Earlier this week Western Digital announced an important breakthrough in storage technology. The company demonstrated the world’s first microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) hard drive which will start shipping in 2019 and according to WD should allow for 40TB of storage on a single drive by 2025 without having to (completely) change manufacturing techniques or (dramatically) increase the cost of the drives.
While many consumers have been moving to solid state storage solutions over the past few years both for their size but mainly because of their increased speed, when it comes to larger capacities – i.e. dozens of terabytes there is no real substitute for mechanical hard drives (and if WD is to be believed – there is not going to be – anytime soon).
This isn’t just important for large datacenters (although they are probably the biggest costumers for this technology) but also for many photographers and videographers who require larger and larger backup and storage solutions for their ever-increasing data (and if you think that 4K takes a lot of space – think what will happen in a few years when 8K video will go down to consumer level cameras and consumer level stills cameras will reach 100MP).
So the need is there, but what is MAMR and why is it such a potential game changer? well, according to WD “MAMR is one of two energy-assisted technologies that Western Digital has been developing for years. The second technology is heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), present new material science and reliability challenges that are not a factor in MAMR”.
Here is WD explanation of the MAMR and how it works:
“At the heart of the company’s innovation breakthrough is the “spin torque oscillator” used to generate a microwave field that increases the ability to record data at ultra-high density without sacrificing reliability”. Anandtech gives a somewhat better explanation: “The process allows WD to fabricate a spin torque oscillator (STO) capable of creating precise energy fields without any additional overheads. The embedded oscillator in the head [of the spinning plate] is tuned to generate microwaves with a frequency of 20-40 GHz, and this provides the ‘energy-assist’ to make it easier to write to the bits (technically it lowers the coercivity of the underlying recording media)”.
If you want to dive deeper into the technology this long WD video gets into the nuts and bolts