Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Lucas Mearian reports that it took Western Digital's more than a decade to develop a way to reliably seal helium gas inside of a hard drive but with 6 TB of storage, it was worth the wait. "I'd say helium is one of the major breakthroughs in the hard drive industry because you can only increase the platter areal density so much with today's technology," says Fang Zhang, an analyst at market researcher IHS. At one-seventh the density of air, helium produces less drag on the moving components of a drive — the spinning disk platters and actuator arms — which translates into less friction and lower operating temperatures. Sealing air out of the drive also keeps humidity and other contaminates from getting in and while the Ultrastar He6's 50% boost in capacity is impressive, what's most notable is the power reduction (PDF), Zhang says, because the high-capacity drives will be used in large data centers and cloud infrastructures. "Data is going to the moon. As we deploy solutions that are tens and hundreds of petabytes, anything you can do to increase density is a boon," says Jimmy Daley, director of Smart Storage at Hewlett-Packard. "We are seeing about 2-watt lower power on random workloads compared to today's 4TB. That's about 20% [power reduction]." However with helium shortages occurring right now and the price of helium skyrocketing, the question’s how much commercial demand might affect manufacturing costs in products that depend on the increasingly sparse element. It may be telling that HGST hasn’t announced a price for the Ultrastar He6 at this time.
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