The largest hard drives currently offer capacities of 20 terabytes. However, the manufacturer Seagate is already aiming for storage with 100 terabytes. New technical processes are necessary for this.
The need for digital storage is growing all the time. Our smartphones are taking increasingly high-resolution photos, the first televisions with 8K screen resolution are reaching retailers, and all files are going to the cloud. The demands on online storage are growing rapidly: According to forecasts by the market research company IDC, the global amount of data will rise to 175 zettabytes by 2025 – that’s 175 billion terabytes and thus a total of 130 billion terabytes more than mankind produced by 2019.
In contrast to the private customer segment, where the much faster and more efficient SSDs have established themselves in laptops, the operators of the large cloud data centers – including Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon – rely on conventional hard drives. There could be a technical revolution here in the coming years: Seagate, one of the world’s largest storage manufacturers, would like to be able to offer 3.5-inch hard drives with up to 50 terabytes of storage in the mass market by 2026. 20 terabytes are currently the measure of all things. Four years later, around the year 2030, a single hard drive should already have a capacity of 100 terabytes. After that one dreams of 120 terabytes.
Doubling every couple of years
That sounds ambitious, but so far Seagate is on schedule: around two and a half years ago – at that time the maximum was 14 terabytes – the aim was for 20 terabyte hard drives to be ready for series production in 2020. In order to achieve the goals, the manufacturer has to rely on new magnetic recording technologies, including Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) and multi-actuators.
In the best case scenario, this should double the capacity approximately every two to three years. Even if the pace cannot be maintained in the end, you would still be ahead of the competition. Western Digital, for example, announced a few years ago that it would target 40 terabyte hard drives by 2025. Seagate aims to break this mark as early as 2022 to 2023.
The new technologies are likely to result in higher prices, but measured by the price per terabyte, the gigantic memories should still be cheaper than SSDs.