Hitachi, Seagate and WD to Jointly Research Hard Drives Technology

Leading HDD Makers to Jointly Research Hard Disk Drive Technologies

by Anton Shilov
08/18/2010 | 10:13 PM

Three leading manufacturers of hard disk drives (HDDs), Hitachi GST, Seagate Technology and Western Digital, have agreed to form a group that would research hard drive technologies and define the roadmap of HDD future.  The companies have already invested millions of dollars into the emerging organization.


"By the end of the year we hope to have all the hard drive and component companies, including semiconductor makers, in line because the proposition is so compelling," said Mark Geenen, chairman of the International Disk Drive and Equipment Materials Association (IDEMA), which will manage the research group, reports EETimes.

According to Mr. Geenen, smaller HDD makers, such as Samsung and Toshiba, are also invited to join the group. Component manufacturers Fuji Electric, LSI, Marvell, TDK and Texas Instruments are also projected to participate in the group.

Storage technologies are getting more and more complex as manufacturers try to squeeze more bits onto hard drive media. As a result, it makes a lot of sense for hard drive makers as well as manufacturers of other components to share fundamental research and development costs. A group consisting of numerous market players also means that that the companies are likely to ensure compatibility between different components, which will probably affect pricing of HDDs.

"Companies have come to the realization it’s the biggest technology transition in the last 20 years of the drive business, if not in its whole history. Now that we are down to five hard disk companies and a handful of component vendors, we need to do more precompetitive collaboration so our infrastructure is tuned and ready to go," said Mr. Geenen.

Hitachi GST has worked to develop patterned media, a way of precisely locating bits on a spinning disk, that could require 12.5nm lithography. Seagate has labored on heat-assisted magnetic recording, which requires a laser heat source to raise the temperature of a tiny recording spot on the disk by several hundred degrees for perhaps 150 picoseconds. Both approaches promise increase of HDD storage space but are still undeveloped and expensive. Eventually, drive makers project to use both techniques in tandem to drive areal density beyond 50Tbits/square inch.

"Those challenges are too massive for any single company to handle technically or from a business perspective. We're talking about billion-dollar investments in new factories and retrofits while the technology is still immature," stressed Mr. Geenen.