Manufacturers of hard disks are in trouble and they know it. They have been since the development of SSDs, and as these newer disks grow in capacity and continue to see their prices fall, the outlook is increasingly bleaker for conventional hard disk manufacturers.
To help stem the tide and counter the threat, they’ve been upping the ante where storage capacity is concerned. It’s now possible to get a 12-14 TB hard drive, where just a few years ago, 3-6TB was considered enormous.
They have accomplished this feat by cramming more and more disk platters inside the drive case and finding ways of reducing friction. At some point, though, there’s an upper limit to how much can be done on that front, and disk manufacturers seem to have hit that wall.
A Japanese firm called Hoya Corp may have found a way around the limitation, all thanks to simple glass.
A spokesman for the company said he believes that in months and years to come, aluminum substrates will fall into disuse in preference for glass, which is more rigid, smoother and flatter than aluminum, all of which makes it possible to stack more platters in the drive enclosure.
To be clear, Hoya Corp is doing more than just talking about it. They’ve already developed a prototype of the glass substrate that would be needed. It measures just 0.381mm in thickness, which would allow literally dozens of substrates to be stacked together.
To give you a sense of scale, the largest, highest capacity HDDs on the market today have seven substrate, so we’re talking about a leap in capacity of an order of magnitude or more.
Will that be sufficient to counter the threat posed by SSDs? Only time will tell, but it’s certainly an intriguing development and it’ll be fascinating to watch events continue to unfold.