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Western Digital lays claim to the biggest capacity hard drive ever

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For primary storage chores, we've ditched the mechanical hard disk drive (HDD) and have moved on to faster solid state drives (SSDs), but don't go writing the HDD's obituary. Companies are still cranking out bigger capacities HDDs, none more capacious than Western Digital's new 15TB Ultrastar DC HC620 (opens in new tab).

This drive isn't intended for home consumers. Instead, WD has its sights set on cloud and hyperscale datacenters that need the kind of massive storage drives like these provide.

"Enabling the world's densest server and storage systems, incorporating 15TB HDDs allows a fully populated 4U60 HDD enclosure to reach a raw storage capacity of 900TB, which is an additional 60TB per 4U rack in the same footprint compared to those utilizing 14TB HDDs. In an at-scale environment where floor space, $/TB, TB per square foot, or watts per terabyte are critical, this TCO savings can be significant," WD says (opens in new tab).

That said, it's not unusual for these things to debut in the enterprise space before trickling into the consumer market. For now, it's only be offered to select customers in the standard 3.5-inch form factor, with both SATA 6Gb/s and SAS 12Gb/s interfaces.

WD may not retain the capacity crown for very long, not if Seagate is able to deliver a 16TB model by the end of the year as it initially planned in the beginning of 2017. This could turn into a game of capacity leapfrog—around this time last year, WD claimed it was in position to deliver a 40TB HDD by 2025 using microwaved-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR).

"Our ground-breaking advancement in MAMR technology will enable Western Digital to address the future of high capacity storage by redefining the density potential of HDDs and introduce a new class of highly reliable, ‘ultra-high capacity’ drives," said Mike Cordano, president and chief operating officer at Western Digital.

The 15TB drive WD just released uses shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology, which essentially overlaps tracks on one another, sort of like shingles on a roof.

WD said its new 15TB HDD will be more broadly available later this quarter. The company did not announce a price.

Paul Lilly
Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).