Print 50 comment(s) - last by geddarkstorm.. on Nov 11 at 9:21 PM

Helium filled hard drive reduces temperature in more

Western Digital subsidiary HGST has unveiled an interesting new enterprise-class hard drive series. The new Ultrastar He hard drives and are the first to be hermetically sealed and filled with helium. The drives offer 6 TB of capacity and have been qualified by some of the biggest companies in the tech world including Netflix, HP, and a number of social media companies.

"With ever-increasing pressures on corporate and cloud data centers to improve storage efficiencies and reduce costs, HGST is at the forefront delivering a revolutionary new solution that significantly improves data center TCO on virtually every level – capacity, power, cooling and storage density – all in the same 3.5-inch form factor," said Brendan Collins, vice president of product marketing, HGST.

The reason the drives are filled with helium is to reduce turbulence inside the hard drive associated with normal air. The helium used inside the drive is 1/7 of the density of normal room air allowing for lower power consumption and lower operating temperature inside the drive.

HGST says that the 6 TB drive uses 5.3 watts of power at idle, weighs 640 g, and runs 4-5°C cooler than a standard 3.5-inch five platter 4 TB hard drive. The drive also uses the HGST 7Stac design to reach 6 TB making it the highest capacity hard drive with the best total cost of ownership for cloud storage and other enterprise uses.

Sources: HGST, AllThingsD

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By Motoman on 11/4/2013 10:56:09 AM , Rating: 2
...would it be any harder to just evacuate the drive, rather than fill it with some specific gas?

RE: Erm...
By SrogerS4 on 11/4/2013 11:19:34 AM , Rating: 1

RE: Erm...
By Calin on 11/5/2013 3:21:39 AM , Rating: 2
No, evacuating the air from the drive would be pretty simple. Making a drive that would resist the atmospheric pressure would be expensive though (car's tires have about twice the atmospheric pressure, so if your hard drive would survive being run over by a car, it would survive having complete vacuum inside)

RE: Erm...
By havoti97 on 11/5/2013 2:59:14 PM , Rating: 2
That makes no sense. Having the (1/4) the weight of the car over the surface area of the hard drive is much, much higher than atmospheric pressure.

RE: Erm...
By Kiffberet on 11/6/2013 8:01:14 AM , Rating: 3

How did you come to this conclusion?

A harddrive, with an internal vacuum, would have to be strong enough to resist breaking when an inflated car tyre, plus the weight of the car are applied to the harddrive?!?

[I'm still laughing]

RE: Erm...
By Odysseus145 on 11/4/2013 11:29:54 AM , Rating: 2
Much harder. Helium at atmospheric pressure is about 1/7th the density of air. So just to equal the benefits of helium, you'd need to pump each and every drive down to a fairly substantial vacuum for a consumer device. You'd also need to build a stronger and better-sealed enclosure as it will be experiencing hundreds of pounds of air pressure on all sides 24/7. It could certainly be done, but at much greater cost and with a higher failure rate that helium alone.

Also, replacing corrosive oxygen with an inert gas might extend the life of the platters. Though the drives would probably fail anyway before corrosion became a factor.

RE: Erm...
By spamreader1 on 11/4/2013 12:06:16 PM , Rating: 3
Helium isn't exactly easy to keep contained.

RE: Erm...
By Samus on 11/4/2013 12:16:25 PM , Rating: 2
I'm surprised they went all the way to helium instead of using some middle ground gas like Neon or even Methane. While lacking the weight and density benefits of helium, they are still "thinner" than air and easier to contain than helium, so the risk of leakage over time (heat expansion, bearing wear, seal wear, etc) is lower.

If weight were a focus over density they could use Nitrogen but I think that'd actually be worse for what they are trying to achieve. But you would have to worry about it escaping.

A vacuum-sealed drive would be super hard to manufacture. The case and housing would have to be structurally redesigned.

RE: Erm...
By Omega215D on 11/4/2013 3:05:37 PM , Rating: 3
Not to mention that Helium is an non-renewable resource and our reserves are dwindling quite rapidly, especially since a US law mandates that they sell off their reserves. Quite idiotic seeing as how Helium is very useful in various fields and not just balloons.

RE: Erm...
By Dorkyman on 11/4/2013 6:44:45 PM , Rating: 2
Don't worry, the price will adjust to a point where frivolous use dries up naturally. We have lots of helium.

RE: Erm...
By mike66 on 11/4/2013 6:51:30 PM , Rating: 2
Helium is an non-renewable

Helium is renewable but it is expensive to produce, you will be thinking of natural sources of which i think there is only one which is in the USA.

RE: Erm...
By geddarkstorm on 11/4/2013 8:05:01 PM , Rating: 2
No, sadly Omega is correct, helium is non renewable; it is permanently lost to space once released into the atmosphere and can not be recycled. The natural sources of it are found with certain types of natural gas deposits, so there is quite a lot left to mine. But once it's gone, it's gone for good, and we'll never get more naturally from the planet.

I've worked with liquid helium for keeping super conductive magnets cool enough to remain so. Nothing can replace helium is certain types of research. So, yeah, it is a little silly for a HDD to be using such a precious resource, but as others point out, as the price of helium goes up, devices like these will disappear. Besides, maybe one day we'll be able to effectively fuse hydrogen to make helium as a byproduct; then it won't matter.

RE: Erm...
By mike66 on 11/5/2013 12:20:57 AM , Rating: 2
Oil and natural gas are non renewable as well and nobody gives a rats about burning and wasting them, why should helium be any different.The main source of helium I was thinking of was concentrated in large quantities under the American Great Plains, still supplying 90% of the worlds production, we have a new plant here in Australia making it as well. Using it in Hard Drives seems a good thing when compared to party balloons, then again party balloons wouldn't be much fun without it.

RE: Erm...
By geddarkstorm on 11/11/2013 9:21:48 PM , Rating: 2
No one cares about the burning of oil and natural gas? Care to tell that to the growing amount of "peak oil" advocates?

Additionally, oil and natural gas are fully renewable. They can be produced by the break down of any biological source -- the more carbon rich and digestable, the more economically viable. There's also quite a bit of research suggesting some forms of oil are renewably produced by tectonic activity of the earth (i.e. geologically rather than biologically).

RE: Erm...
By Omega215D on 11/5/2013 2:48:28 AM , Rating: 2
Technically Helium can be recycled but the low cost of using the reserves outweighs the hassle of recycling the gas provided it hasn't been lost into space.

Maybe somewhere in the near future there will be advancements to help maintain our current He supply or generate more from other sources more readily.

RE: Erm...
By freeagle on 11/5/2013 4:47:27 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe somewhere in the near future there will be advancements to help maintain our current He supply or generate more from other sources more readily.

Maybe DT (not DailyTech) fusion?

RE: Erm...
By Calin on 11/5/2013 3:23:33 AM , Rating: 2
A helium "children balloon" would use more helium than a couple dozens hard drives.

RE: Erm...
By dgingerich on 11/5/2013 1:53:30 PM , Rating: 2
Helium nuclei are generated by alpha radiation, therefore, Helium is being generated all around us constantly. It is certainly a renewable resource. We are never going to run out. We may outpace the rate in which we can find it in pockets underground (caused by radioactive decay in minerals, and our current main source of helium) but we could easily put a cap on our radioactive waste and nuclear reactors and gather nearly as much. It wouldn't be that hard, but it would probably be more costly than current methods.

RE: Erm...
By SPOOFE on 11/4/2013 3:02:38 PM , Rating: 2
No, but it's easier than maintaining a vacuum.

RE: Erm...
By iamkyle on 11/4/2013 6:33:31 PM , Rating: 2
More DailyTech armchair engineers. I'm FAIRLY certain that a company with the R&D scope of HGST has properly engineered the drive to maintain the drive's atmosphere.

RE: Erm...
By Ammohunt on 11/4/2013 2:07:38 PM , Rating: 2
Don't forget that you also need a "cushion" of gas for the heads to float on above the platter of which a vacuum would not provide.

RE: Erm...
By Argon18 on 11/4/2013 3:43:32 PM , Rating: 1
Bernoulli FTW!

RE: Erm...
By deathwombat on 11/4/2013 11:40:19 AM , Rating: 4
The read/write heads need some kind of atmosphere for lift so that they can "fly" above the disk surface. In a vacuum, the read/write heads would scratch the disk surface, just like the hard drives of old when the disk would stop spinning before the read/write head was positioned over the landing zone.

RE: Erm...
By inperfectdarkness on 11/5/2013 5:09:21 AM , Rating: 2
I think it would be harder to use a vacuum, and more expensive to use helium. Why not use nitrogen?

6 TB?!
By zlandar on 11/4/2013 10:22:52 AM , Rating: 2
I didn't even know they had 5 TB HDs. I thought 4 TB was the current max size. Then again I only shop consumer HDs. Enterprise way too rich for my blood.

RE: 6 TB?!
By Argon18 on 11/4/2013 10:49:57 AM , Rating: 1
No, they don't have 5 TB drives. What HGST has done, is take the existing platter density as used in current 4 TB drives, and simply added more platters. It takes 5 platters to make 4 TB. They increased it to 7 platters, which yields 6 TB. Helium facilitates the increase in platter density while retaining the 1" z-height. Read the article bro, it's all there.

RE: 6 TB?!
By deathwombat on 11/4/2013 11:44:54 AM , Rating: 3
The math is a bit off, though. 4 TB / 5 = 800 GB/platter. 6 TB / 7 = 857 GB/platter. Either the platters have a slightly higher areal density, or the 4 TB hard drives actually have 4.2 TB of capacity, but leave 200 GB unused so the capacity has a nice, round number.

RE: 6 TB?!
By Samus on 11/4/2013 12:20:16 PM , Rating: 2
They're simply not using one side of the 7th platter.

RE: 6 TB?!
By djc208 on 11/4/2013 1:05:14 PM , Rating: 2
Also remember that HDD manufacturers don't use formatted volume they use a base 10 value so the formatted volume is always smaller then the stated volume.

RE: 6 TB?!
By deathwombat on 11/4/2013 4:06:03 PM , Rating: 2
I was using the base 10 definition of GB, but to avoid the whole "GB vs. GiB" problem, I'll just bytes.

If five platters have 4 trillion bytes, then each platter has 800 billion bytes. If seven platters have 6 trillion bytes, then each platter has 857 billion bytes.

Helium not so new for storage devices
By danleekil on 11/4/2013 10:17:49 AM , Rating: 2
Back in the early 1970's I programmed on a Varian 620F computer that had helium purged drum storage. The .25 meg drum had a sealed dome over the device and a helium supply attached. We had to replace the small helium bottle when the pressure got low. Appears that some are slow to catch up???

By bug77 on 11/4/2013 10:48:52 AM , Rating: 2
Neah, they just had to test the thing thoroughly. This being an enterprise-class product and all.

By ShieTar on 11/4/2013 10:54:20 AM , Rating: 3
I assume the trick here was to produce HDDs that work without a pressure refill system? I don't think you still end up cheaper than an SSD if you keep buying and replacing bottles of Helium.

I think...
By stevessvt on 11/4/2013 10:14:50 AM , Rating: 2
Hydrogen filled HDD's would make for better entertainment.

RE: I think...
By daboom06 on 11/4/2013 10:29:04 AM , Rating: 2
also, it'd be far easier to locate the failed drive. a burst of light and a smoke signal. much easier than a drive and cabinet number.

Place drives in water bath and enjoy
By Cr0nJ0b on 11/4/2013 10:39:22 AM , Rating: 2
Now that you don't have any leaks in the container you can put all your drives (I have a lot of them) in a fish tank with a radiator. Keep the drives cool, the fish warm and the noise to zero!

By glenn8 on 11/4/2013 10:51:20 AM , Rating: 2
Connectors still wouldn't be water proof. Though you can always seal them yourself.

Anal Gas
By btc909 on 11/4/2013 11:35:47 AM , Rating: 2
Still waiting for fart filled hard drives.

OK that would probably reduce capacity.

Reliable? Correct technique?
By danwat12345 on 11/5/2013 4:40:01 AM , Rating: 2
Yay they managed 857GB per platter. I wish they would figure out HAMR and bit patterning (and possibly SMR) already to bump up the density rather than just increasing platter count. But it may take another year or more

If I recall correctly, some HDD companies are not going to produce Helium hard drives (WD?) while others are. Different tactics.

By exNihlio on 11/9/2013 2:06:06 PM , Rating: 2

By km9v on 11/4/13, Rating: -1
RE: ?
By Flunk on 11/4/2013 10:05:13 AM , Rating: 4
storage density, price, stability concerns, etc.

RE: ?
By km9v on 11/4/2013 11:23:46 AM , Rating: 2
That's what I'm saying. Work to make SSDs cheaper, faster & more reliable than traditional HDs. SSDs will always be faster than mechanical HDs.

RE: ?
By Odysseus145 on 11/4/2013 11:33:03 AM , Rating: 3
Rest assured, billions are being spent on making SSDs better. However, until there is some game-changing breakthrough in SSD techology, HDDs will always beat them in raw storage capacity.

RE: ?
By deathwombat on 11/4/2013 11:51:40 AM , Rating: 2
They're working on it, but Rome wasn't built in a day. Also, there profit motivations to keep development slow. Intel could, in theory, have pursued the 22 nm process as a successor to the 90 nm process, but that would have denied them the opportunity to sell processors based on 65, 45 and 32 nm processes, denying them three generations of products. Sooner or later you hit a wall imposed by the laws of physics and can't improve a technology any further. You want to get as many generations of products out of the technology as possible before you hit that wall.

RE: ?
By tastyratz on 11/4/2013 10:26:34 AM , Rating: 2
Price per gig is non competitive and likely not to remotely compare for many MANY years if at all on flash based media.

RE: ?
By euler007 on 11/4/2013 12:04:45 PM , Rating: 2
If by many many you mean 2-3 years you are so right. We already have 1 TB SSDs for 600$, I wouldn't be surprised to see 4 TB for around 1k by the end of 2015.

RE: ?
By fleshconsumed on 11/5/2013 12:24:30 PM , Rating: 2
I have 16TB of data on my fileserver. I can spend $600 for 4 4TB spinners, or I can drop $4000 for SSDs. Guess what I'm buying? And that's not taking into account the fact that my 16TB will probably grow to 20-24TB in 2-3 years.

RE: ?
By twhittet on 11/4/2013 12:35:59 PM , Rating: 2
I'm hoping they'll just skip trying to get Flash to the same price and go to memristors.

RE: ?
By Argon18 on 11/4/2013 10:46:19 AM , Rating: 3
How much does a 6 TB enterprise-grade SSD cost? Ok then, now you know why.

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