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Seagate-Samsung deal to spur HDD, SSD, hybrid drive development

Lucas Mearian, Computerworld | April 19, 2011
Seagate's proposed purchase of Samsung's hard disk drive operations will likely lead to faster development of new hard disk drive (HDD) technology and improved solid state drive (SSD) and hybrid drive output, according to industry observers.

The marketplace consolidation is good news on two fronts, according to Rydning and other industry experts.

For one, it means more stable HDD pricing in a market that is still competitive. And, it means a boost for the development of next-generation hard drive technology, which has the potential to produce 2.5-in mobile drives with more than 1TB of capacity.

"Some of the next-generation HDD technology is pretty complex and pretty expensive. If you had five players all chasing that, it means you've got five R&D centers, and you've got five sizeable capital investments," Rydning said.

Over the next year, Seagate and other vendors will be able to ramp up development of heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) and bit-patterned recording technologies.

Bit patterned recoding, announced by Toshiba last year, breaks up the recording surface into numerous magnetic bits, each consisting of a few magnetic grains, onto which a bit of data can be stored.

HAMR uses a laser to pre-heat a platinum alloy as a material onto which bits of data can be recorded. The technology allows smaller bits of data to be written closer together without causing the superparamagnetic effect, which simply means that as two magnetically-charged nanoparticles are placed in close proximity, they have a tendency to randomly flip direction causing data corruption.

"There are products that will be announced over the next 12 months," Rydning said. "It's a long runway to develop those technologies and bring them to market."

On the client side, Seagate's only offering has been a hybrid drive, or an HDD that includes a small amount of NAND flash with a controller. The hybrid drive aims to provide improved performance without the high cost of pure a SSD.

Seagate's first attempt at selling hybrid drives failed to gain market adoption.

Last spring, the company launched its second attempt at a hybrid drive, the Momentus XT. The device is priced at $113 for a 250GB model. That drive ran into some performance problems that Seagate said it has fixed.

"I would say ... Seagate's strategy is for both its hybrid HDD and SSD. It will drive significant consumption of NAND by Seagate over the next several years, so the supply agreement will be a huge benefit for Seagate," Janukowicz said.

Rydning believes the three players left in the business will also ramp up production of SSDs and hybrid drives, even though system manufacturers have been reluctant to include the technology in laptop and desktop computers.


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