Feeds

HELIUM-FILLED disks lift off: You can't keep these 6TB BEASTS down

Low-friction 3.5-inch hard drives are cooler, lighter and less power hungry

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

WD subsidiary HGST's first helium-filled drive goes on sale today: the 6TB Ultrastar He6, which is the highest capacity 3.5-inch drive available.

Instead of the platters spinning inside an air-filled enclosure they rotate inside one filled with helium gas, 14 per cent of the density of air. This has a much lower level of friction than air and so the drives need less power to push their platters around and there is less turbulence inside the enclosure, HGST says.

This means up to seven platters can be put inside the 3.5-inch drive enclosure instead of the usual five.

Helium tends to leak through seals and HGST has had to develop hermetic seal technology to stop this from happening. This means the He6 could be used in a liquid cooling scheme as the liquid cannot get into the drive and damage it. Current air-cooled drives are unsuitable as the cooling liquid could penetrate the drive.

A canned quotation from HGST's product marketing veep, Brendan Collins, said: “Our mainstream helium platform will serve as the future building block for new products and technologies moving forward. This is a huge feat."

Ultrastar He6

Ultrastar He6

The HGST release stated: "HGST’s helium platform will serve as the main platform for new technologies like shingled magnetic recording (SMR) and heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) where HGST will continue to push the HDD areal density envelope. The helium platform will also serve as the future building block for new, growing market segments such as cold storage, a space that HGST plans to address over the next couple of years."

The increase in the platter count increases the capacity of the drive, with a previously four-platter drive increasing its capacity by three-quarters if seven platters are used. A 4TB four-platter Cinemastar drive could become a 7TB seven-platter helium drive, and a five-platter 4TB MegaScale, spinning at 5,700rpm, could become a 5.6TB Helium MegaScale with seven platters – at least that’s the theory.

The main benefit is a lower per-GB total cost of ownership for high-density data centre applications. Getting back to the Ultrastar range, it currently maxes out with the 7K4000, a 4TB drive with five platters rotating at 7,200rpm and with a 6Gbit/s SATA interface. With the He6 having a 6TB capacity, there is capacity headroom here.

The Ultrastar He6 drive features:

  • 6Gbit/s SAS or SATA interface
  • 50 per cent more capacity than the Ultrastat 7K4000
  • A 23 per cent reduction in power use
  • At 640g it is lighter than the 7K4000
  • It runs 4-5⁰C cooler

If you are worried about helium gas inhalation, HGST says the drive “contains less helium than a balloon, so is perfectly safe.”

Customers such as Netflix, CERN and Huawei have been testing prototype drives. Olof Bärring, a CERN IT Department section leader, provided a quote: “We have tested the helium drive and it looks very promising: it surpassed our expectations on power, cooling and storage density requirements. We’re excited about the opportunity to qualify the HGST Ultrastar He6 hard drive in our environment.”

HGST is not revealing its spin speed - although current high-capacity Ultrastars spin at 7,200rpm – its cache size (it's 64MB in other Ultrastars), nor the sustained data-transfer rate.

The drive is available now, and has a five-year warranty. HP provided a supporting quote indicative of support for the drive. Grab a product summary here [PDF]. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
Silicon Valley jolted by magnitude 6.1 quake – its biggest in 25 years
Did the earth move for you at VMworld – oh, OK. It just did. A lot
VMware's high-wire balancing act: EVO might drag us ALL down
Get it right, EMC, or there'll be STORAGE CIVIL WAR. Mark my words
Forrester says it's time to give up on physical storage arrays
The physical/virtual storage tipping point may just have arrived
VMware vaporises vCHS hybrid cloud service
AnD yEt mOre cRazy cAps to dEal wIth
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.