The exponential growth of bulk and unstructured data is leading to innovative new storage techniques. Data is stored on different media based upon its importance, and cold data finds its way to the slowest mediums, such as tape, for long-term storage. Facebook is a great example of the challenges facing hyperscale datacenters. Facebook has a history of utilizing a number of innovative techniques to store data in a more cost effective manner, and the social media giant recently began storing cold data in petabyte Blu-ray storage racks. Facebook has even stated intentions to use very low quality NAND for cold data storage when the economics facilitate an inflection point. Unfortunately, that is not in the near future.
Tape and Blu-ray are great methods for the coldest of data, but solutions are needed that enable faster data retrieval for nearline storage applications. The HGST Ultrastar He6 serves the inexorable push for more efficiency by addressing the key obstacles of power consumption, cooling, and space. The price of powering storage devices exceeds initial acquisition costs, and cooling only exacerbates the issue. The He6 has markedly lower power consumption than any other 7,200 RPM HDD on the market and generates 4 degrees less heat.
Our power consumption tests were somewhat weighted against the He6. We tested the SAS version, which has a higher power draw than the SATA model. The He6 still exhibited much lower power consumption than the 7K4000 in all of our tests. The He6 featured an average of 1.4 watts less power consumption under load, and idle power draw measured 1.6 watts lower. This decrease in power consumption is fantastic for a device with 50 percent more storage. The power savings will add up quickly in large deployments with thousands of drives.
Floor space is at a premium in the datacenter, and each density increase saves an exponential amount of money. Containerized and modular datacenters require the utmost density. Storing more data in the same space also reduces the need for additional servers, HBAs, RAID controllers, and cabling. The He6 addresses this segment by providing more density and allowing the use of immersion cooling. Datacenters are relying more on open-air cooling, but they switch over to their own cooling when heat and humidity reach unusable levels. HelioSeal technology seals the case to keep helium in and humidity out.
We tested the He6 against its less spacious counterpart, the 4TB HGST Ultrastar 7K4000. The 7K4000 leads the pack of current HDDs in performance and efficiency, but there really isn't a suitable drive on the market for direct comparison. The He6 trailed the 7K4000 in random workload performance but remained competitive. The He6 led by a convincing margin in sequential workloads. In truth, the attraction of the He6 is not performance; it is efficiency.
The only barriers to adoption will stem from price, the unproven nature of helium drives, and the single source of supply. The new breed of OEMs are not hindered by old thinking and should adopt this technology quickly. Analysts from iSuppli, Gartner, and IDC are all predicting helium drives will be a key component in the datacenter for years to come. There will be an incremental price increase over typical drives, but TCO savings will offset this. The economics of the He6 are currently a bit muddy due to high prices typically encountered at the onset of availability.
The ability to cost-effectively mass produce helium HDDs is a big step forward, and HelioSeal and 7Stac technology will continue to mature. The helium design is complimentary to SMR and HAMR technologies, allowing for a future with even more storage density. It will be interesting to see if this approach is transferred over to low-capacity 10k and 15k drives.
The HGST Ultrastar He6 is an innovative solution that addresses the most pressing challenges in the datacenter. Its enhanced density and focus on superior efficiency garner the TweakTown Editor's Choice Award.
PRICING: You can find the HGST He6 (6TB) HDD for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.
United States: The HGST He6 (6TB) HDD retails for $739.99 at Amazon.