Western Digital Announces Tech Breakthrough for Hard Drives

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For about the last year and a half, flash memory storage devices have held the honor of stuffing more data in less space than any rotating magnetic storage (hard disk drive) device. That honor now returns to hard drives thanks to a stunning jump reported Wednesday by Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ: WDC).

The company demonstrated the world’s first microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) disk drive and said it expects to begin delivering the drives using the new technology in 2019.

About two years ago, Western Digital competitor Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ: STX) crammed more than 1 terabit (1 trillion bits) of data in a square inch of its highest capacity disk drives. Last year, Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) demonstrated a flash device that stored more than 2 terabits on a square inch of a 3D NAND flash device. Western Digital expects MAMR technology to crunch more than 4 terabits into a square inch of disk space.

Western Digital CEO Mike Cordano said:

As the volume, velocity, variety, value and longevity of both Big Data and Fast Data grow, a new generation of storage technologies are needed to not only support ever-expanding capacities, but ultimately help our customers analyze and garner insights into our increasingly connected universe of data. 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.

The MAMR technology “promises to enable hard drives with 40TB [terabytes] of capacity and beyond by 2025, and continued expansion beyond that timeframe,” according to Western Digital’s announcement, which also noted that only “MAMR demonstrates the reliability and cost profile that meets the demands of data center operators.”

Western Digital stock closed down slightly on Wednesday and traded up less than 0.3% Thursday afternoon at $85.85, in a 52-week range of $52.10 to $95.77. The 12-month consensus price target on the stock is $114.70.