HGST Launches Helium-Filled Hard Drives

On Monday, San Jose, California-based HGST (formerly known as Hitachi Global Storage Technologies), announced a new type of hard drive that aims to provide increased storage capacity for data centers, but using lower power consumption in the process. The interesting twist is that the new Ultrastar He6 6TB hard disk drive (HDD) uses helium to improve efficiency.

HGST, which is now a Western Digital company, explained how using helium makes a huge difference: "Helium has only one-seventh the density of air. Replacing air with helium inside a hard drive dramatically reduces the turbulence caused by the spinning disk, cuts power consumption, and results in a lower temperature within the disk drive."

Translation: The drives need less power to push their platters around and there is less turbulence inside the enclosure. The reduction in turbulence for a spinning disk allows HGST to offer a seven-disk design in a traditional 3.5-inch form factor. That is where things get interesting. The increase in the platter count means up to seven platters can be put inside the 3.5-inch drive enclosure. The Ultrastar He6 hard drive offers a 6-terabyte capacity, which is significant capacity, yet still reduces the energy needed to run the drive by up to 23 percent.

Safety Issues Addressed

HGST proactively took care of safety questions in its Monday announcement, assuring that managers need not worry about helium leakage. The HDD is hermetically sealed.

"Helium tends to leak through seals and HGST had to develop hermetic seal technology to stop this from happening." (This also means the He6 could be used in a liquid cooling scheme as the liquid cannot get into the drive and damage it.) The company addressed any questions about helium gas inhalation: the drive EUcontains less helium than a balloon, so is perfectly safe.EU

Who stands to benefit from the new helium-filled drives?...

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