back to article Helium-filled disks lift off: You can't keep these 6TB beasts down

WD subsidiary HGST's first helium-filled drive goes on sale today: the 6TB Ultrastar He6, which is the highest capacity 3.5-inch drive available. Instead of the platters spinning inside an air-filled enclosure they rotate inside one filled with helium gas, 14 per cent of the density of air. This has a much lower level of …

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    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If I remeber right this was done 35+ years ago

      Yes HP did use a fix head Disc drive in the early 70s filled with helium I think made by Vermount, as well as a fixed head drum. I went to Tehran once to fix one. Both about 3mbs with microsecond track switching, good for virtual memory catching. Cant remember if it had 128 heads plus some spares or 512.

      The Computer Museum at Bletchley park may have one. No tank, that was in the service kit to refill it.

      Have to check my CE handbook as well.

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I guess the demise of magnetic drives is not as soon as I thought. I don't trust magnetic drives because of the enormous range of the MTBF rates. It's hard to get the real numbers from the manufacturers. That said, I've found that MTBF for SSDs may not be as lofty as we were led to believe. Speed it great, but reliability is more important. Backup of Backups is the only answer.

    Personally, I'm skeptical about this new development . What happens if the seal is broken? Will the drive still perform? For most applications, 6TB is backup storage fodder where speed is less important than reliability.

  2. alur

    I guess the demise of magnetic drives is not as soon as I thought. I don't trust magnetic drives because of the enormous range of the MTBF rates. It's hard to get the real numbers from the manufacturers. That said, I've found that MTBF for SSDs may not be as lofty as we were led to believe. Speed it great, but reliability is more important. Backup of Backups is the only answer.

    Personally, I'm skeptical about this new development . What happens if the seal is broken? Will the drive still perform? For most applications, 6TB is backup storage fodder where speed is less important than reliability.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
      Joke

      "I don't trust magnetic drives because of the enormous range of the MTBF rates. It's hard to get the real numbers from the manufacturers."

      Wikipedia says that Helium-6 has a half life of 0.8s. (Beta decay, if you are interested.)

  3. Simon Rockman

    HGST is not revealing its spin speed - although current high-capacity Ultrastars spin at 7.200rpm – its cache size (64MB in existing Ultrastars), or the sustained data-transfer rate.

    That's like a sports car manufacturer selling car without revealing the acceleration times or top speed. Or McLaren not revealing the 6:47 Nürburgring time. How can they sell it without basic specs. I'd also want to know seek time.

  4. billyjoebob

    Why fool with mechanical drives? SSD's are 1000 times faster.

    1. JEDIDIAH
      Devil

      ...another completely inexperienced poster.

      > Why fool with mechanical drives? SSD's are 1000 times faster.

      What's 1000x 150MB/s? What SSD has that kind of performance? What bus does? How many of those do you have to string together to get 4TB?

      1. anonomouser

        Re: ...another completely inexperienced poster.

        SSD typically has to the order of 100x faster seek and several times the sustained transfer rate of HDD. A 4 TB HDD is about $180 today, and the equivalent (4) 1 TB SDD drives are $2400, so it's a 13x cost factor. And then there's the SDD wear limitation, so you usually want to have some HDD anyway.

      2. Cryo

        Re: ...another completely inexperienced poster.

        Sure, he may have been exaggerating, but you can't just look at the maximum continuous throughput as a measure of the relative performance between the two technologies either. Mechanical drives are still as abysmal as ever at access times, where they haven't really improved much over the years. If you're just using the drive to read huge files, this might not matter, but small files and random accesses will slow the drive's performance to a crawl. In terms of access times, SSDs can in fact be hundreds of times faster than traditional hard drives. The real-word performance results are not quite so extreme, but you're still looking at performance many times that of tradition hard drives for most purposes.

        Of course, he is completely ignoring the fact that SSDs still cost many times as much per gigabyte, making them unsuitable for backup media or mass storage, which is something you could have pointed out. In situations where random read performance isn't an issue, the over 10x cost of SSDs probably isn't worth the price in most cases.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: ...another completely inexperienced poster.

          "Of course, he is completely ignoring the fact that SSDs still cost many times as much per gigabyte"

          Is anyone taking bets on whether price parity will be achieved before or after flash alternates hit the market?

          1. JamesTQuirk

            Re: ...another completely inexperienced poster.

            @ Alan Brown

            Yes, but not me, I seen all this before as people claw on to what they know ...

            Price will drop, stabilty will increase, people have whinged to me about going from, ST506 to IDE, From IDE to Sata, Floppy to CD to DVD to USB, even that SVGA was no improvement over Hercules Graphics, LCD will never have a decent image, it goes on ....

            I am pretty confident these days that the old drives in my storage boxes here, will work if plugged in, as use is what usually kills them, but I am swapping things to SSD, for fun as much as anything, I was given a couple of "baby" ssd a while ago, 40/60GB ? I think, gunna put one in a Amiga1200, got to check on its esata config, and see if maybe thats works, will centralise ALL it's software ....

            However the baby 512GB ssd in laptop (HP DV6 has also stopped heating "albert hall"), is tiny, 10 of them in a lump wouldn't be much bigger than desktop HD, I think Spinning the media past heads, in any form of mechanical, is numbered, jukeboxes of SSD may be a goer .....

    2. Tom Maddox Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Mechanical vs. SSD

      And significantly more expensive. If you need (or want) bulk storage, spinning rust is still the way to go.

  5. Bert 1
    Flame

    Not enough Helium

    We don't have enough Helium to waste it on this.

    We need to conserve this finite resource. We should ban birthday balloons too.

    Seriously!

    1. TheManCalledStan

      Re: Not enough Helium

      Indeed!

      Birthday balloons would be far more fun with Hydrogen instead!

      We'd have banging parties all the time!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not enough Helium

        Banging parties eh? I'll bring the fishbowl!

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Not enough Helium

        Banging would be compulsary - don't leave inflated H2 balloons sitting around for igniting later (try it to see why it's a bad idea).

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Not enough Helium

      We don't have enough Helium to waste it on this.

      I will take this seriously when "burnt uranium" is no longer considered "waste".

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just hope that Seagate doesn't resurrect the "Fireball" name that Quantum once used and puts hydrogen in rather than helium.

    Hitachi (WD) could resurrect the Deskstar (Deathstars) and also use Hydrogen. Then when the Deathstars fail, you get front row seat.

    1. Haku

      Self destructing harddrives?

      I recall a company called EDT were going to release a harddrive which could be destroyed by releasing its reservoir of acid onto the platters, but it's been removed from their website (hence the archive.org link) so its availability/existance can only be guessed at.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Self Destructing drive

        RunCore SSD

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLxaVFBXbCk

        http://www.runcore.co/en/videoShow.asp?ID=263

        Toshiba SSD

        http://midsizeinsider.com/en-us/article/toshiba-designs-self-destruct-hard-drive

        Also this at smoocon, not sure if he made a finished product

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0L-YHe2iag

        Although i can see regulations would make it difficult to bring to market...!

        Make sure you burn it goood:

        http://gizmodo.com/388465/charred-hard-drive-from-space-shuttle-columbia-recovered-best-data-rescue-ever

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    35 000 000x bigger than the first hard drive

    We've come a long way since then.

    1. JamesTQuirk

      Re: 35 000 000x bigger than the first hard drive

      Yeah I payed $795 for a 5Meg HD a long time ago, and $500 for a 512GB SSD, doing the math ....

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. hydrogen

    Hydrogen reacts with the surface, whereas helium being non reactive doesen't.

    Makes a difference over time, although H2 filled consumer drives with passivation might be OK.

    Interesting aside, some high power LEDs are Ar filled, because the exposed die are sensitive.

  9. PLAzmA

    HAMR

    Hopefully Seagate can now give us heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) and blow helium filled drives out of the water and stop the SMR (Shingled magnetic recording) rubbish... i dont want 6TB its still not big enough.. 10TB + PLEASE !!

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/02/12/seagate_hamr/

    With HARM being released hopefully in the next Q, I wouldn't consider even looking at these drives until i see what size seagate throws down size wise..

  10. phil dude

    nice comments, and...;-)

    Love to hear the comments about drive size...

    I arrived at the Raid6 for now solution, and I write to every sector of a drive before including it in the raid.

    I read somewhere that forces the reallocation of crap sectors upfront.

    I don't know so much about ZFS raid, but it may become necessary to have protocols that essentially assume the disk is too large, and so data writing must have some other disaster recovery type protocol since it will be writing to untested space?

    I too want the 100TB drives of the future, but will we still need RAID...?

    P.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    100TB drives

    (droooooool)...

    So to store one human being in digital format you would only need a stack 1/100 the way to the Moon.

    Thats progress all right,

    I did read somewhere that quantum memory is feasible, the "pattern buffer" could just be a stack of multilayer optical persistence media with read/write done via a full width MEMS and VCSEL array based head and spinning at about 75000 RPM.

    Each disk would then store a petabyte ie 1024 TB so the actual buffer assembly wouldn't be that big at all.

    See http://www.nature.com/srep/2013/130327/srep01554/full/srep01554.html

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