HGST Announces New Helium-Filled Hard Disk Drive Platform

HGST announced a new helium-filled hard disk drive platform, which will help increase capacity and reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) for enterprise and cloud customers. HGST's new helium-filled hard drive, which is expected in 2013, will allow them to go beyond the five-platter design to provide a path for higher capacity storage at lower TCO. 

With industry-wide challenges in scaling current areal density technologies, this new platform allows HGST to design seven-platter drives in a standard 3.5-inch form factor that will cost-effectively extend the capacity and cost-per-gigabyte curve, though HGST didn't state the expected capacities these can reach (estimate 6 TB plus). 

The density of helium is one-seventh that of air, delivering significant advantages to HGST’s sealed-drive platform. The lower density means dramatically less drag force acting on the spinning disk stack, so that mechanical power into the motor is substantially reduced. The lower helium density also means that the fluid flow forces buffeting the disks and the arms, which position the heads over the data tracks, are substantially reduced allowing for disks to be placed closer together (i.e., seven disks in the same enclosure) and to place data tracks closer together (i.e., allowing continued scaling in data density). The lower shear forces and more efficient thermal conduction of helium also mean the drive will run cooler and will emit less acoustic noise.

“The benefits of operating a HDD with helium fill have been known for a long time. The breakthrough is in the product and process design, which seals the helium inside the HDD enclosure cost effectively in high-volume manufacturing,” said Steve Campbell, chief technology officer at HGST.  “We are excited about the introduction of this platform, which demonstrates HGST technology leadership and is the result of more than six years of development in materials science, mechanical engineering and process technology. Thanks to the hard work of our research and engineering teams, our initial pilot lines are up and operational, putting HGST in position to introduce this technology first into the market.”

HGST compared the power consumption between a helium-filled drive and an equivalent air-filled drive side-by-side, demonstrating a reduction in power consumption of 23 percent for the helium-filled drive. Taking into account the extra capacity coming from two additional disks, the improvement in watts-per-TB is estimated at around 45 percent. In addition, the drivers run four degrees Celsius cooler, which requires less cooling in system racks and data center. These improvements help lower the drives TCO of the helium-filled platform with regards to the critical watt-per-TB metric. 

HGST is expected to release specific capacities points and product specifications when the platform launches in 2013. 

*Caution: We here at Tom's Hardware do not recommend any end-user to break the seal on the helium-filled drives for their amusement.


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  • thecolorblue
    so will these intended for enterprise only? ...with matching hyper-inflated price tags?
    20
  • pjmelect
    My experience with helium is that it tends to slip out of even a tightly sealed enclosure. I would be interested in seeing how they manage to keep the helium in over the lifetime of the drive.
    17
  • flyflinger
    So in case of helium leakage failure, will it keep working (albeit at a lower energy efficiency) or is it going to be catastrophic failure? Will the drive self diagnose such degrading performance from leakage and report it?
    17
  • Other Comments
  • thecolorblue
    so will these intended for enterprise only? ...with matching hyper-inflated price tags?
    20
  • whitecrowro
    vacuum is better
    -5
  • greghome
    We're gonna have so much fun laughing when we crack open our HDDs later on :D
    10