by Adam Armstrong

HGST Deploys Over A Million Helium-Filled HDD Units

HGST, a Western Digital company, has announced a new milestone as they have deployed over a million of their helium-filled hard drive disks (HDD). With this news, HGST believes that its helium filled drives will become the mainstream choice for data centers where storage density, reliability and power efficiency are paramount. HGST is now shipping its second generation of HelioSeal Platform drives and is shifting its volume mix, increasing helium drive production, as demands for these drives are increasing in cloud and data center applications.

We had previous reviewed the Ultrastar Helium 6TB HDD and found that it had strong sequential performance and lower power consumption than traditional 7k 4TB HDDs. Our main reservation at the time (almost a year ago today) was that it was a new technology yet to be proven by a track record.

From the review:

Even though it's hard not to recommend Ultrastar Helium Platform hard drives for those that need the added capacity, they are still a new technology without a precedent for comparison and there is no proven track record established yet. Some enterprises users and array vendors may find this a bit risky as a result; however the performance numbers in our benchmarks are somewhat reassuring and HGST offers the highest warranty and MTBF combo in the industry.”

A year later the drives appear to be field proven as they are gaining in market share, have a reliability rating of 2.5 million hours MTBF, and have over a million units deployed. HGST is also combining Shingle Magnetic Recording (SMR) technology with HelioSeal technology to introduce a 10TB HDD to further enhance a TCO advantage. HGST estimates that by 2017 50% of its enterprise HDD shipments will be helium.

Benefits include:

  • Greater power efficiency – Disks spin more easily in a helium-filled environment, resulting in 23% lower operating power. The 8TB helium drives consume just 5.1 watts during idle operation, a 44% reduction in watts-per-TB compared to conventional 6TB air-based HDDs, creating greener data centers with reduced energy costs and carbon footprint.
  • Leading storage density – Helium is essential to maintaining the required reliability for future generation drives beyond 8TB. Industry-leading 8TB capacity in a 3.5-inch HDD footprint, which are plug-and-play in virtually any data center environment, delivers 33% more storage capacity for mainstream applications than competitive 6TB offerings.
  • Lower cooling requirements – HGST Helium-filled drives typically run 4˚–5˚C cooler, which lowers power and cooling costs and leads to better field reliability, allowing HGST to increase its MTBF specification for the He6 and He8 drives.
  • Better weight-per-TB – Up to 38% lower weight-per-TB for improved environmental conditions in high-density deployments and allows for more storage capacity where building codes enforce floor loading limits.
  • Environmental robustness – Use them virtually anywhere, including ambient air, free cooling data centers. Many air-filled drives use a breather filter leading to reliability problems when used in environments with high levels of carbon or dust, or in high altitudes. This problem does not exist with HelioSeal drives as they’re hermetically sealed.
  • Value $/TB – Higher volume production for its second-generation 8TB HelioSeal HDD leads to lower cost to the market.

Availability and pricing

HGST’s 6TB Ultrastar He6 and 8TB Ultrastar He8 are available today and can be purchased through Amazon for as low as $665. 10TB helium HDDs with SMR are sampling with select customers now.

HGST Ultrastar Helium HDDs on Amazon

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