HGST and Western Digital have unveiled a litany of new storage products aimed at nearly every conceivable use case and market segment, beating capacity records for 3.5″ drives.

HGST’s helium-sealed Ultrastar

HGST announced the second-generation entry of its helium-sealed enterprise hard disk drives, adding an 8 TB entry to the 6 TB of the previous generation.

The He8 drives provide “up to 3x better random write performance” compared to the first-generation He6 disks, which debuted late last year. Both the 6 TB and 8 TB versions rely on standard perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology, used often in standard hard drives. The He8 drives feature 128 MB of cache and spin at 7200 RPM, and purport to rebuild quickly in RAID arrays with a feature called Rebuild Assist. The new drives are available in SATA 6.0 Gb/s and SAS 12 Gb/s versions (full specifications for the Ultrastar He8), and will ship to the general public later this year. According to HGST, “The drives are currently being qualified by leading companies such as Netflix, Huawei, Inspur and Promise Technology as well as other top OEMs and cloud customers around the world.”

The He8 uses a complex seven-platter design, in which the platters are encased in helium gas to prevent head collisions, which would be otherwise more frequent when as many platters are placed into one drive. From an engineering standpoint, the feat of keeping helium inside the drive container is a particularly impressive one, as that has been the issue preventing hermetically-sealed drives from achieving mass production in the past. HGST has displayed a great deal of confidence in this technology by backing these drives with a five-year warranty, and announcing that all future enterprise storage drives will use the HelioSeal technology found in the He8 disks.

The next entry, according to HGST, is a HelioSeal disk that utilizes Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) technology to reach a 10 TB capacity in a standard 3.5″ drive, intended for use in cool or cold storage. Because of the lower write performance that accompanies SMR, HGST recommends this for “storage applications for data that is past its create-and-modify phase of life and is in need of efficient, accessible, long term retention.”

Bringing 6 TB to standard air

HGST has also announced the seventh-generation Ultrastar 7K6000, which tops out at 6 TB in a five-platter design, at a density of 1.2 TB per platter. This line is anticipated to have a lower street price than the HelioSeal drives, but according to HGST, the He8 is more power efficient than comparable 6 TB air drives. Like the HelioSeal drives, these drives feature 128 MB of cache and spin at 7200 RPM, and are available in SATA 6.0 Gb/s and SAS 12 Gb/s versions, accompanied by a five-year warranty.

Exploring the space between 6 and 8 TB

The more baffling announcement to come out this month is Western Digital’s Ae drive, matched to the naming conventions of its existing enterprise offerings Se and Xe. These drives are built to a standard Western Digital is referring to as Progressive Capacity, in that incremental changes to the drives will occur as manufacturing capabilities increase — bringing the capacities up from 6.1 TB to 6.2 TB to 6.3 TB, as mentioned in the example by Western Digital.

The drives spin at 5,760 RPM and have a 64 MB cache, and attach via SATA 6 Gb/s. They are available in boxes of 20 to “select distributors and integrators starting late 2014” and come with a three-year warranty, which seems short for an archival drive. In an industry where standardized, commodity parts are vital, having a product with fluid specifications seems counterproductive.

Let us know your thoughts on provisioning data storage and long-term archival backups in the comments.