Toshiba said today that it had successfully tested a new hard disk technology that packs in 2.5 terabits of data per square inch. This marks a four-fold increase in density over today’s hard disks. While Toshiba has yet to prove that it can read and write data using this next-generation approach to bit patterned media, news of the breakthrough is significant as it comes at a time when the rotating media industry has not settled on an industry roadmap for the next generation of hard disks.
Toshiba’s bit patterned method involves using an etching mask as a template to create a servo pattern readable by a hard drive using 17nm self-assembling polymer dots. However, Western Digital has argued that this new approach is far from becoming the next industry standard as it cannot yet be delivered cost-effectively. Western Digital, along with its alliance partners Hitachi and Seagate, while still investigating a bit patterned media approach, are also buoyant about a technique called single magnetic recording (SMR). It's likely that this approach could reach the market in two years, delivering drives packing densities of 1.5 to 2 terabits of data per square inch using a heat-based laser writing method.
While it's not quite the war that Toshiba fought and lost with Sony over the direction of digital optical media in the battle between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, Toshiba has yet indicate whether it will join Western Digital, Hitachi and Seagate as a member of the International Disk Drive and Equipment Materials Association (IDEMA). This is seen as an important collaboration as the cost of developing the next generation of hard disk drives can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. A common development road map will minimize costs significantly, although it is generally agreed that, ultimately, both the bit patterned approach and SMR will jointly form the long-term future hard disk development.