Computer data storage – what’s next?

Pieces of storage hardware being stacked on top of one another

Posted on Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Disk storage may be reaching a density of multiple terabytes per square inch, but the demand for increased capacity means that even that will not be enough. So while some R&D efforts are focused on boosting flash and magnetic disk capacities, others are looking at alternative ways to store data.

Overcoming density limits

Current drive capacities are limited by the accuracy of the disk’s recording head. Current drives require at least 25 nanometres between tracks in order to be read correctly – the disk head is unable to accurately access tracks that are any closer together.

This creates a physical limit to data storage.

Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research is working on a potential solution to this problem by redesigning the actuator and recording head. Using silicon teeth that expand and contract as they are heated, the team has managed to greatly increase the accuracy of the recording head.

Although still far too slow for use in a production drive, this new technology allows for greater control of the recording head. Which means that data tracks can be just 1-2 nanometres apart, offering up to 12 times more capacity per square inch of disk.

Increasing memory speed with MRAM

Businesses want more than just additional storage capacity though, speed of access is also critical. California-based Spin Transfer Technologies (STT) believes they may have come up with a solution they call magnetoresistive random access memory – MRAM.

Unlike traditional RAM memory chips that use electric charges or current flows to store data, MRAM circuits use magnetic elements in their circuits. This allows STT circuits to be spaced just 20 nanometres apart. They claim that this makes MRAM faster, more powerful, efficient, reliable and scalable and, also lower cost.

STT expects to bring MRAM to market by 2018, and there are already functional examples undergoing testing in non-volatile memory applications. There is not yet any word as to whether MRAM will be interchangeable with existing RAM devices however.

The future is big

As shown by Microsoft’s forays into using DNA for data storage, engineers are being forced to be even more creative when designing innovations. Unlike DNA storage however, MRAM and silicon-toothed drive heads could be on the market in the foreseeable future.

Until then, why not give us a call to learn more about re-deploying post-warranty hardware to provide much needed capacity?