Industry's first enterprise-class NAS to use helium-filled HDDs
We imagine Buffalo's TeraStation 7120r enterprise-class NAS box talks to end users in a funny high-pitched voice as they walk around holding the thing on a string like a balloon. None of that is true, of course, though it is the first NAS box of its kind to come with a belly stuffed full of 6TB HGST Ultrastar helium-filled hard drives, up to 72TB total capacity (TS-2RZH72T12).
If it weren't for pesky budgets and a little thing called fiscal responsibility, most businesses would opt for super fast and capacious solid state drives, but in the interest of balance sheets, hard drives are still vogue. There's also room for continued improvement and innovation in the HDD space, which Toshiba tackled with its new enterprise-grade AL13SXB and AL13SXQ HDDs.
Western Digital continues the trend of color coding its hard drive line by adding a Purple model built specifically for surveillance applications. The Purple line differs from regular hard drives in that they're better suited for 24/7 always-on conditions, whereas standard HDDs are built to run for only short intervals, WD says. In addition, Purple drives can withstand high temperature fluctuations and equipment vibrations inherent in typical surveillance applications.
Hard drive makers only recently began announcing 5TB capacity HDDs, but it looks like LaCie will be the first one to bring 5TB of external storage to market. LaCie announced today the availability of 5TB (7200 RPM) hard drive capacities in its 5big Thunderbolt, 2big Thunderbolt, and d2 Thunderbolt series of external storage solutions. And in case you're wondering, the answer is yes, the 5TB capacity LaCie is touting comes in single-drive configurations.
Newest NUC boasts support for a single 2.5-inch drive
Intel has its eye on the mini PC market with the introduction of its Next Unit of Computing (NUC) systems, though a limitation of early run versions is that they all used mSATA solid state drives. That in itself isn't a deal killer (though mSATA may not be long for this world), but what did cause problems is having the Wi-Fi card plopped right on top of the mSATA SSD. There were several reports of Wi-Fi issues with first run models (which is something we observed ourselves), possibly as a result of overheating, but with the newest NUC kit, Intel added a 2.5-inch drive bay.
Ranking the most and least reliable hard drive brands
Cloud backup firm BackBlaze has posted some interesting data over the course of the past couple of months, including one in which the company talked about estimating the life expectancy of hard drives. Turns out such a task is tricky business even for a firm that keeps over 25,000 HDDs spinning at all times. BackBlaze also posted data suggesting that enterprise drives might actually be less reliable than consumer HDDs, but neither study really answered the question the company is most frequently asked -- which drive should a consumer buy? If failure rate is the only concern, BackBlaze says Hitachi is the most reliable HDD brand around.
In November, cloud backup firm Backblaze posted some detailed data on the life expectancy of hard drives based on the company's experience with over 25,000 HDDs. One thing Backblaze found was that evaluating such a thing is bit tricky for a number of reasons, though it was able to make some observations. As a followup, Backblaze has posted another blog that examines how reliable enterprise drives are compared to consumer drives, and the results are surprising.
Heat-assisted magnetic recording technology could increase HDD areal density to 4 terabits per inch
We've come a long way from when hard drives were measured in megabytes, and then gigabytes. Today the biggest drives are measured in terabytes, and while that probably won't change for a long time to come -- we're not quite on the cusp of the petabyte era -- owning massive capacity hard drives that dwarf today's offerings could be a commonplace practice in the next few years if Seagate's heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology lives up to the hype.
Whenever talk turns to the topic of hard drives, inevitably you'll find that some people swear by brand X while others will only buy HDDs from brand Y. Their reasons are often anecdotal, and usually influenced by a bad experience with a particular model or brand. A person may say something like, "Each time I've plopped a brand Y HDD in my home server, it's crapped out after a year, but my brand X drive is still going strong after 10 years!" Unfortunately, two separate accounts of HDD longevity can (and often do) contradict each other, but there are other problems that prevent a logical conclusion, such as the lack of scientific data. What's much more meaningful is an ongoing study of 25,000 hard drives.
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.