Why buy 16TB hard drives? Our 18TBs give you more for your money -WD

Customers could go straight to 18TB and 20TB disk drives from current 14TB drives, bypassing the 16TB capacity level.

So says Aaron Rakers, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo, following a recent conversation with Western Digital CEO Stephen Milligan and CFO Rob Eulau. He learnt that WD has not seen any signs of significant share recapture from Seagate after its competitor launched 16TB drives. Hence the notion that 16TB could be a waystation between the14 and 18TB drive capacities.

In a note to subscribers last week, Rakers said 16TB could represent a soft cycle vs. an industry move from 14TB to 18TB.

Let’s see how Seagate’s 16TB drive shipments fare over the next two or three quarters. This will tell us if Rakers’ notion is correct.

Seagate uses 9 platters for its 16TB disk drive technology. Major customers have qualified the products and volume shipments are expected by June, 2020.

Western Digital last week announced 18TB drive technology, with a 20TB implementation using shingled magnetic recording. These also have 9 platters. Rakers estimates that WD’s cost structure is up to 20 per cent lower than Seagate can achieve for 9-platter drives, due to higher capacity and use of aluminium rather than glass platters.

These WD drives sample by the end of this year with volume ships starting in the first half of 2020. This is roughly the same time as Seagate ramps up 16TB shipments.

WD can produce a 16TB drive if demand is significant, by removing a platter or a read/write head pair from its 18TB drives.