Helium Drives for Data Storage

By Henry Newman

Amazon in now selling the HDS Helium filled drives, and though Storage Newsletter made a completely unfair comparison by comparing the cost of Seagate desktop drives with the enterprise quality Helium Drive, the cost issues do compare.

I thought it best to compare the cost of the HGST Helium Drive at $739, with the cost of HGST enterprise UltraStar 4TB drive at $270.  This is the correct comparison as both drives have a hard error rate of 10E15 bits. So the cost per GB for the helium drive is $739/6000 or $0.1232 per GB and the cost of an UltraStar is $.0675 per GB using pricing from Amazon.

Assuming a RAID configuration, even adding in the cost of the tray slot, power and cooling and the rest of the infrastructure, this cost difference makes no sense at 33% reduction in space. At a cost of ~1.83x, there needs to be some serious advantage for these drives other than moving from 4 TB to 6 TB. As I mentioned in this update there is not a great deal of information on the HGST site on the performance of the drive  -- and there still is not.

So what happens to helium drives? What I have seen in the past is that big storage suppliers such as IBM, HP, Dell, EMC, HDS, etc., want and in the past have required two suppliers for a drive generation. This has been the case for at least a decade and a half. Seagate and Toshiba are the other two suppliers to these big storage buyers and neither has announced a plan for helium drives.

So one of two things is going to happen. Either HGST/WD is going to change the way the big buyers do business or the big buyers are not going to jump on the Helium bandwagon.  I am sure the big suppliers have the details on the drive that should be public, but even with that I am betting that the reason you can buy them on Amazon rather from your RAID vendor or choice is that is that they are not going currently being qualified in a product. I actually have never seen an enterprise drive available to consumers before it was available and qualified by the big guys. You of course can draw your own conclusions.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

This article was originally published on April 01, 2014