Helium Hard Drive Technology, To Give Data Storage Capacity A New Height

Helium technology

If someone travelled back from future and sees us using hard disk drives and USB sticks today, they would wonder about how we are using these devices, like the way find it hard to believe that we were using primary storage devices like floppy disks, CD, and Zip drives for our data storage needs. Inventors and researchers are pushing the envelope when it comes to capacity, performance and the size of the storage media. Technology is creating powerful storage media devices that we can ever imagine, and all these are designed to provide better storage, performance to the consumers.

Since, the inception of Internet and E-commerce bloom, data has been expanding exponentially and the business needs huge chunks of data as well as creates enormous data.  Forget Giga Bytes data is stored in petabytes. In near future, we are likely to store an incomprehensible amount of data in zettabyte if not domegemegrottebyte. For your information a petabyte is identical to one million gigabytes, a zettabyte is equal to one million petabytes, and a domegemegrottebyte is 1000 zettabyte. Massive data!! 

This new capacity will come with a new technology called the helium-technology for maximum efficiency and performance. So what is HelioSeal helium-technology? This new capacity will come with a new technology they call the helium-technology for maximum efficiency and performance.

How does a helium hard drive work?

Seal up a hard drive and fill it with helium and it gets faster and gains capacity. This happens because the architecture of any hard drive requires a very thin layer air to act as a cushion between the spinning read/write platters. Replace that air with helium, a gas that is seven times less dense than air, those platters can spin with less resistance, giving the hard drive a boost in RPMs and efficiency. The spinning platters also create less turbulence with helium, meaning the layer of helium separating them can be even thinner, which means you can add more platters in the enclosure. Helium drives pack seven platters in an enclosure, whereas standard HDDs are equipped with five.

As of yet, HGST helium technology has not seen competition from other manufacturers. Seagate has put on the market an 8 TB drive of its own utilizing different technology called shingled magnetic recording (SMR), which overlaps memory tracks on a hard drive platter to increase capacity. The 8 TB Seagate Archive HDD is designed for archived cold storage—it provides good per-gigabyte value but at lower RPMs, which makes it best suited for bulk data not meant for frequent recall.

Demand for helium HDDs is picking up. HGST told that it has shipped more than one million Ultrastar HDDs since they became available to consumers. HGST has announced that they are picking up production on helium, and expects price per gigabyte to come down even further as 2017.

Helium Sealing Technology

Several innovations and breakthroughs needed to come together in order to create first helium-sealed HDDs. First, an additional cover made of an aluminum alloy was put on top of the conventional cover and was welded with the base of the HDD by a laser beam. Second, in order to prevent helium leakage from the base, they needed to optimize their manufacturing methods to limit the porosity of the aluminum die-cast and reduce the presence of a certain amount of gas in this same die-cast. Lastly, we succeeded in raising the quality of the weld to a level that allowed for mass production, by selecting the most suitable cover material for sealing and by optimizing the process.

The Helium Advantage

Helium comes with various advantages that deliver great benefits to end-users:

  • Squeezing tracks closer together means more data tracks per disk = more data per HDD.
  • Thinner disks = more disks (5 disks are now 8 disks) = more data per HDD.
  • Thinner disks require less power to spin.
  • Helium creates less drag, requiring less power to spin the disks.
  • Less drag = less noise. (Helium drives are less annoying to listen to!)
  • Sealed drives keep helium in and keep contaminants out.

Keeping Helium In

Uncompromising capacity – The less dense atmosphere inside a helium HDD virtually eliminates turbulence, allowing read/write mechanisms to track more precisely and reliably over storage media, enabling higher recording densities.

Piling on the platters – Less internal turbulence also makes it possible to add more disks and heads to achieve even higher capacity per HDD.

The power of helium – Disks spin more easily in a helium-filled environment, resulting in less power usage—even with additional platters. Less power consumption means cooler operation and lower cooling requirements, reducing both energy costs and carbon footprint.

Reducing the risk – Many air-filled drives use a breather filter leading to reliability problems when used in environments with high levels of carbon in the air. This problem does not exist with sealed drives.

The value of Helium technology

Unmatched storage density – With industry-leading 8TB capacity in a seven-disk design and a 3.5-inch HDD footprint. That’s 33% more storage capacity for mainstream applications than our closest competitor, saving you rack space.

Greater power efficiency – With 23% lower operating power than 6TB air drives. Our 8TB helium drives consume just 5.1 watts during idle operation, a 44% reduction in watts-per-TB compared to conventional air-based HDDs.

Lower cooling requirements – with drives that typically run 4 ̊– 5 ̊C cooler to lower power and cooling cost. Cooler operation also results in better reliability and enables systems with higher storage densities.

Quieter operation – and up to 38% lower weight-per-TB improve environmental conditions in high-density deployments and enable more storage capacity where building codes enforce floor loading  limits.

Helium makes an entrance

Filling an HDD with helium in lieu of air is attractive because it has 1/7th the density of air. The reduced resistance lowers the amount of air turbulence, thus reducing head flutter and vibration. The more stable internal environment enables HDD vendors to employ thinner and lighter platters, which allows them to add in more platters to increase density. The reduced drag and weight also diminishes the amount of effort the motor expends to spin the platters, which equates to radically improved power consumption metrics without sacrificing spindle speed.

Normal air-based HDDs require a breather hole to equalize pressure, but helium HDDs are sealed, which lets you deploy them into humid or dusty environments with little to no special handling. The extra resilience is a big selling point for open-air cooled data centers, and the reduced vibration and sealed case provides higher 2.5 million hour MTBF ratings. Helium HDDs also generate less heat, which reduces cooling requirements and extends the life of the drive.

HGST and WD employ a laser welding process that hermetically seals the enclosure, and Seagate uses a wide-weld technique. Both techniques reduces the need for fasteners, which also contributes to the lighter weight of helium HDDs. At first thought, the weight of a hard drive might not appear to be a big concern, but many server deployments are subject to floor loading restrictions, particularly those in high-rise buildings or raised-floor data centers.

Helium addresses the three major pain points in today’s data center by reducing power and cooling, while also maximizing space by increasing destiny. The HDD vendors can also employ the helium architecture in tandem with all of the other recording techniques that will come to fruition in the future, such as TDMR (uses multiple read heads to boost the readability of thinner data tracks), SMR, HAMR, and HDMR. The path forward will allow the companies to reap the fruits of their R&D expenditures for an extended period of time.

How do Helium hard drives benefit the user?

The use of helium in hard disk drives reduces ‘head flutter’. This is vibration that is caused by air turbulence and makes the heads much more stable. Stability means that densities can be reduced even further, thereby increasing capacity. With seven platters in each hard drive and more planned, let’s hope these drive are very reliable, because data recovery is going to be a tough prospect!

By sealing the hard drive, debris cannot enter inside the chassis. Standard hard disk drives have a breather hole to equalise pressure. Over time contaminants can penetrate the breather hole filter and cause catastrophic failures. With its reduced vibration and sealed chassis, the He10 is advertising a massive 2.5 million hour MTBF (mean time before failure). So in theory this should be extremely reliable!

But reliability and capacity are not the only welcome features. HGST uses revolutionary media cache technology, which uses DRAM as cache without the data integrity concerns. Low power consumption and increased performance will benefit users immensely. Especially hard drives in servers. The increased capacity reduces rack space, offering reduced power and cooling.

On the downside, helium filled hard disk drives are expensive. Until the price can be bought down, the primary inhibitor to market share will be the cost. However with Seagate hot on HGST heals, soon we anticipate all the manufacturers adopting this new technology.

Challenges

Data centers face numerous challenges daily, and as the data centers capacity grows, the challenges grow as well. With the continuous effort of the innovators, the hard disk capacities have increased and also the problems associated with it.

Rising workload levels and higher reliability to lower cost of ownership pushes Enterprise storage to strive for higher performance and consistency. In unanimity; IT departments remain budget-controlled. Storage tiring provides an efficient methodology for merging these three, occasionally conflicting the goals. So far the performances of these drives are being monitored. As far as data recovery is concerned as the reports suggest few drives had mechanical failures, which have been easy to handle. These high capacity HDD’s currently are not available for a standard user so information/data about the HDD performance is not available and one needs to wait and analyze the reports & reviews that will be available to access this HDD.

Adoption of the helium drives was a concern, but after shipping more than millions drives over the last few years, it seems these drives have enthusiasts and is used intensively. For their energy savings and low-temperature features these helium-filled hard drives are idyllic for Servers. While the direct impact on common consumers will be insignificant, the greater capacity, performance and storage design could still benefit the cloud services we increasingly dependent on.

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