Seagate Predicts Slower Growth of Consumer HDD Capacity

Single-Platter Client Drives to Become More Widespread

by Anton Shilov
04/18/2012 | 11:55 PM

Demand for storage space is increasing rapidly and suppliers of hard disk drives, solid-state drives and other technologies can hardly keep up because of the economic conditions worldwide. As a result of certain market trends, the popularity of single-platter or dual-platter hard drives for consumers will get higher, whereas average capacities of HDDs will likely slowdown the growth, according to Seagate's chief executive officer.


The demand for hard disk drive (HDD) storage was 400 exabytes (exabyte = one million terabytes) in 2011 and that number will increase towards one zettabyte sometime in 2015-2016 timeframe and then to seven zettabytes by 2020. Steven Luczo, chief exec of Seagate, claims that storage demand growth right now is over 50% in the cloud, whereas in other businesses it is 25%, which results in around 40% overall every year. Meanwhile, areal density growth is right now under 25%, which means that more drives need to be made to meet the demand for storage.

Since one single hard disk drive contains over 200 individual components, which manufacturing is constrained by production capacities (which expansion is constrained by investments). As a result, hard drive makers will use additional heads, ramps and other components on hard drives aimed at cloud datacenters while attempting to reduce the amount of components on client HDDs, which will inevitably slowdown capacity growth for them.

"It probably plays out that on the client you start by going to more a single disk solution. [...] So you probably start seeing a reduction in heads and disks for clients, but then you start seeing an increase for cloud," said Steven Luczo in an interview with Forbes.

A good news is that sometimes in 2016 - 2017 timeframe hard drive and platter makers will start to use heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), which will enable much higher areal densities and increments in capacities of hard disk drives. Still, the head of Seagate believes that ultimately more heads, more discs will be needed to solve the zettabytes problem. As a result, more investments are needed in the hard disk drives industry.

"When you look out at 2016-2017, then you have a next generation technology called HAMR – heat-assisted magnetic recording – which accelerates the areal density [...] growth rates back in the 40%-50% range. [...] But my point is, I think you are in a perpetual shortage. So the only way you can solve the whole exabyte storage is with more heads and disks, which means you’ve got to put more capital to work, and no one is doing that," stressed Mr. Luczo.