Up capacity, TCO down: HGST fills hard drives with helium


Interesting is helium in the HDD interior mainly because its density is only one-seventh of that of air. As a result, the rotating plate stacks and the reciprocating read / write heads are exposed to much lower flow effects. The result: The engine runs with less power, the platters can be arranged closer (say, fit more into the housing), the data tracks can be even closer together - and the plate is also cooler because of lower shear forces and more efficient heat conduction of helium and quieter.

HGST introduces its new platform today at Investor Day of its parent company, Western Digital in Irvine. A hard disk filled with helium consumes 23 percent less energy than the same air filled one. Adding extra capacity to two additional platters (adding up to a total of seven in the 3.5-inch enclosure) adds 45 percent less watts per terabyte to the new technology. In addition, the helium HDD runs four degrees cooler, which further reduces the cost of cooling rack and RZ.

The new generation of HDDs should benefit above all corporate, cloud and big data customers. Helium-filled hard drives - which are also targeting tape replacement and new storage models such as "cold storage" (somewhere between production and long-term archived data) - are targeting HGST from mid-2013. Then the manufacturer wants to communicate the exact capacities and the product specification.

"The benefits of HDD operation with helium filling have long been recognized, and the key point is the product and process design that economically seals the helium in the hard drive enclosure as part of mass production, " said Steve Campbell, HGST's Chief Technology Office, As we recall, HGST (formerly Hitachi Global Storage Technologies) took over IBM's hard disk technology years ago and has become a subsidiary of Western Digital (WD) itself as part of ongoing consolidation in the industry. Founded in 2003, the company is headquartered in San Jose, California.