Seagate's new 10TB hard drive is filled with helium gas

Posted Jan 14, 2016 by James Walker
Seagate has announced its first hard drive filled with pure helium instead of usual air. Helium is billed as the next big thing for hard drives due to its low density. The drive has 10 terabytes of capacity and will cost around $800.
Seagate s 10TB helium-filled enterprise hard drive
Seagate's 10TB helium-filled enterprise hard drive
Ars Technica reports that the enterprise-grade hard disk was finally unveiled today after several years of development. Seagate's main rival, Western Digital, launched its own helium-filled 10-terabyte drive back in 2013 under its HGST subsidiary brand, giving it a 24-month lead over Seagate in the area.
Seagate will be offering two versions of the drive, one with a SATA3 interface theoretically capable of transferring data at 6Gb/s and one with the newer SAS. SAS isn't commonly found on consumer-grade motherboards but is used on enterprise and server equipment. It has a theoretical data rate of 12Gb/s.
Inside, the hard drive has seven data platters and 14 read/write heads. It uses a hermetically-sealed enclosure filled with helium, a gas that is substantially thinner than the standard air used in hard drives to date.
Helium creates less drag on the spinning disks inside the hard drive. This lets them operate with less resistance, increasing their life span and making the drive more efficient. Seagate claims its helium-filled hard drive will last for 500,000 more hours than its standard enterprise-grade mechanical disks, lasting an average of 2.5 million hours between failures. This is the same figure HGST claims for its own helium-filled drive.
There are other advantages of filling hard drives with helium. Less turbulence is encountered within a helium hard-drive, easing the stress on the moving components. It is also the use of helium that has enabled Seagate and HGST to start building hard drives with seven platters instead of the usual six, increasing storage capacity to 10 terabytes.
Mark Re, Seagate senior vice president and chief technology officer, said: "Cloud-based data center storage needs are expanding faster than many current infrastructures can sustain, rendering the capacity demands of users a herculean task for cloud managers. Built on our years of research and development of sealed-drive technology, our new helium-based enterprise drive is designed precisely to help data-centric organizations worldwide solve the needs of their growing storage business."
Hard drive technology is now being rapidly caught up by developments in solid state storage. Solid state drives (SSDs) have greater performance and reliability than hard drives because they have no moving parts but have yet to catch up in raw storage capacity. For the time being, hard drives remain the best option for storing or archiving very large amounts of data, as companies regularly do.
Samsung s 16TB SSD at the Flash Media Summit in California [Via]
Samsung's 16TB SSD at the Flash Media Summit in California [Via]
SSDs look to finally overcome their last remaining challenge over the next few months though. The record for the world's largest hard drive is already held by an SSD, Samsung's 16TB 48-layer super-fast 2.5-inch SSD, announced in August 2015, and it's only a matter of time before the technology is commercialised for use in server farms and data centres.
Seagate hasn't announced when it will actually start selling its 10-terabyte, helium-filled enterprise drives. It is currently working with Alibaba and Huawei to sample test production units ahead of a launch later this year. The company is expected to set pricing roughly equal to what HGST charges for its equivalent product, suggesting a tag of around $800.