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Data Storage

Western Digital Announces World's First 10TB Helium-Filled Hard Drive (techgage.com) 145

Deathspawner writes: Western Digital today announced a new, helium-filled enterprise HDD that allows for 10TB capacities without using the SMR method, sticking to industry standard PMR. SMR, or Shingled Magnetic Recording drives, can not typically be used natively by the OS or disk controllers, and instead often require extra software and/or firmware updates. This makes their broad adoption limited, since the drives are not drop-in replacements for the far more ubiquitous Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR). WD's latest enterprise drive, sold as the HGST Ultrastar He10, uses the PMR storage method, and as such is a full drop-in replacement for any standard hard drive.
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Western Digital Announces World's First 10TB Helium-Filled Hard Drive

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  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @01:39PM (#51042487)
    All the audio tracks you store on the drive sound really high-pitched and squeaky when you play them back...
    • Hmm...I was figuring when the drive crashes, THEN...everyone in the room starts talking funny!!!

      :D

  • Seems legit (Score:5, Funny)

    by ShaunC ( 203807 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @01:39PM (#51042489)

    Tethering yourself to a bunch of helium-filled drives is a great way to get into the cloud.

    • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

      It makes for racks of drives very easy to move from one side of a data center to the other.

    • by Nehmo ( 757404 )

      Tethering yourself to a bunch of helium-filled...

      A real man uses hydrogen - none of this sissy helium stuff.

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @01:41PM (#51042513)
    We keep finding new uses for Helium, but not new supplies.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @01:54PM (#51042641)

      Stop promoting this myth.

      From http://geology.com/articles/helium/

      Some natural gas fields have enough helium mingled with the gas that it can be extracted at an economical cost. A few fields in the United States contain over 7% helium by volume. Companies that drill for natural gas in these areas produce the natural gas, process it and remove the helium as a byproduct

      And by 'byproduct' they mean blow it to the wind without a second thought. That's 7% helium by volume, just dumped as we type. Do you think the world's party balloons (or fractional amounts in hds) even come close to this volume?

      • The GP didn't say that we're running out of He; the GP said that we are not finding *new* supplies -- which is not something you refuted. You quoted something about known supplies. It could well be that the GP's claim is true. Most of our *new* natural gas supplies are from fracking, which results in very little helium [bloomberg.com].

        Moreover, I'm not sure what you're trying to prove. You note that, "*A few* fields in the United States contain over 7% helium by volume," and then make the unsubstantiated claim that none of

        • The GP didn't say that we're running out of He; the GP said that we are not finding *new* supplies

          The title of his post (which you changed) said exactly that.

          • by dlenmn ( 145080 )

            Fair enough. Cut off the first sentence of my post if you'd like; the rest still stands.

    • The market will provide. My understanding is that the US government is selling off its helium reserve which lowers prices and makes it uneconomical to extract a lot of it at the moment. When the reserve is depleted and prices raise back up to natural levels then collection will increase.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        A high enough price will drive hydrogen atoms to fuse, resulting in helium. In this case, neo-classical microeconomics overrides the standard model of physics.

        • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

          To produce a useful amount of helium by this method would require fusing sufficient hydrogen to literally boil
          the oceans of the world.

          The problem with helium is that once it is vented into the atmosphere it is unrecoverably lost to outer space.

          At least filling hard drives with the stuff is accomplishing something useful. I contrast this with a party balloon that could just as easily be filled with hydrogen gas, and would just make a slightly louder bang when popped as a result.

      • Helium is something that is abundant outside the earth's atmosphere - since it's the by-product of hydrogen fusion at the sun, but it is limited on the earth itself. Only once we have drones out there that can travel to space and bring back helium will the supply issue be solved.
      • The problem is that the market doesn't give a fuck if helium is as cheap as air or $10m for a tiny glass vial full of it that sits in a billionaire's curio cabinet. Either counts as the market "providing," and the latter scenario could occur if sources are sufficiently scarce - which, again, the market can do nothing about. The reserve selloff could actually lead to even more wasteful behavior like the natural gas industry venting helium as mentioned further up the page.

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          There is no scarcity of helium in the first place, and, just like any other commodity, the market will seek a price where supply meets demand. The cure for high commodity prices is high commodity prices. If helium becomes valuable to produce because the demand grows, the the natural gas fields which today just release all that useless helium will start capturing it and producing 2 products.

          • I'm pretty sure that Helium is one of those things that you can't just make with current technology. Once it's gone out of the atmosphere, which is where it generally ends up, it's gone. Precisely how long this will take is very hard to say, but it will happen. And unlike fossil fuels, there is no substitute for helium that I know of.
            • by lgw ( 121541 )

              None of that says that it's scarce, or that we could possibly run out before it becomes trivial to get more, or that Helium used in production is a non-trivial contributor to total Helium loss. Hand-wavey doomsday arguments just aren't that interesting.

              • So here's how it works.

                Disaster is predicted. People who are actually interested in science and evidence, listen and take steps to avoid the disaster. In this case, that would probably involve writing legislation around wasting helium during natural gas extraction - in other words, pushing back against the market's tendency to ignore problems until it's too late - or something similar.

                As a result of these actions, disaster is averted. A consequence of this type of thing generally working much of the time, i

                • by lgw ( 121541 )

                  So here's how it works.

                  Someone poorly versed in science invents a disaster scenario. People who are actually interested in science and evidence, listen and dismiss the argument as no solid evidence was presented, and speculation isn't the thing they're interested in, so they stop paying attention. Some politician sees the opportunity, and writes legislation that, what a coincidence, happens to benefit some of his donors while mandating that people give up just a little to avert this alleged disaster.

                  As a

                  • 1) There's a need to conserve helium because it's non-renewable.
                    2) Use in hard-drives specifically isn't relevant. It's probably a waste, given that there are better technologies, but I don't think many of these particular drives are likely to be sold. I was arguing about the wider problem of helium usage, and your claim that the shortage didn't exist and/or that the market would sort it out
                    3) Thanks


                    I've got no idea about low-flow toilets, except that it sounds a bit gross, and American toilets are wei
                    • by lgw ( 121541 )

                      There's a need to conserve helium because it's non-renewable.

                      That's not important. Everything is non-renewable on some scale. Solar power is not renewable on some scale. Fusion is non-renewable on some scale. That's not the question I asked. You answered the question you liked, instead of the question I asked. Did you think I wouldn't notice?

                      I was arguing about the wider problem of helium usage, and your claim that the shortage didn't exist and/or that the market would sort it out

                      So, for any specific thing you want to address, you still need to demonstrate that that specific thing is worthwhile. If helium becomes scare, the price will rice, and people will use less. Until you prove (1), I'm free

              • by swalve ( 1980968 )
                Exactly. Allah will provide.
          • But the already-released helium will never be recovered (and will probably have escaped Earth's atmosphere).

          • If helium becomes valuable to produce because the demand grows, the the natural gas fields which today just release all that useless helium will start capturing it and producing 2 products.

            How are the natural gas fields of today going to capture helium in the future.

            Oh, you're making the assumption that the field producing today (and allegedly venting helium into the atmosphere) are still going to be producing in 5, 10, 20 whenever years when you think the helium price will rise. Some of them may be. And

          • by swalve ( 1980968 )
            The market can't predict the future! It can't tell the difference between abundant and cheap.
            • by lgw ( 121541 )

              The market reflects the best efforts of people with a great deal of money on the line to predict the future. When it looks like a real shortage is on the horizon, you see stuff like people buying vast amounts of oil, loading it into tankers, and storing the oil to be sold into the predicted crunch. The wisdom of crowds is never perfect, but it can be OK.

              • by swalve ( 1980968 )
                Right, but the horizon the market sees is much nearer than what others can see.
                • by lgw ( 121541 )

                  Those "others" could make billions if they were actually better than guessing. But there are no such experts. Lots of "peak oil" predictors though, and Malthus never seems to rest.

      • by suutar ( 1860506 )

        ... makes it uneconomical to capture, you mean? Extraction happens as a byproduct of extracting the natural gas, as far as I'm aware; it's just a question of whether it's captured or thrown away.

    • We keep finding new uses for Helium, but not new supplies.

      Precisely!!! Just stick to getting SSDs into that price range, so that helium won't be needed

      • Here's the problem right now. Storage. We don't need spinning drives to store stuff, but we continue to use them because they are still cheaper than the alternative. The limitations of spinning drives is now starting to really impact access to data on those drives. There is too much data on these slow devices and that is the problem.

        My prediction is, that in less than 3 years, you'll see the final death blow to Spinning disks (though they will remain like Floppies forever for legacy reasons) as they are fin

        • by Anonymous Coward

          We don't? I don't know about you, but I'm not gung-ho enough to entrust my storage to SSDs just yet. Yes, you should have back-ups, but recovering from them isn't IMO amusing enough to switch out hard drives which until further notice not only continues to be cheaper per data unit, but also continues to be a damned sight more predictable and reliable. Maybe that will change some day, but that day ain't today, sunshine.

    • Maybe we could farm Helium from WD HGST drives?

      I guess that's like having George Lucas fix Star Wars Ep. I-III, sort of ridiculous.

  • Helium (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @01:42PM (#51042515)

    Doesn't helium leak out of things shockingly quickly? What's the expected lifetime of the helium within the drive, and when will it stop operating with... whatever helium adds to the equation, here?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by coolmoe2 ( 3414211 )
      I know its uncool to RTFA here but I think this was notable.

      "The benefit of using helium is that it’s less dense than air, putting less strain on the motor. End result is a five or six platter drive that can spin up to 7200 RPM on less power, while improving reliability of the drive (2.5 million hours MTFB)"

      So im guessing if the helium did leak out you would probably just see a somewhat lower drive life.

      • Why lower lifetime?

        If I start with the drive full of helium, and then some leaks out shouldn't the density of the gas in the drive then be lower? And if less dense gas reduces strain shouldn't the lifetime of the drive then increase?

        • If I start with the drive full of helium, and then some leaks out shouldn't the density of the gas in the drive then be lower? And if less dense gas reduces strain shouldn't the lifetime of the drive then increase?

          You're assuming it's under pressure. Exactly the opposite. Helium "leaking out" is really normal outside air leaking in. The atmosphere inside the drive enclosure thus becomes denser, robbing life from the device.

        • Re:Helium (Score:4, Insightful)

          by suutar ( 1860506 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @04:55PM (#51044117)

          less dense gas also provides less of a cushion for the drive heads. Lose too much and you get head crashes.

        • The air/helium is a fluid bearing, keeping the heads above the platters while they rotate. And it also dissipates heat from the spinning platters. So the head will be more likely to crash and the platters are more likely to overheat as the helium leaks out.

      • I know its uncool to RTFA here but I think this was notable.

        "The benefit of using helium is that it’s less dense than air, putting less strain on the motor. End result is a five or six platter drive that can spin up to 7200 RPM on less power, while improving reliability of the drive (2.5 million hours MTFB)"

        So im guessing if the helium did leak out you would probably just see a somewhat lower drive life.

        2.5 MEELION hours works out to a cool 285 YEARS, at 100% duty cycle.

        I think that will work.

        • Re:Helium (Score:5, Informative)

          by plover ( 150551 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:09PM (#51043341) Homepage Journal

          The MTTF makes a big difference to large installations. (I don't know what MTFB is besides a typo in the article -- Mean Time to Fail Badly, perhaps? In any case, MTTF is the better measure of hard drives as they're pretty much not worth repairing, as MTBF would measure.)

          We have one installation that operates 60,000 hard drives that spin a total of 24*60000 = 1,440,000 hours per day. A MTTF of 2.5 million hours means I can expect one of these drives to fail every other day. While that would be much better than our current rate of 12 failures per day, and would save us a lot of money on maintenance contracts, it doesn't mean the drives are impervious to failure. It just means that their failures are less expensive than our current drives.

          I also have a hard time believing any disk manufacturer's claims for longevity, because we often prove them wrong. We bought a handful of "enterprise class" drives for a dozen workstations that claimed a 1.2 million hour MTTF. We had 8 out of 24 drives fail within 50,000 hours (5 years), for an actual MTTF of less than 150,000 hours (the failures happened after burn-in but before the 5 year mark, which is when the machines were replaced.) Claims of 2.5 million hours MTTF just don't ring true.

          • by ttsai ( 135075 )

            The MTTF makes a big difference to large installations. (I don't know what MTFB is besides a typo in the article -- Mean Time to Fail Badly, perhaps? In any case, MTTF is the better measure of hard drives as they're pretty much not worth repairing, as MTBF would measure.)

            We have one installation that operates 60,000 hard drives that spin a total of 24*60000 = 1,440,000 hours per day. A MTTF of 2.5 million hours means I can expect one of these drives to fail every other day. While that would be much better than our current rate of 12 failures per day, and would save us a lot of money on maintenance contracts, it doesn't mean the drives are impervious to failure. It just means that their failures are less expensive than our current drives.

            I also have a hard time believing any disk manufacturer's claims for longevity, because we often prove them wrong. We bought a handful of "enterprise class" drives for a dozen workstations that claimed a 1.2 million hour MTTF. We had 8 out of 24 drives fail within 50,000 hours (5 years), for an actual MTTF of less than 150,000 hours (the failures happened after burn-in but before the 5 year mark, which is when the machines were replaced.) Claims of 2.5 million hours MTTF just don't ring true.

            MTBF is what the spec sheet says, but AFR (annualized failure rate) is what the manufacturers pay attention to. A MTBF of 2.5 million hours translates to 0.35% AFR, which is pretty low. However, looking at Backblaze's studies [backblaze.com] shows that there are drive models that get pretty close to the 1 to 2 million hours MTBF equivalent of AFR. Of course, there's a difference between manufacturers, and this WD drive is actually a HGST drive, and HGST drives tend to be more reliable. There are also differences betwee

        • Re:Helium (Score:4, Interesting)

          by fnj ( 64210 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @03:40PM (#51043599)

          2.5 MEELION hours works out to a cool 285 YEARS, at 100% duty cycle.

          MTBF is NOT the same as expected/rated life. To equate the two is the oldest, most naive misconception in the book. MTBF gives the number of drive-hours between failures, IN A LARGE POPULATION of FRESH drives. For a 2.5 million hour MTBF, if you have 10,000 drives operating, then you expect one failure every 2500 hours. That's 3-1/2 months. Right from the beginning. It does not account for wear. In fact, the failure rate function will not be a straight line. It will rise as the drives age. When the failure rate read off that line becomes very large, you have reached the limit on expected life.

          Expected/rated life is determined by analyzing wear factors. They usually don't spec this figure to the user, but it is well known to be on the order of 5 years for a good quality drive that is not probing some kind of new territory in terms of design/technology.

          Just for one example of how/why the drive wears out, consider the spindle bearings. They are prelubricated. That lubrication does not last forever, and there are no "oil here" stickers. Helium leakage is just another, new factor to add to all the other wear factors that drives are subject to.

        • by tsqr ( 808554 )

          Just dropped by to point out that an MTBF of 2.5 million hours does not mean that the drive will operate for 2.5 million hours before it fails.

      • I suspect that it is every bit as much used for its high thermal conductivity. Sure, less strain on the motor and if there are lots and lots of platters that could be an issue. But it also helps to keep the whole thing cool.

    • The permeation rate of helium is roughly:

      diffusion rate of seal material / thickness of material * time * pressure difference

      The pressure difference term can be made approximately zero using a diaphragm to allow for changes in atmospheric pressure. Any value * 0 = 0, so permeation (leakage) is roughly zero.

      Additionally, some seal materials work quite well. But again that's easy when the inside and outside are the same pressure - there's nothing causing the helium to exit, even if it could pass through easi

  • by foxalopex ( 522681 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @01:45PM (#51042555)

    I have an SMR 8TB Seagate drive which is marked as an archival drive. It's worked well so far. The problem with Shingle Magnetic Recording drives which I have noticed is that occasionally the drive will "stall" while it rearranges data. This is probably extremely bad for some raid systems as the paranoid ones might think the drive has prematurely died. Still this drive was inexpensive for its size and stores a LOT of data which is handy for backing up my actual RAID NAS system. Just don't use a drive like this in your Raid or you might run into serious problems.

    I worry about these helium drives leaking their helium eventually and dying. They claim to have a sealed unit where the seal will last for years which is hopefully the case but you never know...

    • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Wednesday December 02, 2015 @01:53PM (#51042623)
      Currently SMR implementations increase density by only 30%. IMO that's not worth the performance trade-off for anything other than pure archival/backup applications.
      • From what I've seen over the years, there's always someone for whom storage density is always a plus, no matter the cost.

        The rest of us thank them and wait until the price comes down.

        I figure right now, someone with highly specific storage needs is trying to see how soon they can get these.

      • If you can have one backup drive to have to manage an offsite variant off, that is already far better than two.

      • Currently SMR implementations increase density by only 30%.

        Yes but what does it do price wise? When the entire competition is chasing helium it makes for a very attractive alternative.
        I only just bought one of these SMR drives (I did my research and I'm only using it for a backup anyway), but one thing that blew me away was that when I graphed price vs size to find the cheapest drive, this year was the first time ever that the cheapest drive per GB was also the largest one. Normally it's about half or 1/3rd of the size of the largest one. I was expecting to come ou

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      They will last as long as the warranty, and if not, here's a refurb for you!

    • They probably sealed the enclosure just good enough that something else (mechanical bearings, motor, etc.) will likely fail before gaseous exchange becomes the problem.

    • I've been worrying about SMR drives reliability. If the power gets killed and the drive is updating a block not exactly adjacent to the guard zone doesn't it corrupt the overlapping track as well ?
  • But I've got some helium-filled drives, and the mechanical noises from head movement etc are actually distinctively different and higher-pitched.

  • The trade-offs are too great. HAMR will hopefully be viable soon.
  • Longevity on these will suck, Helium seeps out of everything eventually. so these drives will not just fail for normal reasons but instead fail due to helium leaking out and drawing in standard atmosphere.

    • You are right - partial pressure in the atmosphere is extremely low, so the helium will leak out. The seals have to be made to much more stringent standards in order to keep He in the drive, but that won't help for long. It will, however, keep nitrogen, oxygen and CO2 from entering the drive. Essentially, you will end up with a drive filled with very low pressure helium - essentially, vacuum, and the heads will have crashed against the surface of the platters long before that.

    • They just need to make the seals good enough that the helium stays in longer than it takes for some other critical component to fail. Nothing lasts forever, including non-helium filled drives.

  • And why is your voice so funny?

  • By US government edict, these drives cannot be exported to 1930s Germany. We instead recommend our Hydrogen line of Flash drives.
  • I thought 8 and 10tb helium-filled drives had been around for a while. Like a year or so.

  • To be clear: most people buying these types of drives don't buy them one at a time to be shoved into a workstation, or even to be used as a backup. They buy 10+ or more at a time to assemble into some sort of RAID. They are most likely looking to maximize available terabytes per rack unit in a datacenter. Things like cost are secondary in these scenarios -- it costs what it costs. 7200RPM is great, especially when a large number of drives are striped together with RAID 10 or something similar (because w
  • So if you happen to not find your HDs, look at the ceiling
  • Hard Disk Drives are so obsolete. This is like Atlanta Coach Works announcing their latest, greatest, horse drawn buggy. It is lower, longer, wider and has
    more chrome than their 2015 model. Has gas shocks in the suspension, and electric whips for the horses. But still a buggy. I'd rather drive my car.
    In 2016 ... SSD is the answer.

  • The post says:

    > Shingled Magnetic Recording drives, can not typically be used natively by the OS

    but gives no reference or explanation for this claim. Searching for this claim finds it repeated verbatim on many sites, but no explanation.

    The details of the recording technology rarely matter to the OS which treats the device as block-level storage. I'm not saying it's impossible for SMR to require an OS update, but I would like an explanation or reference.

    It sounds like problem is that an SMR drive can't w

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