Digital storage technology has come a long way since those pictures we’ve all seen of IBM shipping 5 MB super computers on the back of a lorry. And speed has just taken a leap forward too thanks to Seagate’s MACH.2 HDDs.
In 2021 Seagate released the EXOS MACH.2 range of hard drives with capacities of 14 TB. It’s a huge amount of storage for a single disk, but it’s not the TB number than makes these shiny new drives so impressive. It’s how they read and write their data.
Hard drives, broadly speaking, all work in the same way. Several spinning platters are stacked in an air tight container. Each platter has grooves on its surface – like a microscopic record onto which data is written. Between each platter sits an actuator – a moving head that floats over the platter below and is responsible for the reading and writing of all those ones and zeroes. The stack itself is filled with helium gas – a much cleaner medium than plain old air so you can minimize disruption to the movement of the read/write head.
For years, engineers have been focussed on how to get more from spinning disk drives. They’re a good, cheap form of storage but with some obvious limitations. Mainly due to form factor and, therefore, available internal space. To grow capacity in a hard drive either need to fit more grooves on the platters, add more data to the grooves, or have more platters in the stack. The technology to do all that already exists and Seagate themselves expect to be releasing 50+ TB drives by 2026.
This video with Seagate’s Andy Palmer has a great explanation of hard drive technology:
So, the problem becomes not one of capacity but of speed. Hard drives are a notoriously slow technology, even when arranged in efficient RAID configurations. How do you increase the IOPS (In/Out Operations per Second) without impacting capacity or affecting the price too much? MACH.2 drives offer a neat, elegant solution: double the actuator heads.
Until now, hard drives had just one actuator serving each platter of data. MACH.2 drives split those actuators into two – both with the capability of reading and writing data to the platter below. This effectively doubles the IOPS performance of a hard drive, delivering near-SSD speeds of 524 MB/s.
When you arrange, say, eight MACH.2 drives into RAID 5 as in the SymplySPARK desktop storage device you’re presented with a platform that can deliver up to 2,952 MB/s read and 1,977 MB/s write (as tested with ATTO DiskBench). Those are some incredibly big numbers and are more than enough for most single-user media pipelines.
The possibilities with these Multi Actuator drives are phenomenal. Logically we can expect to see drives with more read/write heads in the future and all of a sudden we’ve got an HDD renaissance.
And because Seagate MACH.2 drives maintain a standard HDD form factor users can add them to existing technology without too much fuss. Server platforms featuring the range are already shipping and desktop devices (like the SPARK) are leveraging the performance of MACH.2 to see off more expensive SSD competition while maintaining a high level of reliability.
It’s exciting to see early adopters like Symply taking the lead on pushing MACH.2 into the market, and here at Global Distribution we’re keen to see the positive impact that a faster, greener HDD has on M&E workflow.
To find out more about MACH.2 drives, the SymplySPARK, or how you can enhance your production pipeline contact our team today.