The great thing about innovation is that it never has to end. Just when many were beginning to feel that roadblocks would prevent mechanical hard drives from progressing much further, WD’s subsidiary HGST has just announced a small breakthrough. One of the biggest detriments to mechanical storage has been the fact that it’s air-sealed. That of course offers no support to the platters, increasing drag and causing other maladies that could wear a drive out over time. The solution? Helium.
With an effective weight 1/7th of air, helium would allow platters to spin with drastically reduced drag and run cooler and more power-efficient as a result. Better still? Using helium allows HGST to cram 40% more platters into current drives, so rather than 5 in a 4TB drive, we could reach 5.8TB with a 7 platter drive instead.
The increase in storage is a major benefit in itself, but for datacenters, the 23% power decrease is of significant value as well. Thanks to the helium, the current watts-per-TB is an effective 45% compared to current drives, taking into account the added platters.
It’s really hard to find a fault with this technology. There’s no mention of improved performance, but with helium reducing the drag as it can, you’d have to imagine there’s a chance we could see higher-density 10K drives at some point. I also can’t help but ponder this technology in a 2.5″ or smaller drive, for mobile devices.
All around a very cool technology, and one we should be able to see sometime in 2013.