Helium-Filled Enterprise HDDs Could Reach 6 TB CapacityWestern Digital is hoping to gain an edge in the enterprise hard drive market by rolling out helium-filled, sealed drives.
The company's Hitachi GST subsidiary is apparently planning to introduce the drives in Q4 2013 and trump Seagate's market share in this segment, according to market research firm IHS.
Sealing the drive and filling free space with helium would enable Hitachi GST to increase the density on hard drive platter, since the gas has a nonreactive nature and lower density than air. IHS wrote that helium is "thought to improve the speed of the HDD tracking arm, enhance drive performance through faster spinning of the drive, and eliminate mechanical issues like noise, vibration and turbulence", in addition to "a more uniform temperature on the platter to raise quality" and better protection for the "coating of the hard disk head and disk to lengthen the life of the drive."
IHS said that it expects WD to create 5 TB HDDs to target enterprise market segments, while the technology could achieve up to 6 TB capacities with current PMR technology. The firm believes that "the market for helium-filled drives will climb from virtually zero in 2012 to more than 100 million units in 2016, especially if the high costs of production are brought down."
However, Hitachi GST may remain the only player in this market for now. Seagate told Xbit Labs that it has no intentions of bringing helium HDDs to market anytime soon, even if it claims to own 80 related patents. However, PMR is expected to reach its natural barriers in 2014 or 2015 and HDD makers will have to evolve their drive technologies. Seagate's favored approach is heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), a technology the company first acquired via the purchase of HDD tech developer Quinta in 1997.
Wolfgang GruenerWolfgang Gruener is a contributor to Tom's IT Pro. He is currently principal analyst at Ndicio Research, a market analysis firm that focuses on cloud computing and disruptive technologies, and maintains the conceivablytech.com blog. An 18-year veteran in IT journalism and market research, he previously published TG Daily and was managing editor of Tom's Hardware news, which he grew from a link collection in the early 2000s into one of the most comprehensive and trusted technology news sources.
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