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Seagate: 22TB and 24TB HDDs Launch In 1H 2023, 30+TB HAMR Follows in Q3

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Seagate: 22TB and 24TB HDDs Launch In 1H 2023, 30+TB HAMR Follows in Q3

30TB HAMR HDD Is Nearly Here, 50TB Is on Horizon

Seagate has been pinning loads of hopes on HAMR for a long time and has been shipping HAMR-based HDDs to select customers for evaluation for several years now.  The company will release its first mass-market hard drives featuring its 2nd generation HAMR platform in the third quarter, the company said at its earnings call this week. 

"We now expect to launch our 30+ TB platform in the June quarter, slightly ahead of schedule," said Dave Mosley, chief executive officer of Seagate, at the conference call (per SeekingAlpha). "The speed of the initial HAMR volume ramp will depend on a number of factors, including product yields and customer qualification timelines. However, we plan to use our systems business to quicken the pace of learning and time-to-yield." 

For now, Seagate hasn't revealed much about its initial HAMR platform, including the number of platters it can install into its drive. Meanwhile, with capacities of 30TB and higher, the company will be able to offer its customers rather unprecedented storage density for 3.5-inch HDDs. The storage specialist admits that the share of HAMR-based hard drives will not be too high this year, but it is going to increase as yields of HAMR media and HAMR heads increase. 

Initially, the company will use HAMR disks and heads to make its ultra-premium highest capacity nearline drives aimed at hyperscale cloud datacenters. But eventually the new media and heads will be used for mid-range and even entry-level high-capacity HDDs to reduce their manufacturing costs and increase Seagate's margins. 

"I think this year, [the share of HAMR HDDs] will probably still be relatively low," said the head of Seagate. "The faster we can get the yields up and scrap and all the costs that we can control down on the heads and media, then the faster we will be accelerating. I think that will happen in calendar year 2024, and calendar year 2025 we will just continue to accelerate. The highest capacity points will be addressed, also these midrange capacity points ''

While 30TB HDDs are nearly here, Seagate says that it has also managed to cram 5TB of data on a single 3.5-inch disk in the lab, which opens doors to HDDs with capacities of 50TB and higher (assuming that the drives use 10 platters or more). For now, such disks are only used on spinstands, but as the company learns more about them, they will be moved to prototype drives and eventually to commercial HDDs. 

The company's publicly available roadmap indicates that Seagate intends to deliver 50+ TB hard drives in calendar 2026, so the HDD maker has plenty of time to polish off its 50TB media for mass production.

22TB and 24TB HDDs Due Shortly

While HAMR will enable rapid growth for Seagate's HDD capacities in the coming years, the company continues to refine its hard drives featuring perpendicular/conventional magnetic recording (CMR/PMR) and shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technologies. Either in Q1 or Q2 the company will release its 10-platter CMR/PMR HDDs with 2.2TB disks and a 22TB capacity. SMR version of such drives will further increase capacity to 24TB for those willing to use shingled magnetic recording. 

The new 22TB CMR/PMR and 24TB SMR HDDs will serve as the company's top-of-the-line workhorses that will replace 20TB CMR/PMR and 22TB SMR hard drives from this position. 

"Our 20TB product features 2TB per disk capacities and we have started to ramp the volume of 22TB products deployed on 2.2TB per disk capacities," said Mosley. "The 20+ TB platform is based on traditional PMR technology and some customers are choosing to enable SMR technology as an additional feature that slightly increases the drives capacity for certain applications. [… ] We are executing plans to deliver another 10% gain in per disk capacity for this PMR platform to offer drives in the mid- to upper 20TB range."

The above roadmap from Seagate shows that HAMR hard drives will reach 50 TB capacities as soon as 2026 but does not reveal in the above slide their CMR/PMR (Conventional Magnetic Recording and Perpendicular Magnetic Recording) and SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) drives. The company is expected to launch ten-disk hard disk drives with 2.2 TB and 22 TB for CMR/PMR HDDs, while the SMR HDDs are expected to reach up to 20 TB. The high-capacity HDDs will replace the current 20 TB and 22 TB CMR/PMR and SMR HDDs, respectively.

Seagate's recent sales numbers for 2022 reveal increased revenue and non-GAAP earnings per share. The second quarter revenue for Seagate gained $1.887 billion in the company's 2023 fiscal year, which was less than its 2022 second quarter fiscal year revenue, reaching $3.116 billion. Seagate also reported that the gross profit margin for the company dropped over seventeen percent, from 30.4% down to 13%. The company's net loss was said to be $33 million.

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