The humble mechanical hard drive might not get as much love as a good NVMe SSD, but they aren’t consigned to the scrap heaps just yet. As data storage needs continue to rise, so does the need for ever-larger drives to store it all on. Later this month, Western Digital will begin shipping 20TB hard drives featuring OptiNAND technology. Hoarders take note.
Hybrid hard drives with onboard flash are nothing new. Seagate has been making them for years but Western Digital’s approach is different. Rather than cache actual data, WD’s OptiNAND stores metadata, or essentially, data about the hard drive’s data.
One might expect DRAM to be a better choice for this, but WD’s use of flash provides several advantages. Flash is cheaper than DRAM, it’s non-volatile, and storing metadata in a cache boosts overall performance as it's better at handling latency-sensitive operations that hard drives aren't so great at. Keeping metadata in its own cache should also make it easier for WD to create even larger capacity drives.
As is often the case, new storage technologies are designed for enterprise applications and that’s the case here. But It’s not a stretch to say that NAS and desktop versions will follow sooner rather than later.
Mechanical hard drives are here to stay. Just think, with 20TB on hand you might be able to store your entire Steam library on one drive! That huge Call of Duty: Modern Warfare install has to be kept somewhere. Western Digital believes its OptiNAND drives should reach capacities of up to 50TB by the end of the decade, so you can throw your Epic or Ubisoft libraries on there too. As always, it’s worth mentioning how important it is to backup your valuable data. 20TB, not to mention 50TB would be a lot to lose in one hit!