LONDON – A line of helium-filled, 3.5-inch format hard disk drives is likely to elevate Western Digital Corp. to the top of the enterprise disk drive market, predicts market researcher IHS.
Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, now a Western Digital subsidiary, announced last year that would introduce 3.5-inch format hard disk drives (HDDs) filled with helium gas in 2013. IHS expects the HDDs to be rolled out in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Western Digital had a 45 percent share of shipments, compared to rival Seagate Technology’s 48 percent, in the third quarter of 2012. It's market share has been rising, IHS said. "Helium-filled HDDs could propel Western Digital to the top enterprise HDD spot, dethroning Seagate in the process," said analyst Fang Zhang. "Western Digital says helium-filled HDDs can reduce power consumption — an issue of concern for enterprise HDD users — by more than 20 percent. And helium-filled HDDs can advance drive capacity by another 25 to 50 percent, without increasing platter density or drive thickness."
Helium-filled HDDs are beneficial in several ways. The density of helium is one-seventh that of air, reducing drag on the spinning disk stack and on the arms which position heads over data tracks, thereby reducing energy consumption. The scheme also allows disks to be placed closer together, with seven disks able to occupy the space of five. The more efficient thermal conduction of helium, compared with air, also means drives will run cooler and emit less noise.
A disadvantage is that the drives must remain sealed. Leakage of air in to, and helium out of, the drive could result in premature failure.
IHS estimates the market for helium-filled HDDs will climb from zero in 2012 to more than 100 million units by 2016. At the same time, technological hurdles and patent issues could delay the introduction of alternative technologies by Western Digital's rivals, Seagate and Toshiba.
Helium-filled drives were demonstrated by Western Digital at an investor event in Irvine, Calif., in 2012. Comparison of the power consumption between a helium-filled drive and an equivalent air-filled drive showed a reduction in power consumption of 23 percent. In addition to consuming less power, the drive operates at temperatures 4 degrees C less than conventional drives.
On the issue of saving energy, once again, nobody seems to actually think anymore, just parrot. For example, with all the fuss about electric cars, it is almost universally ignored that when they are used, they mostly burn coal! Not even debatable, but hurts the case of the blame-mankind save-the-world with One World Rule types.
And nobody at all compares the energy used to produce electric cars vs. fossil-burning reciprocating engine cars. Which would be the real issue, not to mention their compared longevity and disposal costs (in energy).
What, you ask, does this have to do with air vs helium-filled HDDs? By asking you prove my point!
Because the methodology would be the same for those not merely seeking acceptance for being politically correct, while pretending to be engineers.
Too bad I saw this article too late to comment early enough to elicit responses (flu, pneumonia, etc.).
Mylar balloons keep helium in for a good amount of time. So I think keeping helium in should be
a very doable thing for good manufacturers.
It would be good to have a oxygen or nitrogen sensor to prevent a drive failure though.
Hello! What about the repairing(platter level)in such case one has to open the Hard disk platter so again inserting the airtight Helium gas would be quite challenging. Also that happens very rare...
Anyways, so bottom line the saving in power consumption & enhancement of storage is what everyone would prefer interesting...
I guess WD didn't get the memo that the WORLD is out of helium in a couple of decades.
And what a CRAPPY writeup with minimal engineering content or journalism (investigate the facts vs parrot them from the source).
The main benefit of helium, from what I know as an ENGINEER, is that its lower density allows a much lower flying height for the heads, delivering significantly higher bit density (those for you talking about "air resistance" or proposing a vacuum - is someone dumb enough to give you a paycheck these days?)....or is that a secret that WD's PR machine didn't want revealed via EET to the "dummies" at Seagate or Toshiba?
Of course the drive, which is essentially a Tesla turbine, will use much less power if you eliminate one or two of the platters....admittedly, Helium does have lower density, and does produce lower drag, but so does adding a mm or two to the case height, yet you still have the Tesla turbine pumping fluid if you keep the platter count the same.
And, for the record, it's HYDROGEN that cannot be contained for extended periods, not helium. Basic engineering, stuff you guys have forgotten with all your powerpoint.
Many years ago (almost eons) I worked with helium-charged cryo pumps and found that helium is sneaky stuff. WD would benefit from installing an O2 sensor in the drive so helium leakage out (and air leakage in) could be detected before catastrophic failure. It would still require drive replacement but the user might not experience a head crash. They could also do this with a current monitor and look for increased current on the drive motors.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.