] boost for PMR and it probably has been deployed in today's hard drives. Bit patterned media promises to offer 1Tb/inch2 - 3Tb/inch2 areal density, so it may be considered as a post-HAMR technology, unless, of course, you have found a way to implement it ahead of HAMR :). Is it so?

Joel Hagberg: The answer is both a statement regarding the term HAMR, which is a vendor’s proprietary term, and of manufacturing challenges. The industry may soon come to term the technology TAMR (Thermal Assist Magnetic Recording), and may or may not include lasers as microwave heating technology is also being explored as an option outside of the lasers that have been used in previous demonstrations of HAMR or TAMR. Toshiba is the one HDD vendor that has high volume production experience with lasers from its work with CD and DVD operations. We look at both the advantages and challenges associated with multiple lasers mounted in an enclosed HDD design and feel that there are options which should be explored beyond lasers.

X-bit labs: When do you think two dimensional magnetic recording (TDMR, 10Tb/inch2 areal density) becomes viable?

Joel Hagberg: There are a number of complex technology development and manufacturing issues which need to be addressed to approach the 10Tb/inch2  level areal density. It is difficult to speculate when the challenges may be overcome and enable such significant achievements in manufacturing technology.

X-bit labs: Will rapid growth of HDD's areal density improve performance of hard drives to levels of SSDs in foreseeable future? Or performance niche is now dominated by SSDs?

Joel Hagberg: Certainly increasing the areal density in HDDs has performance benefits, which alone cannot approach the level of the fastest SSD. Toshiba believes that HDD, SSD and NAND technologies can be used together to boost performance and deliver massive storage capacity for the user.

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