Western Digital launches new OptiNAND technology which  combines flask and HDD in new architecture

WDD is also emphasizing that OptiNAND is not another hybrid architecture, but a new type of technology that enhances the HDD with flash to improve the drive’s aerial density, performance and reliability.

On Tuesday, at Western Digital’s virtual HDD Reimagine event, the company announced the launch of OptiNAND, a new flash-enhanced drive architecture that the company says fundamentally re-invents the hard drive to meet tomorrow’s storage needs.

“In the next five years, we can see twice the amount of data that has been  delivered in the entire digital storage age being created,” said Ashley Gorakhpurwalla, GM and EVP of WD’s HDD Business Unit. “HDD’s have been and will into the future remain the central media of storage. What our customers want out of Western Digital. and what we deliver for them, is world class storage in both HDD and in flash. We have this created a new drive architecture, OptiNAND, which combines our expertise in flash and in HDD.”

Western Digital is taking pains to emphasize that OptiNAND is not yet another in a series of hybrid drive experiments.

“OptiNAND is a breakthrough technology platform that integrates the HDD and enhances it with flash, that allows us to deliver an innovative proprietary algorithm,” said Siva Sivaram, president of Global Technology and Strategy, Western Digital. “This is not a hybrid drive. That was tried earlier. This is a technology that enhances the drive. It is a revolutionary new function that increases capacity, performance and reliability.”

“It’s not a hybrid drive because it’s not adding iNAND as a host for cache data,” Gorakhpurwalla added. “It’s about tiering the memory interfaces and capabilities within hard drive control systems to be observed within the host side.”

It does add three main things, Sivaram stressed.

“It improves the capacity of the drive in a quantum fashion because it increases the areal density of the drive, increases the performance and increases the reliability.”


Sivaram said that the biggest observable gain is in areal density, with enhanced firmware algorithms taking advantage of expanded metadata that has been offloaded to the iNAND.

“This enables more tracks per inch, allowing for capacity growth without extra heads or disks,” he stated.

Performance is enhanced by the reduction in drive latency with firmware optimizations that lead to fewer adjacent track interference [ATI] refreshes and reducing the need for write cache flushes in write cache-enabled mode.

“The presence of the flash allows background operations to not interrupt the drive, increasing performance,” Sivaram said.

Reliability is enhanced by nearly 50x more customer data now being able to be retained in the event of an emergency power off scenario.

“What this means to customers, is that our gains wont stop with this initial launch,” Gorakhpurwalla said. “Theres a pipeline of optimizations over time that we have already planned out, extending our ePMR tech forward for several generations. We will have a 50 TB ePMR drive in this decade. We are also developing several technologies going forward besides ePMR, but ePMR is what we are delivering today

The new OptiNAND 20 TB drives are already in limited distribution, being sampled today to a subset of customers.

“We don’t typically name customers in this phase,” Gorakhpurwalla indicated.

Nor is WD announcing specific new products at this point which will incorporate the new drives, but they too, are on the way.

“We will come back at a later date and announce products that will ship with OptiNAND in the future.” Gorakhpurwalla said.