This method shows, Yang says, that “bits can be patterned more densely together by reducing the number of processing steps”. The HDD industry will be fascinated to understand how BPM drives can be made at a perhaps lower-than-anticipated cost.
Moore’s Law applies to semi-conductors built on silicon wafers. And to a lesser extent it has had some application to hard disk drive storage as well. When IBM created is GMR (Giant Magneto-Resistive) read/write head technology and was able to develop it into a shipping product, a real storage arms race began. Densities increased, prices dropped and before you knew it hard drives went from 1Gbyte to 10Gbytes overnight practically speaking. Soon a 30Gbyte drive was the default average size boot and data drive for every shipping PC when just a few years before a 700Mbyte drive was the norm. This was a greater than 10X improvement with the adoption of a new technology.
I remember a lot of those touted technologies were added on and tacked on at the same time. PRML (Partial Read Maximum Likelihood) and Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) too both helped keep the ball rolling in terms of storage density. IBM even did some pretty advanced work layering magnetic layers between magnetically insulating layers (using thin layers of Ruthenium) to help create even stronger magnetic recording media for the newer higher density drives.
However each new incremental advance has now run a course and the advances in storage technology are slowing down again. But there’s still one shining hope: Bit Patterned-Media (BPM). And in all the speculation about which technology is going to keep the storage density ball rolling, this new announcement is sure to play it’s part. A competing technique using lasers to heat the disk surface before writing data is also being researched and discussed, but is likely to force a lot of storage vendors to agree to make a transition to that technology simultaneously. BPM on the other hand isn’t so different and revolutionary that it must be rolled out en masse simultaneously by each drive vendor to insure everyone is compatible. And better yet BPM maybe a much lower cost and immediate way to increase storage densities without incurring big equipment and manufacturing machine upgrade costs.
So I’m thinking we’ll be seeing BPM much more quickly and we’ll continue to enjoy the advances in drive density for a little while longer.
- Researchers add a dash of salt to hard drives for capacities up to 18TB (arstechnica.com)
- Heat-assisted magnetic recording hard drives for 2015 (nextbigfuture.com)