Last year, Western Digital subsidiary HGST announced the development of a helium-filled hard drive that would offer increased storage capacity and a reduction in power consumption compared to its air-filled cousins. The company has now delivered on its promise of a 2013 release by beginning shipments of what the company is trumpeting as the world's highest capacity HDD, the 6 TB Ultrastar He6.

The Ultrastar He6 is the first HDD to feature HGST's HelioSeal platform, which hermetically seals helium inside the drive enclosure. Because helium is one-seventh the density of air, there is less turbulence and drag placed on the spinning disk stack and head arms. This allows the drive to use less power while allowing seven disks to be contained within a standard 3.5-inch enclosure instead of the usual five. HGST refers to this as its 7Stac disk design.

Targeted at data centers, cloud storage, disk-to-disk backup and replicated or RAID applications, the enterprise drives are currently only being offered to "cloud and research leaders" who will work with HGST to validate the total cost of ownership (TCO) for such users. Companies on board include HP, Netflix, Huawei, CERN and social and search companies.

The company claims the helium-based technology will help improve the rate of HDD area density growth, which has slowed in recent years, and will also serve as the main platform for new HDD technologies, such as shingled magnetic recording (SMR) and heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). It also says because the drives are hermetically sealed, they are ideal for liquid cooling, which is being examined as a more effective and efficient way to keeping components cool in data centers.

HGST says the 6 TB Ultrastar He6 draws 5.3 W at idle, which is 23 percent lower than traditional HDDs, weighs 640 g (22.5 oz), which is 50 g (1.7 oz) lighter than a standard five-disk 3.5-inch HDD, and runs 4-5° C (7-9° F) cooler than current drives. It is available with SAS 6 Gb/s and SATA 6 Gb/s interface versions

Source: HGST