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Reinvented Hard Drive May Be Faster Than Solid-State

The era of the hard drive appears to be coming to an end, with the swift rise of solid-state storage that brings with it lower power consumption and higher speeds. But wait: British scientists have just reinvented the hard drive itself and chopped the power use while boosting the speed. A lot. The team predicts their new device could achieve a 500MB per second transfer rate, which is a good four times faster than the typical enterprise HDD speed of around 125MB per second. The trick to achieving this dramatic speed boost is to turn the entire concept of a hard drive inside out.

The era of the hard drive appears to be coming to an end, with the swift rise of solid-state storage that brings with it lower power consumption and higher speeds. But wait: British scientists have just reinvented the hard drive itself and chopped the power use while boosting the speed. A lot.

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Hard Rectangular Drive

The team predicts their new device could achieve a 500MB per second transfer rate, which is a good four times faster than the typical enterprise HDD speed of around 125MB per second. The trick to achieving this dramatic speed boost is to turn the entire concept of a hard drive inside out.

In current hard drive tech, a spinning platter, encoded with magnet spots that represent the bits of data, rotate beneath a floating read-write magnetic head. This stays put as the drive spins beneath it, and then rapidly scans across the radius of the platter to reach different sectors of stored data. Fast speeds are accomplished by having a very rapidly-spinning disc (typically 7,200 rpm) and a fast-scanning data head.

In the Hard Rectangular Drive by DataSlide, the data is still magnetically encoded, but nothing spins at all. Instead the data’s stored on a flat sheet of magnetic material in a two-dimensional grid, and read by millions upon millions of tiny data heads that are directly in contact with the sheet. Unlike a hard drive’s magnetic head, each of these is machined using standard chip-making tech. There’s not a perfect correspondence between the data and the heads–the platter is scanned by tiny piezoelectric actuators so that the heads can get to new sectors. Cleverly, the laminar design means the data can be stored on both sides of the “disc” and read from both sources simultaneously. And it means you can stack several of these layers atop each other to create an even denser drive.  

The HRD can operate at just 4W of power, consuming much less than both a HDD and existing SSD, and is faster than both options. The company is planning on commercializing the technology, but has given no indication of when you’ll be able to buy HRDs. They’d better move swiftly, as solid-state tech really is progressing in leaps and bounds.

[via Register Hardware

Related Stories:
The End of the Hard Drive? Flash Memory Price Dropping
Why Integrated Solid-State Drives Will Make PCs Faster, Better
Special Report: What’s Up With Solid State Hard Drives?

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