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Cloud Data Storage Hardware Technology

Seagate Adopts Helium For a 10TB HDD (computerworld.com) 175

Lucas123 writes: Seagate has finally adopted helium as an inert gas in its data center drives and has used it to produce a 10TB HDD for cloud-based data centers. Seagate had relied on its shingled magnetic recording technology for high-capacity drives right up until its last 8TB HDD, even after WD has used helium in several iterations of its hermetically sealed, 3.5-in HDDs. The lighter-than-air helium reduces friction on platters and allows more to be used. In Seagate's new HDD, it crammed seven platters 14 heads, a 25% increase in disk density over its 8TB drive.
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Seagate Adopts Helium For a 10TB HDD

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  • Can't wait to see the failure rate on this thing. How do they even get a hermetic seal?

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      How do they even get a hermetic seal?

      Draw a couple of snakes on a sealion?
      No, just bits of synthetic rubber and screw down on them really tight. If the pressure difference isn't huge between external and internal it's not very hard.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by fnj ( 64210 )

        No, just bits of synthetic rubber and screw down on them really tight. If the pressure difference isn't huge between external and internal it's not very hard.

        If you knew anything whatsoever about helium permeation, you would know what a preposterous statement you made.

        It's the difference in PARTIAL pressure that matters. There is almost certainly one atmosphere of helium on the inside vs zero on the outside. About the same as a rubber circus balloon. You know, the kind that lose all their lift in a day or t

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      Can't wait to see the failure rate on this thing. How do they even get a hermetic seal?

      Well we've been doing this with car tires for ~15 years now, nearly 20 on luxury model cars. Despite that both the rubber, the rubber-steel/aluminum bonding point, and the valve all leak. The solution was to over pressurize the tires in the early years, these days they simply slap some sealing compound on it. It's generally good for the lifetime of the tire as long as it's done properly. That's between 3-8 years.

      I'm guessing it'll be similar in this case, though they'll likely have an easier time of it

      • by rossdee ( 243626 )

        If we are talking about car tires rhen they don't need the lightest inert gas. Argon would do the job and its not as rare (on earth) as He

    • and the data comes out funny.

  • Hydrogen next? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Trachman ( 3499895 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @08:52PM (#51297413) Journal

    We need to assume that hydrogen will be the next element used for cooling? Or is it the end of spinning disc era?

    Hydrogen is used, believe it or not, for generator cooling at power plants. Here is the quick link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • Hydrogen is not an inert element..

      • Re:Hydrogen next? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @09:02PM (#51297461)
        Nor is it smaller than He. Hydrogen gas likes to link up as H2 molecules which are pretty big compared to the inert, "I'll bond to nothing" Helium. You want the smallest thing you can find to fly those disk heads on.
        • Buy hydrogen also likes to dissolve in many metals. At that point it becomes worse for containment than the larger helium. Still though, these things are well established and there's ways of keeping hydrogen contained too.

    • Re:Hydrogen next? (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheGavster ( 774657 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @10:01PM (#51297735) Homepage

      In hard drives, the fill gas is used to lift the heads, not for cooling. The idea is that the thin film between the head and platter forms at a shorter distance in helium, so everything can be made smaller and closer together. As another poster pointed out, at room temperature/pressure, helium is monatomic while hydrogen forms H2 molecules, which are larger than the helium atoms.

      • Re:Hydrogen next? (Score:5, Informative)

        by hankwang ( 413283 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @04:09AM (#51298631) Homepage

        The idea is that the thin film between the head and platter forms at a shorter distance in helium, so everything can be made smaller and closer together. As another poster pointed out, at room temperature/pressure, helium is monatomic while hydrogen forms H2 molecules, which are larger than the helium atoms.

        What matters for the hydrodynamics (drag forces, lift forces on the head) is not directly the size of the molecule, but the molecular mass (related to densitiy of the gas) and the dynamic viscosity (related to both molecular mass and molecular size). The size of the molecule or atom is in any case vanishingly small compared to the distance between the head and the platter. The dynamic viscosities of a few gases at room temperature are: helium is 19 micro-Pa s, air 18 uPa s, and hydrogen 9 uPa s. The molecular masses (proportional to density) are 4, 29, and 2, respectively; this is where helium wins, but hydrogen is better both in molecular mass and viscosity.

        The real reason for not using hydrogen gas is that hydrogen (H2) is reactive; at surfaces, it tends to split up into hydrogen atoms (H), which can then diffuse through metals and polymer seals. In the best case, it will leak out within months/years. In the worst case, it will change the crystal lattice and cause material failure. In particular, rare-earth magnents tend to crumble if exposed to hydrogen gas; that's something you really don't want inside a hard disk casing.

    • by mcrbids ( 148650 )

      The spinning disk era is coming to a close, and I welcome it! The issue is that while storage capacity has, for decades, increased almost exponentially, the actual performance of the HDD has remained virtually flat. A typical HDD spinning at about 7200 RPM can store 4 TB of data or more, but can only serve about 150 seek operations per second. Physics, she is a bitch, you know? So while you might be able to store 500 million files, it takes a month to copy them.

      Everywhere I look, Enterprise or "performant"

      • Everywhere I look, Enterprise or "performant" storage has moved to SSDs.

        You may want to define performant. Yes SSDs are used a lot in high activity enterprise scenarios. But they currently have close to zero marketshare in the SAN / NAS department where space and density is more important than speed of access due to being orders of magnitude more expensive.

        I'll welcome the demise of the classical harddisk when SSDs are comparable in price, and not a moment sooner.

  • Careful (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @08:56PM (#51297423)

    Last time I bought a helium hard drive, it floated away and I never saw it again.

    • Re:Careful (Score:5, Funny)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @09:06PM (#51297479)
      You think you have it bad.... I purchased 100 of them, tied them to my lawn chair in a RAID 5x5x4 Array configuration and now I'm freezing at 15,000 feet with no way to get down and a cell phone battery that's running out. HELP!!!!
      • Re:Careful (Score:5, Funny)

        by toonces33 ( 841696 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @10:41PM (#51297901)

        So what you are telling us is that you are storing your data in the cloud?

    • And all your audio files on it were high pitched and squeaky...
  • I've heard Helium is a finite resource that we are rapidly depleting? I wonder how the use of it on such a large scale will impact the worldwide supply.
    • by Fwipp ( 1473271 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @09:13PM (#51297505)

      How many 10TB hard drives do think Seagate will ship?

      How many children will have at least one balloon at their birthday party this year?

    • actually alarmist nonsense that we're running out of helium. The truth is that most helium is just vented off the top of natural gas deposits even now. We have a helium wasting problem.

    • Balloons count for 19% of Helium consumption each year. A standard tank of Helium fills about 50 balloons for a party. According to the PDF here [hgst.com] a single tank fills 10,000 drives. Seems minimal.

    • by Whibla ( 210729 )

      I heard the same thing a few years ago and briefly got all hot under the collar about party balloons ... then I realised that helium is being continuously replenished as a by-product of radioactive decay (alpha decay) [wikipedia.org], plenty of which is going on within the earth's mantle and crust.

      Now I can sleep soundly again, and dream of partial pressure shells / helium shell airships sailing majestically through our skies.

    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      Party balloons use 19% of the worlds helium, Hard Drives are estimated to use less then 1%, but hey, let's complain about the non-wasteful use.
    • Finite? Depleting?

      The Sun creates 1.2 trillion tons of helium a second. There's plenty of it. The only hard part is getting it. Which is why we need a crash program to either deep-drill or strip-mine the Sun for the valuable helium it's hiding from us.

  • SMR was a DOA idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @09:17PM (#51297521)
    Marginal increase in capacity for a major decrease in performance.
    • by sshir ( 623215 )
      What are you talking about? Seagate is killing it with SMR - they can't make enough of them. Retailers had problems (and still have) with keeping them in stock. WD still has no (reasonably priced) answer to Seagate's 8tb drive.
      • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

        I've been looking for inexpensive 8tb drives for nvr's what I have read is that the SMR drives can't handle the load of 24/7 video recording at 4MBps.

        Plus I don't think you could run a raid 6 or even a raid 1 array on seagate drives that large and be able to replace them faster than they failed.

        I certainly wouldn't want to trust a single drive with 8tb of data.

        • I've been looking for inexpensive 8tb drives for nvr's what I have read is that the SMR drives can't handle the load of 24/7 video recording at 4MBps.

          They can just fine as long as they're not fragmented. Continuous copying is a non issue. Now video editing on the other hand.... the nature of SMR is that it needs to rewrite adjacent tracks so random reads and random writes performance is poor.

          Plus I don't think you could run a raid 6 or even a raid 1 array on seagate drives that large and be able to replace them faster than they failed.

          Seagate is plagued with lemons. From what I can tell the 8TB archival drive isn't one. But I'll wait for more data to come in on that. I'm not actually certain about running these things in RAID1 or RAID6 anyway. SMR needs complicated controllers on the drive to work

    • The major decrease in performance depends entirely on the workload. For archival purposes and long continuous unfragmented writes they perform pretty solidly compared to normal harddisks.

      For random reads and writes I question why you would want a classic harddisk anyway. SMR drives worked well for storage of large files and would work even better if the OS was aware of them and used them appropriately (think of them as the very first SSDs where the OS didn't align sectors or issue TRIM commands, there's unu

  • And to think the best thing I've adopted helium for is to sound like Elmo.
  • Why only cloud-based data centers? Are they not reliable enough for actual data centers?

  • It's notoriously hard to keep helium inside of anything, so the seal would have to be good -- and they would have to vacate the air out of the drive interior before filling it with helium anyway. So why not just leave the interior of the drive in a vacuum?
  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2016 @10:20PM (#51297809) Journal

    Worked for an measurement instrument company building instruments that had to work in helium atmosphere. We tried for a long time to seal the helium out. Even to the point of filling the entire inside with glass filled epoxy to prevent intrusions of helium. In the end we gave up, and did a redesign to work in helium. solid metal seals will work, but pretty much any other seal will not.

    • What pressure were you working with? Helium will happily diffuse through metals but it is not going to draw a vacuum on itself. Yes the drives will leak gently, but it's not like a pressure vessel where which is literally constantly releasing a small stream of helium through the shell. HGST hermetically seal their drives after filling them with helium and claim the helium won't leak out within the expected lifetime of the drive (~10 years).

  • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @01:46AM (#51298371)

    I don't like the idea of cramming platters to increase density because it throws a wrench in useful scaling relationship between density and I/O rate. I don't want a disk requiring days to sync up or otherwise doubles time needed to read out a given percentage of the disk. This is what archival media is for.

    Would much rather see R&D efforts focused on increasing density and therefore I/O performance of individual platters otherwise for my purposes better off simply buying more and scaling out disks.

    If helium increases reliability over long term use then great.. if it lasts only as long as the warrantee period I'm not interested.

    Hoping against hope something not resembling vaporware will come out of RRAM efforts like crossbar in the next year or two.

  • ...can you even hermetically seal helium? It will leak over time, slowly, no matter what.

  • "Cloud-based" datacenters? So, what, these drives wouldn't be any good for the datacenter in the basement with no internet connection?

  • thank goodness we're not running out of Helium!
  • Can't wait to see the failure rate of these things, be it with helium or magical farts from unicorns fed nothing but shavings off philosopher's stones.

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