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HGST 6TB Ultrastar He6 Helium-Filled HDD Investigated (Page 1)

HGST 6TB Ultrastar He6 Helium-Filled HDD Investigated

HGST revolutionizes data storage with the advent of the He6 Helium-Filled HDD. Paul takes a close look at this exciting new storage development.

By Paul Alcorn | Nov 4, 2013 09:47 am CST



The massive data explosion is projected to continue unabated as far into the future as any rational projections can predict. The fuel of social media, the cloud, and the emerging 'Internet of Things' feed this out of control data fire. Much of this unstructured cold data is rarely, if ever, accessed again. This 'write once, read never' type of data is accumulating at a rapid pace, and economical means to store the inundation of data is a primary concern in the datacenter.

The proliferation of data also extends to massive scale-out environments, disk-to-disk-backup scenarios, and replication/RAID environments. RAID and replicated environments in particular have an almost insatiable appetite for raw storage, with multiple copies of data essentially multiplying the problem. It seems that the demand for more storage is coming from all quarters of the enterprise storage segment, with no clear answers on the horizon.

The immediate answer to stem the tide of data is to increase the areal density of the drives. Packing more data per square inch provides a denser package that helps to address the need for more storage capacity. With much of the low-hanging fruit already taken, the utilization of two emerging techniques provides the clearest path forward to increase the areal density.

SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) and HAMR (Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording) are novel approaches to increase density, but the two technologies are projected to deliver an areal density increase of only 15% over the next several years. While this is clearly a step in the right direction, the yearly demand for data growth is 30-40%. This leaves a large gap, especially when we take into consideration the 4,000 Exabyte scale of the problem.

Another answer is to simply build more... more of everything; datacenters, servers, racks, HDD's. Continuing to scale-out the infrastructure would be the easy (yet incredibly inefficient) manner of dealing with the problems of the future. It would also mean an increase in the three major 'pain-points' in the datacenter; power, cooling and space. These three problems are major drivers of the continuing expense of operating a datacenter.

Unfortunately, the reality is that IT budgets are not projected to grow during this same growth period. Storage companies, and datacenter administrators, are tasked with finding a way to store 40% more data with the same budget they have today.


HGST has focused their efforts on using helium to address the problem with the release of the 6TB Ultrastar He6 Helium-Filled HDD. The 'He' predictably represents the helium element on the periodic table of elements, and the '6' denotes its 6TB of capacity. Of course, the biggest talking point centers on the 50% increase in capacity. These new HDD's feature a whopping 6TB in the new He6 Helium-Filled HDD's with the same 3.5" form factor we are accustomed to using. The incredible increase in density yields a whole host of other improvements, including a massive decrease in power consumption. Power drops 23% for idle power draw and yields 49% better Watts-per-TB. The drives are also 50% lighter than the standard counterparts are, but this is not borne of Helium's lighter-than-air characteristics.

Achieving all of these goals with a new product that is backwards compatible with existing infrastructure is a major coup. A drive as radically new as the He6 will require a few pages to cover all the bases, so come along as we drill down deeper into the Helium-Filled architecture.

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