WD makes cheaper, faster air-filled alternative to 10TB helium hard drive

Western Digital has introduced a 10TB air-filled drive that transfers data faster and is less expensive than its 10TB helium-filled drive.

The first 6TB disk drive, the Ultrastar He6 was launched by WD”s HGST unit in 2013 and used helium technology to cram seven platters inside the standard 3-5-inch enclosure rather than five. At the time the traditional air-filled Ultrastar 7K400 had five platters and a 4TB capacity. Helium-filling enabled a capacity increase of 50 per cent.

Helium-filled drive technology developed with capacities rising through 10TB, 12TB and on to 16TB. Air-filled drives also progressed, through 6TB with the Ultrastar 7K6, and on to 8TB with the Ultrastar 7K8.

Traditional air-filled drives are cheaper to make than helium-filled drives, as they need fewer platters and heads, and less firmly sealed cases. As magnetic recording media technology developed, air-filled drive capacities grew to meet the low-end helium-filled drives and provide equivalent capacity at less cost.

Now WD has boosted its air-filled drive technology further to produce the 10TB Ultrastar DC330. This is the follow-on to the Ultrastar 7K6 and 7K8 drives, with rebranding to a DC HC3xx scheme;

  • DC HC310 – 4TB and 8TB
  • DC HC320 – 8TB
  • DC HC330 – 10TB

The 10TB He10 drive was rebranded as the DC HC510. It is a helium-filled drive with seven platters, 1.428GB/platter and an 816Gbit/sq in areal density.

In contrast, the HC330  has six platters, 1.666GB/platter and an 868 Gbit/sq in areal density. This is 6.4 per cent more than the HC510.

The HC330 and HC510 rotate at 7,200rpm, have 256MB buffers, hardware encryption options and are available with 6 Gbit/s SATA and 12Gbit/s SAS interfaces.

The HC330 has a two million hours MTBF rating and an 0.44 per cent annual failure rate (AFR). The HC510 MTBF is 2.5 million hours and AFR is 0.35 per cent.

However, the HC510 can sustain a 249GB/sec transfer rate while the HC330, boosted with a NAND cache, can deliver up to 273GB/sec. The HC330 provides up to 40 per cent more speed with low queue depth, small block random writes, according to WD.

We might expect the HC510 to be replaced in due coursw by the lower-cost and faster HC330. We might also expect similar 10TB air-filled technology to appear in WD’s Red and Gold branded drives.

The Ultrastar DC HC330 is expected to ship in September.