Hardly Obsolete: HDDs Continue to Evolve

With the continued evolution of the flash drives and the resurgence of magnetic tape storage in the age of big data, it seems more and more likely that the old spinning hard disk is destined to be forgotten. Fortunately, HDD will not go quietly into the night even as some start to call it obsolete. The hard disk’s evolution is anything but over and here are some of the things that spinning disk fans have to look forward to in the future.


Helium disk drives

Helium creates much less friction than regular air, meaning more platters and heads can fit inside the drive enclosure. The previous barrier to helium drives is that the gas can leak through even the smallest of holes preventing the technology from being production-ready.

However, some companies have worked out how to hermetically seal the drive and cram 7 1TB platters inside the traditional 3.5” drive. Essentially, the HDD of the future should have higher capacity while its cost diminishes.

2.5-inch form factor

As companies start to reduce the areal density – or the size and amount of data that can be stored on a platter – then the size of the drive enclosure can start to shrink. 2.5-inch format platters can expect to store around 375GB, however it means that IT database administrators can fit more into their server racks and increase total storage as a whole.

Self-encrypting drive

HDD will also remain attractive to security-conscious enterprises because they can use technology embedded in their firmware to deploy full-disk encryption. This firmware automatically encrypts the data, something that doesn’t happen with magnetic tape drives, nor does it incur the processing fee associated with software-based full-disk encryption. The first self-encrypting drive was launched in 2009 and is likely to continue to grow over time.

Shingled magnetic recording

SMR achieves higher areal densities by squeeze the platter tracks closer together, overlapping them like singles to allow more data to be written on the same space with little to no degradation to data integrity or reliability. Seagate launched an 8TB SMR drive in 2014 for $260, which is great capacity however it only has 5,900 rpm spindle speed.

Heat-assisted magnetic recording

This form of data writing involves applying heat through the write head and enables manufactures to use different materials as the magnetic storage media for their drives meaning they can manipulate magnetic particles at even smaller scales. Some companies believe that these types of drives will allow for 15GB storage and could be available in 2016.


Hard drives are anything but dead and buried. They have a lot of technological development to go and could be an excellent cost-effective solution for companies in the future.