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Whopping 10TB disks spin out of HGST – plus 3.2TB flash slabs

That's not a typo. 10,000GB on spinning platters in helium

HGST today launched a full frontal assault on the market with a shedload of disk and flash announcements – including a 10TB hard drive.

The background scene set is the notion that the rate of data growth is doubling every two years and the spread of internet connectivity to non-IT devices (aka Internet of Things) will fuel analysis to find operational efficiencies, triggering a need for faster access to data whatever its age. And HGST wants to be known as a full-spectrum data storage component supplier, from disks through SSDs to PCIe flash products, server SANs hardware and software.

It has been given a great collection of WD-acquired flash assets in the shape of sTec, Velobit and Virident to add to its Ultrastar SSD business and is now coming out with a concerted and co-ordinated set of announcements fusing and integrating these technologies whilst not forgetting its mainstream disk drive business with the helium-filled drive leading that part of its charge.

HGST announced:

  • it will be shipping 8TB Helium drives and disk technology roadmap with greater storage density than any other disk supplier - meaning Seagate - and going to 10TB drives,
  • new PCIe SSD products and strategic NAND alliances to ensure chip supply,
  • server SAN support from HGST devices and software, and
  • new and greenfield market hardware and software systems created with technology from the Virident (FlashMax), sTec and Velobit acquisitions.

HGST president Mike Cordano declaimed in a blog: "We are leading the charge to create next-generation data centres that raise the standard for efficiency and reliability, enable faster access to higher volumes of data and allow businesses to extract greater value from the information it holds. ... [We are] introducing new solutions designed to help manage the increasing volume, velocity, variety and longevity of data in our ever-growing connected world."

Disk declarations

The helium-filled He6 disk drive tops out at 6TB, with its HelioSeal technology. Its capacity has been surpassed by an 8TB Seagate disk. HGST's Helium drive is now shipping in 8TB form - the second-generation He8 - and HGST says its use reduces the physical and carbon footprint of the overall storage systems using it, as it needs less power, cooling and space than lower capacity air-filled drives. Compared to the He6, it delivers 33 per cent more capacity and needs 23 per cent less power.

As the He8 is available in 6TB and 8TB capacity levels it effectively replaces the first generation He6

The company roundly declares "The HelioSeal platform will be used for all future HGST capacity enterprise HDDs."

What about HAMR (Heat-assisted Magnetic Recording), the costly density-increasing follow-on technology to the current perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) used in HGST's current drives? There was no news of this, but shingled magnetic recording (SMR) - the use of partially overlapping tracks to cram more tracks on a disk platter's surface and so increase the disk's capacity - was in evidence, in the form of HGST announcement of a 10TB SMR Helium drive.

It says this drive has the industry's lowest $/TB and watt/TB ratings, and its technology will be "the foundation for all future scaling technologies, putting HGST on an accelerated path to delivering high capacities into existing and future form factor designs." The drive was not named in HGST's announcements. We thought that, for example, it might have been called the He10.

As SMR drives have slower write speeds when re-writing tracks than non-SMR drives it may be involved in cold storage applications were write access speed is less of a concern than read access speed.

HGST also announced a 6TB air-filled drive, the Ultrastar 7K6000, which uses perpendicular magnetic recording technology; it is not shingled and we understand it spins at 7,200rpm. HGST does not say how fast its He8drives rotate. This is the 7th generation of the UltraStar 7K technology.

The company claimed that this drive provides "best-in-class 7,200 RPM performance and the best $/GB acquisition cost".

HGST also has an Ethernet-accessed disk drive development. There was no further news about this today.

Flash matters

HGST announced the Ultrastar SN100 PCIe SSDs using the NVMe interface and built with Toshiba NAND chips. They have capacities up to 3.2TB and will be available in 2.5-inch and half-height, half-length form factors.

NVMe extensions will enable external software to interface to the SN100's flash management and so realise flash use and management optimisations that HGST say could "two times higher performance and two times better endurance compared to [similar products] without this capability."

Mike Gustafson, SP and GM of HGST's Flash Platforms Group, had prepared remarks on this: "We expect the new Ultrastar SN100 series to raise the bar by delivering industry-leading performance, including consistent low access latency, as well as enterprise endurance."

Surety of NAND chip supply is becoming a key requirement for a flash storage component and device supplier, particularly as flash foundry operators like Micron, Samsung, and SanDisk are selling flash components and devices. To this end, HGST has a flash supply deal with Toshiba for the SN100 products.

Gustafson said of this: "We are ... delighted about our partnership with Toshiba and look forward to strengthening our relationship in the years to come.”

HGST has relied on Intel technology to develop its original Ultrastar SSD line, and is extending that relationship. It will continue use of Intel’s NAND flash technology in its enterprise-class SAS SSDs for three more years. These products will be sold exclusively by HGST.

So HGST is not committing to a single supplier for NAND chips.

HGST demo'd a PCIe Phase-Change Memory SSD and low latency interface at the Flash Memory Summit in August. This should, we believe, be regarded as a potential HGST PCIe SSD roadmap item.

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