HGST's Helium Filled 6TB Ultrastar He6 Hard Drive Floats Over to Data Centers

Paul Lilly

Helium filled hard drives will find homes in cloud data centers

HGST just made every home consumer a little bit jealous today by announcing that it's now shipping the 6TB Ultrastar He6 hard drive to massive scale-out data center environments. For the time being, you can't head over to your favorite online vendor or local electronics store and pick up a 6TB drive with helium inside, but perhaps this technology -- and the resulting capacities -- will trickle into home user territory. In the meantime, these drives will end up being utilized by companies like HP, Netflix, Huawei Unified Storage, CERN, Green Revolution Cooling, and Code42, all of which are working with Western Digital's subsidiary to qualify the drive.

We touched on this technology last week when it was first announced , but short and to the point, helium boasts one-seventh the density of air and allows for less drag force on the spinning disk stack. This in turn reduces the mechanical power necessary to drive the motor, along with other benefits.

HGST crammed 7 platters into its 6TB Ultrastar He6 drive. It's also the industry's first hermetically sealed helium-filled HDD that can be cost effectively manufactured in high volume, the company says . Citing data from IDC, HGST says its HDD technology comes at a time when areal density growth rates have slowed and are expected at a rate of less than 20 percent per year from 2011 to 2016.

In addition to sheer capacity, HGST's helium-filled drives consume 23 percent lower idle power per drive compared to a 3.5-inch, five-platter, air-filled 4TB HDD, 49 percent better watts per TB, run 4C cooler and 30 percent quieter, and are 50g lighter weight even with two more platters, offering 50 percent more capacity.

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