For several years I have written a series of three articles outlining my projections for various digital storage and non-volatile memory technologies for the coming year and beyond. This will be the first of my projection articles for 2023, focusing on magnetic recording technology, particularly hard disk drives (HDDs) and magnetic tape.
After significant demand for HDDs in 2021, driven by demand for both client computing and data centers for storage to support remote work during the COVID pandemic, demand started to slow in 2022 and in the second half of the year demand for digital storage and memory products declined dramatically as tech companies cut back in anticipation of lower demand in an uncertain economic environment.
Another important factor is the continued decline in HDDs sold in legacy client applications and high-performance storage, where solid state drives (SSDs) now dominate. In addition, client applications overall were down in 2022 after growth to support remote work in the prior two years.
Total HDD shipments in C3Q 2022 were down 13.9% compared with C2Q 2022 (38.4 M versus 44.6M). This continued the downward trend since Q1 2022. Total exabytes shipped in C3Q 2022 were down about 37% from C2Q 2022. Overall capacity shipped in 2022 is estimate at 1,269 EB, down about 12% from the prior year. C4Q is expected to show a continued decline in HDD shipments and shipped capacity.
There was an 1.7% average sales price (ASP) decline from C2Q 2022 to C3Q 2022. However, the multi-year ASP trends shown in the image below, indicate the general growth in HDD ASPs.
The ASP decrease in CQ2 2022 was due to ASP decreases at Seagate that offset the gains made at WDC. The increase in the percentage of more expensive mass storage enterprise HDDs has led to an increase in HDDs ASPs since 2015, as legacy applications (e.g. storage for PCs and high performance enterprise HDDs) have lost ground to SSDs. We expect that HDD ASPs will continue to increase in coming years as nearline HDD shipments grow to over 87% of total HDD shipments by 2027.
We project total HDDs shipped in 2022 will be about 166M units, down about 36% from 259M units shipped in 2021. Market share between the three HDD manufacturers will likely be about 43% for Seagate, 38% for WDC and 19% for Toshiba. The HDD shipment history and projections for total HDD shipments out to 2027 are shown below.
We believe that demand for high-capacity nearline drives will continue to drive HDD capacity demand higher in the coming years with projected storage capacity shipped in 2027 at 6,936 EB.
2022 saw higher capacity HDDs available, particularly for nearline drives. In a white paper from Coughlin Associates published earlier this year with Western Digital we covered some of these advances. WDC pioneered sealed helium-filled HDDs in 2013 and shingled magnetic recording (SMR) HDDs in 2015. He-filled drives enabled the 10-disk highest capacity HDDs available today and shingled magnetic recording enabled higher storage capacity in exchange for a more complicated writing process.
In 2020 WDC introduced its ePMR HDDs, its first energy assisted magnetic recording technology as well as triple-stage head actuators and in 2021 the company introduced its OptiNAND HDDs.
OptiNAND integrates an iNAND Universal Flash Storage (UFS) Embedded Flash Drive (EFD) with traditional spinning disk media, and incorporates innovative changes to the firmware algorithm and system-on-a-chip (SoC). OptiNAND uses the drive system on chip (SoC) to control communication with the iNAND flash drive. Key drive housekeeping functions take advantage of the higher flash memory capacity to store more metadata than is feasible on convential HDDs.
HDDs can generate gigabytes of metadata that can be stored on the OptiNAND. This metadata can be accessed faster than if it was stored on the HDD and is used to enhance the performance and storage capacity of the HDD. Also, storing the metadata in the NAND flash frees up additional capacity on the HDD for storing user data. Faster metadata access allows faster HDD performance.
WDC used these technologies to introduce its 22TB conventional magnetic recording (CMR) HDD in 2022, that is using perpendicular magnetic recording without using track shingling. SMR HDDs can generally get about 10% higher track density and thus storage capacity increase over CMR HDDs. But WDCs ultra-SMR drives, introduced in 2022, used OptiNAND and advanced signal processing algorithms with special sector data placement to achieve an 18% higher storage capacity (26TB) SMR drive with the same heads and media as the 22TB CMR HDD.
Energy assisted magnetic recording is the path forward for HDDs. It is getting difficult to get more disks into the current 3.5-inch HDD form factor. The HDD areal density (a measure of the amount of information that can be stored on an fixed area on the disk surface) has been stuck at no more than about 1.2 Tbpsi (terabits per square inch) since 2015. Seagate says that they will advance HDD areal densities by about 20% in 2023 to create 30TB+ HDDs with 10 disks using heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). Seagate projects higher areal density drives using HAMR in the next few years.
In 2021 Seagate said that they had done laboratory demonstrations recording over 2.0 TBpsi and planned to deliver 50TB+ HDDs with areal density over 3.0 TBpsi by 2026, following more than a 20% annual increase in areal density. A 20% annual increase in HDD areal density should help maintain HDD storage price competitiveness for nearline storage application compared to NAND flash. The Seagate slide showing these projections is below.
In addition to higher storage capacities Seagate is also planning on expanding its dual actuator, Mach 2 HDDs. These provide twice the data rate performance of single actuator HDDs. The higher capacity Seagate drives will include dual actuators to increase performance as well. Note also that Seagate can increase their drive’s storage capacities by at least 10% more using SMR. The company said that they shipped nearly 25% of their various nearline HDDs with SMR HDDs.
Toshiba plans to use its microwave assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) technology to achieve 30TB+ nearline HDDs in 2023 to 2024 and to introduced HAMR HDDs with over 40TB by 2026. The chart below by the Advanced Storage Research Consortium (ASRC), a HDD industry consortium that provides projections on storage density growth, shows projections for over 10 Tbpsi HDDs by 2034 (which should provide over 200TB HDDs) using a combination of technologies that includes HAMR.
Magnetic tapes also use magnetic recording, but the areal density of magnetic tape is many generations behind HDDs. This gives magnetic tape significant future technology for increasing storage capacity in the future. However magnetic tape is different than HDDs since it uses flexible media and multiple tracks are written or read at a time. This means that magnetic tape, once mounted in a tape drive has data rates much greater than HDDs. HDDs are increasingly used for nearline storage while magnetic tape is used to store colder data and for archiving. The primary magnetic tape technology is LTO, with over 80% of the market with IBM enterprise tape providing the balance.
LTO 9 tape is the highest capacity shipping. It was introduced in 2019, although it was not generally available until September 2021. LTO 9 cartridges have a native capacity of 18TB (with an areal density of recording about 1/100th that of HDDs). In 2022 the LTO tape consortium expanded the generations of LTO tape to LTO 14 with capacities doubling for each generation after LTO 9 as shown below.
LTO 14 is to have a native storage capacity of up to 576TB. LTO generations are introduced about every 2.5 years and I expect that LTO 10 could be introduced sometime in 2023. If future LTO generations continue to follow this trend then 576TB tapes could be available in about 2036 (when HDD storage capacities could be over 200TB).
Tape manufacturers have been promoting magnetic tape as a more sustainable storage media since little energy is used when magnetic tape cartridges are sitting on shelves. Fujifilm estimates that about 43% less carbon emissions result from the use of magnetic tape compared to HDDs.
The total market for magnetic tape media, drives and libraries is probably over $2B. IBM is the sole manufacturer of magnetic tape drives and Fujifilm and Sony are the only manufacturers of magnetic tape media. We estimate that total tape capacity shipments in 2022 were 198EB and that this will climb to 399EB by 2027.
HDDs are increasingly being used for secondary storage in data centers using nearline HDDs. HDD unit shipments are expected to be down about 36% in 2022 versus 2021 and shipping capacity will be down about 12%, mostly due to slower demand for all storage in data center in the second half of 2022. However, data growth will require capacity shipment growth in 2023 and later years. The LTO magnetic tape roadmaps projects up to 576TB tape cartridges sometime in the 2030s.