During the five-year period from 2011 to 2016, hard disk drive areal densities are expected to more than double, thanks to growing video and audio storage requirements, a report from IT analytics firm IHS indicates. Areal density is the amount of data that can be physically stored in a given amount of space on a platter inside an HDD.
According to the companys Storage Space Market Brief report, continued need for video and audio storage space will drive the five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for HDD areal densities to 19 percent. The report projected data-storage capacities would climb to a maximum 1,800 Gigabits (Gb) per square inch per platter by 2016, up from 744 Gb per square inch in 2011.
The rise in areal density will pave the way for continued growth of the HDD industry, Fang Zhang, analyst for storage systems at HIS, said in a prepared statement. Densities will double during the next five years, despite technical difficulties associated with the perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology now used to create higher-areal-density hard disks. In particular, growth opportunities will lie in applications associated with mass enterprise storage requirements, gaming and in digital video recorders (DVRs) where massive capacity is required to store high-definition video.
Increasing areal density means more data can be stored on the surface of the platter inside a disk drive. With the introduction of an external hard drive from Seagate Technology, designed for desktop applications, HDD areal density topped the 4-terabyte (TB) mark for the first time in September 2011. According to IHS figures, 1TB of storage can hold approximately 350,000 MP3s, up to 1 million photos (per 2.4 megapixel JPEG-format photo), or up to 76 hours of uncompressed digital video. By bumping the storage capacity for 4TB, users could store roughly 1 million songs, 1,000 hours of high-definition video, 4,000 hours of standard video, or 1,400 movies.
While PMR technology is the current standard used by HDD manufacturers, the IHS report predicts heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology could provide even more storage space, though the company notes the cost compared to PMR is still a factor. In theory, however, advanced technologies like HAMR could extend HDD areal density to a range spanning 5 to 10TB per square inch, the report said. The highest capacity for 3.5-inch HDDs could then reach 30 to 60TB, while the smaller and thinner 2.5- inch HDDs used in increasingly popular thinner notebooks could reach 10 to 20TB.