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HGST 6TB Ultrastar He6 Helium-Filled HDD Investigated (Page 4)

By: Paul Alcorn from Nov 4, 2013 @ 9:47 CST

Into the Future


There are concerns with Helium supply on the global market. During WW2, the US government began to stockpile vast quantities of Helium due to its strategic significance. The National Helium Reserve at one time held over one billion cubic meters of helium gas, and it's primarily use was as a reserve of the coolant used during the Space Race and the Cold War. The US began selling off the reserve in 2005, sending shock waves through the helium market. Helium is used in many areas in technology and the US reserve provides 42% of US supply, and 35% of the world's supply.

The US reversed the decision to deactivate the reserve in September of this year, but the reserves will not last forever. There are companies moving to increase production, but this is slated to take years. The instability and uncertainty in the helium market has led to a doubling of price over the last 15 years.

Luckily, the amount of helium needed for each drive is less than the amount used in a typical balloon. HGST has also made a point to secure long-term contracts with a geographically diverse source of helium suppliers. The rationale behind having suppliers in different areas of the world also stems from the lessons learned after the Thailand floods.

For now, the HDD industry only consumes 1% of the world's helium supply, though this may jump to roughly 4% with success of the helium-infused HDD's.


The specifications of the drive itself aren't that much different than typical four-platter HDD's. The drives are spec'd for a 550TB/Year workload with an impressive MTBF of two million hours. The UBER rate remains the same at 1 in 10E15. The real differences come in the lower weight, lower power consumption, and even a 0.9 bels reduction in noise levels. The HDD also features the same reassuring five year warranty we have come to expect from enterprise HDD's.

With the addition of SMR and HAMR technologies to the He6 family, we can expect to see more diverse and higher-capacity HDD's from HGST using their HelioSeal technology in the future. Helium also has widespread use in a number of other applications, and HGST expects their HelioSeal technology to expand into other areas as well.

One of the greatest things about the new helium-infused architecture is the exciting new possibilities that it brings out in the future. With a hermetically sealed case, there is no need for breathing holes, as today's standard hard drives use. This will allow these new HDD's to be immersed in cooling solutions, which is an emerging method used for cooling servers that many project will shape the future of the datacenter.

The datacenter won't float away with helium drives from HGST, but there will certainly be lighter bills associated with the cost of running the datacenters of tomorrow. It is important to note that this is just the first revision of this new approach in the wild. The addition of helium into the inner working of HDD's will certainly revolutionize storage technology for many years to come.

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