back to article MAMR Mia! Western Digital's 18TB and 20TB microwave-energy hard drives out soon

Western Digital said demand for high-capacity data centre disk drives will keep up over the next few years as it told the world it would begin shipping samples of its new MAMR 18 and 20TB drives over the next four months. The Ultrastar data centre DC HC550 is a helium-filled drive in 16TB and 18TB versions. It uses either …

  1. 0laf Silver badge

    Sounds good, no idea what it means

    HD tech always seems like something written by a scifi author.

    However, 20Tb on a 3.5" drive. Crazy.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: Sounds good, no idea what it means

      > HD tech always seems like something written by a scifi author.

      The BOFH in me wants to tell the boss that Microwave-assisted magnetic recording technology, or MAMR means that we'll need a 'backup' microwave in the server room in case one of these new disks fails. Should be good for warming up a pasty properly rather than disconnecting the thermal sensor on one of the hotter servers.

    2. overunder Bronze badge

      Re: Sounds good, no idea what it means

      It means we're one step closer to putting the robots in charge of all things data related.

      It would be nice to know just how much radiation these give off. Warm coffee or lead bunker?

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Sounds good, no idea what it means

        Well, as they won't want to mess up the data on the platters a few mm away, I'd be surprised if there was enough energy to warm up a nano-litre sized coffee.

        Certainly the electric motor would be putting out more heat.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Sounds good, no idea what it means

          I'd be surprised if there was enough energy to warm up a nano-litre sized coffee.

          That won't stop the electrosmog crowd from freaking out about it though.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds good, no idea what it means

      Absolutely. 20TB- or Over 160 trillion ones and zeroes- stored on a few small circles of metal spinning at a few thousand rpm is, by the ACC standard, getting into 'magic' territory.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Sounds good, no idea what it means

        The BOFH in me would just use the microwave part to explain it works faster than a normal drive, same as for ovens...

        And if you're feeling mischievous, also say that once the file transfer is done it'll go ping :-)

    4. NightFox

      Re: Sounds good, no idea what it means

      My jaw still drops when I see the speed the read/write head and actuator arm move on an old, opened-up HDD and I think about the accuracy involved.

  2. Chris McFaul


    Subtitle “skipping over 16tb”

    Couple of paragraphs later “The Ultrastar data centre DC HC550 is a helium-filled drive in 16TB and 18TB versions.”

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Contradiction

      Manufacturer "advertised" size vs the size you can actually use when you install and format the thing?

      1. Qumefox

        Re: Contradiction

        The advertised size is correct.... going by how that number was derived by the hard drive manufacturers (base10) vs binary which is what most computers display size as.

        And technically, the Hard drive manufacturers are correct in following the letter of the SI prefixes. After all. Kilo only means 1024 when we want it to, (when discussing binary things) At all other times, it means 1000. A kilometer is 1000 meters, not 1024 meters. A kilogram is 1000 grams, not 1024, a kiloton is 1000 tons, etc. So to hard drive manufactures, a kilobyte is 1000 bytes. and a megabyte is 1000000 bytes, and so on.

        1. dfsmith

          Re: Contradiction

          It's easy to remember:

          Serial bit streams use 10^3.

          Binary addressable bit tables use 2^10 (historically).

          Hard drives are serial devices; like networking. DRAMs are binary addressable. Flash is weird, and getting weirder.

        2. Michael

          Re: Contradiction

          Kilo doesn't mean 1024.

          1 kibibyte (KiB) = 210 bytes = 1024 bytes

          This is not the same as one kilobytes. Which follows standard SI unit convention. This has been the case for over 20 years. I think, since 1998 as I remember the arguments during my undergraduate course.

  3. Chris McFaul


    Subtitle: “skipping 16tb capacity”

    Couple of paragraphs in “The Ultrastar data centre DC HC550 is a helium-filled drive in 16TB and 18TB versions.”

    1. Chris Mellor 1

      Re: Contradiction

      Sloppy writing by me. Should have said pure 16TB drive. It can make the HC550 a 16TB drive by dropping a platter but WD guy said it was skipping pure 16TB drive level to go straight to 18TB and 20TB (with shingling). That's because it reckins it will be faster to market with 18 and 20TB drives than Seagate.

  4. GlenP Silver badge

    Feeling Old...

    Took a new employee to the National Museum of Computing the other week, and mentioned that "back in the day" we had DEC RA81 450MB drives, stacked 3 to a 19" cabinet, they were the latest thing at the time.

    GB capacities were just about unheard of and I don't think anyone envisaged storage in terabytes.

    1. ChrisC

      Re: Feeling Old...

      The first HD I owned was 120MB, which today sounds impossibly small, but back then was the optional higher-spec upgrade option over the 80MB one Commodore fitted as standard to that model of Amiga...

      A year or so later I was in the lab at uni when one of the other postgrads rebooted their seemingly mundane Windows PC, and I did a serious double-take when I saw the POST screen indicating 80MB of installed *memory*.

      Good old days.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Feeling Old...

        I can beat that. My first HDD was 20Mb. 5 1/2 inch double height and had a stepper motor to move the heads. On the back of the stepper was a black plastic wheel that you could see moving. New tech looks quite boring compared to the old stuff.

        1. alisonken1

          Re: Feeling Old...

          Yep - my first HD was a 20M also - for $200US (and the only reason for the low cost was I picked it up in Hong Kong when my ship stopped in for a visit).

        2. Alister Silver badge

          Re: Feeling Old...

          Another 20MB HD owner here, double height 5 1/4 managed to squeeze it into an IBM 5150 PC AT case next to the 5 1/4 floppy drives. At the time, 20MB of storage was immense!

          1. Jamesit

            Re: Feeling Old...

            My first PC was an Atari PC3, 3.5" full height 20Mb HD, 640K RAM, Intel 8088 @4.77MHz and an amber EGA monitor.

            I remember thinking I would never run out of HD space! Now 4Tb isn't enough.

        3. Paul Shirley

          Re: Feeling Old...

          I turned down the loan of a 10Mb Atari ST drive in the dim&distant past...

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Feeling Old...

          First drive i remember having was a 20MB Hardcard.

      2. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: Feeling Old...

        Yep, first PC HDs I had were 20MB but I acquired an RLL controller that pushed it to 32MB!

        1. Daveytay

          Re: Feeling Old...

          I remember the speed increase that Spinrite gave to the MFM/RLL drives by optimizing the interleave. Thanks Steve Gibson.

      3. Blank Reg

        Re: Feeling Old...

        In a box somewhere I still have a full-height 5 1/2" 5MB hard drive.

        1. Petergwilson

          Re: Feeling Old...

          I've got one of those.

        2. Dagg

          Re: Feeling Old...

          I installed one of those in my 1st PC1 replacing one of the full height floppies. We were sooo advanced...

    2. RobThBay

      Re: Feeling Old...

      I remember reading about PMR (perpendicular magnetic recording) technology when it was still in the research stage. Way back in the mid 80's.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Feeling Old...

        I can remember the first GB drive appearing in the Uni Physics department when I was there doing my PhD (a bit less than 25 years ago)...

        Rather sobering to think I now have more storage capacity on my keyring than the whole department probably had back then.

        But then I still get incredulous looks from my kids when I tell them that when I was their age, mobile phones and the internet basically didn't exist (at least for Joe Public and certainly not for spotty minions).

        1. NightFox

          Re: Feeling Old...

          Sorry but those aren't incredulous looks, they're the looks of boredom and pity. It's the 21st century equivalent of "During the war..."

          1. 0laf Silver badge

            Re: Feeling Old...

            I'm clearly a young wippersnapper since my first PC (in 96) came with a 20Gb drive.

            Cooincidentally I got a new laptop yesterday with 16Gb of RAM, for pretty much the same price as that 1996 PC which had 16Mb of RAM. But it came with Theme Hospital therefore was better (bloatyhead FTW).

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Feeling Old...


            My first HD weighed 3 tons, was powered by diesel had just 1 byte and that was corrupted and the manufacturer claimed it was out of warranty etc etc


            [Actually I from Berkshire, sorry]

  5. Fazal Majid

    Can't understand why anyone would buy the 20TB drive

    Shingled drives are horrendously slow, why would anyone get the SMR 20TB drive instead of the almost as capacious, but presumably much faster 18TB CMR ?(conventional magnetic recording, i.e. PMR before SMR)

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Can't understand why anyone would buy the 20TB drive

      Different workloads...

      If your primary workload is reading, or rather your writing workload is low, then the slowness isn’t an issue

      1. Blank Reg

        Re: Can't understand why anyone would buy the 20TB drive

        Except for when you need to replace a dead drive in a raid array and wait for it to be re-populated. I wonder how long it takes to restore a full 20TB drive?

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Can't understand why anyone would buy the 20TB drive

          The writes to a replacement drive in a RAID rebuild are sequential, so there's no difference between traditional and SMR drives. The gotcha for SMR drives is that if you want to write to an individual track you will have to read and re-write adjacent tracks in the "group" (not sure what they call it)

          I would think you'd need RAID software that knew how to handle SMR drives though, if the RAID block/stripe sizes aren't matched to the SMR track "groups" the results would be ugly.

    2. ChrisC

      Re: Can't understand why anyone would buy the 20TB drive

      Isn't it only write speeds that are worse for SMR though? In scenarios where you're using the drives in something approximating a WORM-type scenario (i.e. almost entirely consisting of data reads with only very occasional writes), the extra space will then probably be more beneficial than faster write speeds - particularly in large storage arrays where an extra 2TB of storage per drive bay would quickly add up.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Can't understand why anyone would buy the 20TB drive

        As far as I'm aware, SMR and storage arrays do not get on well together.

        I tried putting 7 of them in a RAID Z2 array, just to see what happened. For about the 100GB or so, it worked great, then it got really slow, as in bytes per second, then it just completely keeled over and failed. Other people who tried it have reported similar things.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Can't understand why anyone would buy the 20TB drive

          Yes - this. I replaced all my SMR drives from Seagate due to horrendous read and write performance on a NAS. The Enterprise drives are still PMR and are fantastic. Potential for data loss is higher with the overlapping of tracks, and can you imagine if the read/write head somehow changes position in the drive?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How much ?

    You can't afford it as you had to ask, sir.

  7. phuzz Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    20TB? That's a lot of porn!

    1. 0laf Silver badge

      But not too much

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re But not too much

        but not enough, never enough.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But how fast?

    I don't see any reference to the read/write speed of these drives. How will they compare to the likes of a traditional HDD or SSD?

  9. WYSIWYG650

    already out of date...

    30TB SSD drives shipping and GA.... This article was poorly written and those drives are useless!

    1. IGotOut

      Re: already out of date...

      So remind me again child, how much is said SSD.

      I'm sure a "small" data centre with say 10,000 drives will just swap them all out as the old stuff is out of date.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: already out of date...

      So how much Micron stock do you own?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: already out of date...

      And here's me stupidly buying a famiiy hatchback. If only I'd known the Bugatti Chiron could now do 300 mph.

  10. zbmwzm3

    MAMR drives or CMR??

    These do not appear to be MAMR drives and I cannot find a mention to it in the press release. The 18TB drive is CMR and the 20TB drive is SMR. I thought CMR is essentially just PMR so are you saying that CMR is MAMR in this case?

  11. billdehaan
    Thumb Up

    I bought a drive on the weekend

    Over the weekend, I did my monthly backup. This is the "take the 3TB disk out of the fireproof safe, do the backup, put it back in the safe for another month" backup, not the daily backup, or the offsite one.

    It failed for the first time, ever. Apparently, my 4TB disk in my PC now has 3.09TB of data, so it could not be backed up onto the 3TB backup disk. So, I went to the shop, bought a 4TB WD Blue for C$99 (about 68 Euros), and did a backup. So, I've now got a spare 3TB lying around.

    It occurred to me to do some math. That 4TB disk is 200,000 times the storage capacity of my first 20MB disk in 1985. And at $99, not even counting inflation, it was one tenth the cost. Going by price, storage capacity has increased two million fold over the past three decades. I picked up an 8TB three years ago on sale for $160 or so, and the 10TB, 12TB, and even 14TB have been on sale for a while now.

    So, as glad as I am to hear it, increases to 18TB or 20TB don't really shock me nowadays. When they stop quoting TB and start quoting PB, then we'll have reached the next level.

    1. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: I bought a drive on the weekend

      Although I used 10, 20 and 40MB HDs, I never put my own money into a hard drive until they were cheaper than 1.44 MB floppies. When floppy storage was $1/MB, I couldn't justify the personal expense of a $10/MB hard drive (I was poor). Floppies haven't fallen in cost very much: I can still get them for around $1 each. And a 20TB drive is just 20 million floppy disks........

      1. billdehaan

        Re: I bought a drive on the weekend

        When floppy storage was $1/MB


        Back in 1984, when PCs were big, and the AT hadn't even been released yet, it was a big deal that DOS 2.x allowed you to reformat those DSDD 320kb floppies as 360kb. That allowed 1/3rd of a megabyte on a single disk. That 12% increase doesn't sound like much, but compared to other media, like 8" floppies at 88kb, and "high density" single sided media of 180kb, 360kb was huge.

        Slow, but huge.

        The going rate was something like $12 a disk, so a MB was about $35. If you bought a box of 10 Dysans, I remember they were "only" $99, so 20% cheaper than buying individual floppies.

        So, 20MB of floppies would be 60 disks, or about $720 ($600 if buying in bulk). But given the horrible 80ms speeds, as opposed to 20ms for the hard drive, not to mention not having the flip through dozens of floppies, and split files, etc., the hard drive was well worth the 35% price increase over the floppies.

        When the AT came out, and 1.2MB floppies appeared, they cost $99 for a box of ten, and the 360KB prices dropped significantly. But as anyone who's ever tried to back up a 20MB disk onto them (hello, FastBack), they were still a pain to use.

  12. finlaythethinker

    Feeling Old

    In the good old days I recall spending $2,000 CAD for a "gigantic 2MB" external hard drive for use with my AppleII. Lots of fun peeking and poking on that machine, with 64K RAM expanded to 512K on cards I built to bank switch the top 16K. Another card with Zilog Z80 to run real CP/M properly, rather than the crap Microsoft tried to flog. Things have sure changed since the 1970's, and looking back I would love to return to the days of Peace and Love (the 1960's) before our world became so divided and turning into the Total Surveillance and control dream of the Technocrats.

  13. Kev99

    But I thought no one uses HDD anymore. You have to be using SSDs. With absolutely no chance of recovery if the SSD fails.

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      If the data you store on your HDD is worth enough to pay the thousands of dollars to a data recovery mob to get it back for you, it'd be much cheaper, not to mention more quickly recoverable, reliable and effective, to both use RAID (for disk failures within the array (for the number of disk failures the array is set up to allow for)) and implement a local (for 'box' issues, and for user issues - RAID won't protect you from a delete instruction or format instruction) and an offsite (for room/building/campus/neighbourhood issues) backup strategy.

      Therefore you could use SSDs because obviously if the data was that valuable you'd follow the same procedures as you'd use with valuable data on HDDs, namely RAID augmented with local and offsite backups.

    2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      The SSD is for the OS. The HDD is for the porn.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The SSD is for the OS. The HDD is for the porn.

        EVERYTHING is for the porn, first universal law in this universe (as in all others)

    3. Daveytay

      Cloud it baby, with monthly costs... Isn't that the new way, with somebody else's server?

  14. Alan W. Rateliff, II

    Thanks for the MAMRies!

    With only the slightest of apologies...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With the new MAMR technology, each drive will also come with a LED clock that blinks after every power outage.

    The data also tends to come out a bit dry and rubbery.

  16. Just A Quick Comment

    Well, how big is YOUR head?

    With 20TB drives a reality, and larger in the pipeline, how long until you can backup an adult human brain - and how big would the backup need to be?

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