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.
An innovative idea. I could have predicted the benefits of lower air resistance - but I was surprised to learn that helium is a better heat conductor than air. A nice added benefit. I hope that data recovery will still be possible on damaged disk drives. Will vendors have to supply their own helium atmosphere for data recovery?
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.
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.