Seagate: Disastrous quarter and new HAMR promises


The worst sales in years, the bottom line is a loss and a margin that is still in the double digits: For the HDD manufacturer Seagate, the economic outlook is anything but rosy. But this year they should finally come, the first really commercially relevant HAMR hard drives with 30 TB and more.

The worst quarter in many years

December 30, 2022 ended Seagate's second quarter of fiscal 2023. In the earnings call, CEO Dave Mosley had to announce brutal losses in business. Revenue fell to $1.9 billion from $3.1 billion a year earlier, marking its worst quarterly result in over 10 years. The gross margin fell from 30.4 percent to just 13.0 percent. The bottom line is a loss of $33 million, the first loss since 2016.

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HDD sales figures (Image: Seagate)

Above all, the generally difficult economic situation with low demand due to crises and inflation, but also the costs of reducing debt and the loss of around 3,000 jobs announced at the end of October are pushing the result down.

Hopes lie in HAMR

Nevertheless, the CEO is positive about the future, namely about new products. While conventional hard drives with PMR technology are expected to increase the storage space per magnetic disc by a further 10 percent, Mosley indicates capacities of around 25 TB and a little more, this year the breakthrough of the HAMR technology from the experimental phase should come.

Announced even a little earlier than last year, HAMR hard drives with “30+” TB are finally set to launch in “June Quarter”, i.e. the fourth fiscal quarter ending at the end of June 2023. What that means in concrete terms remains to be seen, however, because the speed at which series production is ramped up depends on the yield and the time frame for customer qualification. In any case, this does not sound like a broad market launch in the summer.

Timetable for 30TB HAMR HDDs (Image: Seagate)

This first commercial generation with HAMR technology, after the test balloon with 20 TB before, should increase the storage capacity per magnetic disc to 3 TB and more. Accordingly, a 10-platter design for 30 TB is to be expected initially. In the lab, Seagate even claims to have reached 5 TB per disc.

Seagate is currently at 20 TB with PMR and CMR (Conventional Magnetic Recording) and 22 TB with PMR and SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) arrived on the market. With 10 discs as well, the capacity per disc is 2 TB and 2.2 TB respectively.

WD and Toshiba (first time) without HAMR

Western Digital, on the other hand, finds that the time for HAMR has not yet come and instead relies on an interim solution with electronic amplification (ePMR) and a NAND component for metadata (OptiNAND). This allowed Western Digital to increase to 22 TB with CMR and 26 TB with SMR.

Toshiba, on the other hand, relies on the microwave technology MAMR and thus currently achieves 20 TB. In the long term, however, Toshiba is also planning to use HAMR hard drives.