Western Digital is preparing 40TB Ultra SMR hard drive as race to first 50TB HDD heats up

Western Digital 20TB HDD
(Image credit: Western Digital)

After Seagate the day before, Western Digital held it first quarter 2024 earnings call (via Marketbeat) and the highlight of the event was the announcement by David Goeckeler, its CEO that the company is looking to launch one or more hard drives with a capacity of 40TB or bigger.

Speaking to an audience of analysts, Goeckeler said that Western Digital has “a clear roadmap of ePMR- and Ultra SMR-based innovations into the 40-terabyte range”. Yesterday, we reported that Seagate is readying a 30TB hard drive for early 2024 with 32TB models likely as well and a 50TB HDD in the labs. Like its archrival, these models target cloud customers including hyperscalers and social networks.

Western Digital currently leads the capacity contest with a 26TB Ultra SMR drive already available but not available to end users. A 28TB nearline model is currently being qualified ahead of an impending launch - probably in the new year - with HAMR technology being considered (“We'll be able to fold that (HAMR) into our roadmap at the appropriate time”, Goeckeler added).

SSD parting ways

The call came after Western Digital decided to separate the hard disk drive business from the flash/SSD one, They will be listed ass two separate entities, unlocking more value for WD shareholders as the general sentiment is that the HDD division is holding back the SSD/flash one. That’s at least the plan.

The flash-and-SSD business could potentially be an outright acquisition target by one of the big NAND companies (SK Hynix or Kioxia) who may consider the global reputation and goodwill of the brand to the wider consumer public. 

The fact that Kioxia, WD/Sandisk and SK Hynix already collaborate make it an interesting prospect. The name for the company hasn’t been chosen but given that it was formerly known as Sandisk, we wouldn’t wager against this being revived.

Seagate and to a lesser extent Western Digital have been less than enthusiastic about push flash/SSD as the heir to the HDD throne in enterprise/hyperscaler market as this could be seen as legitimating a move that would be detrimental to the technology.

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Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.