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

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

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]. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Sysadmin Day 2014: Quick, there's still time to get the beers in
He walked over the broken glass, killed the thugs... and er... reconnected the cables*
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Microsoft says 'weird things' can happen during Windows Server 2003 migrations
Fix coming for bug that makes Kerberos croak when you run two domain controllers
Cisco says network virtualisation won't pay off everywhere
Another sign of strain in the Borg/VMware relationship?
VVOL update: Are any vendors NOT leaping into bed with VMware?
It's not yet been released but everyone thinks it's the dog's danglies
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.