For the past few years I have been writing projection blogs on digital storage and memory and the systems that use these technologies for the following year. This will be the first of three articles on the future of digital storage and memory technology in 2022 and beyond. This piece will focus on the current state and future of magnetic recording, particularly hard drives and magnetic tape recording.
The use of hard drives has seen a boom in 2020 and early 2021 due to the purchase of computers that allow people to work remotely. We estimate desktop hard drive shipments were 6.9% higher in 2021 than in 2020 and mobile hard drive shipments were 3.0% higher. However, with consumer SSDs selling for less than 5 times the price of hard drives (in $ / TB) and with many users happy with 1-2TB of local storage, SSDs are gaining in popularity. As a result, the majority of PCs sold today and those sold in the future will use SSDs rather than hard drives. Hard drives continued to decline in shipments of high-performance enterprise applications as well as consumer applications (down in 2021 from 2020 by 11.5% and 46% respectively).
The growing hard drive market is in enterprise mass storage (nearline hard drives). Enterprise-class SSDs are still around 10 times more expensive (in $ / TB) than hard drives (due to the higher endurance and other features required for enterprise SSDs. We estimate that shipments high capacity hard disk drives increased by about 50% in 2021 compared to 2020 (this was significantly higher than the 10% year-on-year growth we forecast for 2021 in December 2020). of people working remotely during the pandemic, the cloud and other remote storage was a key part of collaborative work, driving the demand for mass storage in data centers.
Total hard drive shipments through C3Q 2021 were around 198 million units. We expect C4Q 2021 shipments to be between 60 and 65 million units, resulting in a total of 258 to 263 million hard drives shipped in 2021. This will be close to the same number of hard drives shipped in 2020 (260 million units). In 2022, we believe that the growth in proximity hard drive shipments will drop from 50% to 20% year-on-year and that the decline in PC and consumer hard drives will continue. As a result, 2022 hard drive shipments are estimated at 234 million units, down about 10% from 2021 shipments. The figure below shows updated projections for total hard drive shipments. through 2026, including high, median and low estimates from 2021 to 2026.
The total projected hard drive exabyte is estimated at ZB 1.43, up approximately 32% from ZB 1.08 shipped in 2020. By 2026, the total hard drive storage capacity shipped is expected to exceed 6 ZB.
With the growth of proximity hard drives and the decline in sales of smaller capacity hard drives, the average price of hard drives increased in 2021 and this is expected to continue in 2022. The historical trend is illustrated below.
The pie chart below shows the market share of shipping units up to C3Q21, which is likely to be roughly the same for the whole of 2021. Toshiba’s share of the HDD business has increased by approximately 1% in 2021 compared to the 2020 split, with Seagate’s share decreasing by roughly the same percentage. . Toshiba announced in November that it shipped a record number of Nearline hard drives to the C3T21 to 2.83 million in the quarter, up nearly 68% year-on-year, with exabyte shipments increasing 100% from 2020.
Hard drives need to retain a price advantage ($ / TB) over SSDs to remain competitive. Hard drive manufacturers have done this for their proximity hard drives by adding more drives and heads (drives currently have up to 9 drives), but it will be difficult to add more components in these drives than they currently don’t (although opting for glass or glass ceramic discs 10-12 discs might be possible). Increases in surface density are necessary to continue to drive down the price of storage.
Although power-assisted magnetic recording drives are now available from all three hard drive vendors, there has not been significant growth in hard drive surface density in 2021. Seagate uses assisted magnetic recording. heat using lasers, Toshiba uses a microwave assisted recording type and WDC is using bias current while writing (ePMR) to increase storage capacity. We predict that these energy-assisted recording technologies will lead to an increase in the shipping surface density of hard drives in 2022 with a new generation of products. To remain competitive with NAND flash, an annual increase in surface density of at least 15% is required. Seagate has forecast 30TB hard drives by 2023 with 50TB hard drives possible by 2026.
Seagate and WDC are currently supplying dual actuator hard drives to select data center customers for early qualification and testing. Dual actuator hard drives double the data throughput of the hard drive. This improves performance, but the main factor in the utilization of these hard drives is that as the storage capacity per drive increases, the time required to perform operations such as disk rebuilds increases, resulting in risk. additional drive failures in a large hard drive array. We anticipate general availability of dual actuator hard drives sometime in 2022.
Seagate and WDC both use RISC-V cores in their storage products. Seagate showcased hard drives using built-in NVMe interface at OCP 2021 summit. There is a drive to replace proximity SATA hard drives with NVMe interfaces, because the PCIe-based NVMe interface has higher performance than SATA and the use of NVMe also provides a common interface for hard drives and SSDs in a storage system. Seagate plans to use NVMe interfaces on its dual actuator proximity hard drives. Marvell said he was working on controllers for NVMe hard drives.
Magnetic tapes use magnetic recording technologies, like hard drives, but the technology and density of digital storage used in magnetic tapes are several generations behind those used in hard drives. However, magnetic tapes write and read multiple tracks at a time, so when a tape is mounted in a tape drive, it has a very high data rate. While hard drives are primarily used for secondary data in data centers, magnetic tape is most often used for cold data and archiving. The LTO tape format has about 80% of the market with IBM enterprise tape having most of the rest.
LTO 9 was introduced in 2019, although it will not generally be available until September 2021. It has a native storage capacity of 18TB. LTO 9 tape has a magnetic recording surface density of approximately 13.5. Gbpsi, while the areal density of the hard drive is just over 1 Tbpsi (the band has about 1/100e the surface density of hard disks). The LTO roadmap is presented below. Although LTO 9 represents a 50% increase in native storage capacity over LTO 8, LTO 10 and future generations double the storage capacity with each generation. Typically, LTO introductions happen every 3 years or so, but we don’t expect a new LTO product to be announced in 2022 as LTO 9 has only recently been available in volume.
No demonstration of higher magnetic tape density has been announced in 2021, possibly due to the pandemic.
Fujifilm has promoted the use of magnetic tapes to store cold data in data centers as part of a sustainable development approach. The company points out that storing data on magnetic tape compared to hard drives can reduce carbon emissions (mainly by reducing power consumption) by 43%.
The total market for magnetic tape media, drives and libraries is probably over $ 2 billion. IBM is the sole manufacturer of magnetic tape drives, and Fujifilm and Sony are the sole manufacturers of magnetic tape media. We estimate that total tape capacity shipments in 2021 were 155 EB and that this will increase to 385 EB by 2026.
Although in decline for many applications, high capacity proximity hard drives for secondary storage in data centers have grown by around 50% in 2021 and are expected to continue to grow in 2022 and beyond. Magnetic tape is used for cold storage and archives and uses less energy to store data than hard drives. Both technologies will continue to be important for storing global data in the future.