HGST announces 10TB HDD, ‘Flash Fabric’, NVMe SSDs, Archive Platform

At HGST’s Analyst’s Day in San Francisco this week the company announced several new storage products including a 10 TB drive that uses Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) technology in conjunction with the company’s Helium (He) technology platform, plus an 8TB He drive. HGST also announced software for creating a ‘flash fabric’, a new NVMe-compliant SSD and they previewed an Active Archive storage platform that’s ideal for creating high-density storage infrastructures with these new high-capacity disk drives.

Helium and SMR Drives

HGST’s 10TB SMR HelioSeal HDD is the world’s first 10TB disk drive, using SMR technology in conjunction with HGST’s Helium platform. Designed for ‘cold storage’ use cases and cloud data centers, this new drive offers the kind of efficient operation and the power and density profiles required for cost-effective, long-term storage. The company is positioning this drive as a bridge between ‘warm’ online storage and offline storage, like tape. HGST also announced two more 3.5” drives.

The Ultrastar He8 is HGST’s 8TB second-generation, 3.5” Helium platform enterprise drive. Designed for high-density, high capacity environments like cloud data centers, the He8 delivers a third more capacity and 23% lower power consumption than standard 6TB “in air” drives.

Flash Fabric and NVMe PCIe

HGST sees the need for a ‘flash fabric’ to fully exploit the benefits of flash technologies, similar to what SANs did for traditional disk arrays a decade or more ago. To address this need, they introduced a new software technology called “Virident Space”, that aggregates flash from up to 16 FlashMax PCIe SSDs in a cluster of up to 128 servers to create a single mirrored cluster with up to 38.4TB in capacity. The target use case for this technology is for caching, sharing and clustering in large database applications like Oracle RAC, and distributed Big Data computing environments like Hadoop.

The company also announced Ultrastar SN100, an NVMe-compliant PCIe SSD that provides up to 3.2TB of capacity. NVM Express is a new host controller interface that’s optimized for non-volatile memory, providing better performance by reducing latency.

Archive Platform

HGST also gave an advanced look at their new line of storage systems that will be out next year. These Active Archive platforms are rack-mounted chassis designed to house high-capacity disk drives (like the ones above) to create an efficient, cost-effective storage tier for cloud data centers and other large-scale implementations. The company claims these systems will provide 10x better storage density and power efficiency than enterprise disk arrays and a 5x improvement in both metrics over commonly used scale-out solutions.

StorageSwiss Take

HGST is clearly going “all in” with their Helium-filled drives. This technology, an HGST exclusive, lowers the friction on spinning disk platters (helium is less dense than air), reducing power consumption and increasing storage density (disk platters can be closer together). These characteristics are ideal for addressing the capacity and cost requirements pushing cloud data centers. And, by combining He with SMR, they’ve pushed the HDD capacity bar up to 10TB. But HGST is no longer just a disk drive company.

The Virident acquisition they made last year seems to be bearing fruit as well. With the emergence of software-defined storage and convergence, the Virident Space product looks to be right on the money, providing flash aggregation at the server level. It’s not exactly a flash SAN, but the potential for the higher-performance end of the flash market is certainly real.

The Active Archive platform initially looked like a way for this storage OEM to ‘move up the food chain ‘ by leveraging the new capabilities that disk drives are being given (Ethernet connectivity, REST, etc). But there’s actually much more to it than simply shrinking the storage stack in systems design. We’ll talk more about that in the next post.

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Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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