Hidden deep in Seagate’s financial report released late last month was a brief roadmap update for the company’s heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology. As noted in the latest update, Seagate is now planning to begin mass production of its 32 TB HAMR in early 2024, which is a slight delay from what the company announced early this year. Meanwhile, the company expects to start production of 40+ TB HDDs in about two years’ time.
“Qualification and revenue ramp plans for our 30-plus terabyte products remain fully on track with high-volume ramp starting early in calendar 2024,” said Dave Mosley, chief executive of Seagate, during conference call with financial analysts and investors. ” These drives deliver capacity starting at 30 terabytes and offer customers the same flexibility to adopt either CMR or SMR configurations to further boost aerial density into the mid-30TB range.”
As noted back in October, Seagate’s Exos X24 series of HDDs will help set the stage for HAMR-based hard drives, as the latter will keep using the same 10-platter platform – albeit with new platters as well as write heads with lasers to heat the media surface. Those Exos drives will use 10 2.4 TB perpendicular magnetic recording disks and will begin shipments in the first half of calendar 2024. Around the same time — in early calendar 2024 — Seagate plans to start volume ramp of 32 TB HAMR HDDs.
Even with the volume ramp and enviable capacity, Seagate is only expecting to sell a modest number of HAMR HDDs in the first quarters of their availability. The company believes that it can move around one million units in the first half of 2024, though the firm does not disclose whether the number is limited by its ability to produce the drives, or by demand from customers who need to qualify such products before deploying them in their datacenters.
“We will start our HAMR revenue fairly strongly in the first six months of the calendar 2024,” said Gianluca Romano, chief financial officer of Seagate. “We think we have about a million unit as opportunity to be sold.”
Another interesting disclosure found in the document is that Seagate intends to start producing HAMR-based HDDs featuring 4+TB platters within the next two years, which would have them arriving sometime in late 2025 or early 2026. This is somewhat is behind the company’s optimistic schedule revealed a few years back, which anticipated 50+TB HDDs in calendar 2026. Though it’s arguably a more realistic schedule that’s in line with the development cadence thus far, especially given how development and deployment of hard drive proceeds these days.
Another noteworthy thing is that Seagate’s brief roadmap update does not mention HDDs with more than 10 platters. Meaning that the company seems to be done adding platters to gain additional capacity, at least for now. Perhaps, the company believes that increased areal density that is enabled by HAMR will enable it to offer competitive capacities and it does not need to throw in any additional disks. Or maybe installing over 10 HAMR platters is risky from yields point of view as of now, so the company prefers not to mention such a technological option.