HGST Targets Cloud Active Archives with 10 TB Helium HDD

By Pedro Hernandez

HGST, a subsidiary of hard drive manufacturer Western Digital, has taken the wraps off its new enterprise hard disk drive (HDD), the Ultrastar Archive Ha10.

The 3.5-inch drive, which employs shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology to pack more data onto its platters, was built to help businesses and hyperscale cloud providers deliver predictable and relatively responsive storage performance as they dig deeper into cold storage in a bid to capitalize on older data, according to Brendan Collins, vice president of product marketing for HGST. "Cold storage isn't as cold as it was," he told InfoStor.

Unlike traditional archives held in cold storage, where data is often stored on cost-efficient drives that rarely spin up or to tape, the active archive model better supports today's cloud, business intelligence and analytics workloads, which often require near-instant access to data, Collins asserted. HGST is relying on SMR to help IT organizations better balance performance, capacity and cost as their active archives balloon in size.

Meanwhile, the drive's sealed, helium-filled enclosure helps it perform more efficiently and last longer. With one-seventh the density of air, helium reduces disk flutter and vibration and lessens motor drag. It allows the company to outfit its drives with thinner platters.

SMR, as its name suggests, takes a somewhat stacked approach to data placement. As Collins explained, the technology "overlays the tracks in such a way that they overlap." In effect, SMR "can push the tracks closer together," increasing the areal density of the drive and enabling the company to fit 10 TB of data into its latest offering.

But there's a catch. Writing to the drive "has to be done sequentially," said Collins. "It's not a drop in replacement" for traditional HDD-based storage infrastructures, he added.

There are three ways of incorporating the technology into a storage environment: drive-managed, host-managed and host-aware SMR, Collins noted. Of the three, host-managed is the best bet, but it requires that organizations make software changes to maximize SMR's benefits.

While it's still early days, Collins admitted, the company is already laying the groundwork for its hyperscale cloud customers. Joining the drive is a new open-source, host-managed SMR software development kit (SDK) that allows Linux applications access to SMR HDDs.

Tier 1 hyperscale customers, having "full control of their software stack from the applications to the driver," are expected to jump onboard this year, said Collins. Then tier 2 operators will follow suit, followed by storage and server original equipment manufacturers sometime next year.

It will be at least two years until SMR drives hit the mainstream, predicts HGST. "It will be 2017 before a lot of these guys are ready," Collins said.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

This article was originally published on June 10, 2015