Double-headed Seagate disk drives? Yes, on their way

Seagate will introduce 18TB, 20TB+ and double-headed disk drives by the end of 2020.

Seagate CEO David Mosley, signalled the company’s intentions at a recent investor briefing hosted by Wells Fargo Securities.

In his presentation Mosley said he expected 16TB nearline drives to be the company’s biggest product by early/mid-2020. It recently announced 16TB Exos, IronWolf and IronWolf Pro drives, and is the first hard drive vendor to announce 16TB drives.

Western Digital, Seagate’s arch-rival, also has a 16TB drive on its way. It will use eight platters and 16 heads, in contrast with Seagate’s nine platters and 18 heads in its 16TB drive. Fewer platters and heads mean lower costs.

Seagate is planning an 18TB Shingled-Magnetic Recording (SMR) version of this 16TB technology. It expects to intro 20TB+ HAMR-based nearline HDDs in calendar 2020.

It will also introduce double-headed drives featuring MACH.2 Multi- Actuator Technology by the end of calendar 2019. 

Aaron Rakers, Wells Fargo senior analyst, who attended the Seagate presentation, noted: “The first solutions will incorporate two actuators on a single pivot point with each actuator controlling half of the drives read/write head arms – providing as much as a 2x increase in performance (demonstrating ~480MB/s sustained throughput); the first major performance gain in HDDs seen in years.”

Market watcher

At the investor briefing Seagate pointed to strong growth in the surveillance market. It cited estimates by the market research firm TrendFocus that branded surveillance HDD shipments will grow from ~25.62 million in 2018 to ~48.2 million units shipped by 2025. This represents 13.5 per cent shipment compound annual growth. Over the same period average drive capacity for surveillance disks will grow from 4TB to 8TB.

Game consoles appear to be moving away from 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB HDDs to Flash/SSD storage. This will affect disk drive sales, but Seagate’s Mosley, said he had “no comment” about this right now. He did say Flash and HDDs will both play an important role in the anticipated expansion of gaming content.

Rakers said Seagate remains committed to participating in the enterprise SSD market, but does not anticipate any significant revenue ramp.