Data Center Tech Blog

How we implemented Host Managed SMR with helium technology to provide industry leading 14TB* hard disk drives!

Lenny Sharp

Sr. Director, Enterprise HDD Product Planning and Management

We have been advancing the state of hard disk drive (HDD) technology to keep up with the flood of data being stored in data centers around the world. With data created increasing at a rate around 40% per year[2], driving capacity up and the cost of storage down, has been of paramount importance as we introduce new technology and products. Today’s announcement of the availability of the Ultrastar® Hs14 drive is a great testament of the value our innovation brings customers.

It All Starts with the HDD Platform

Today, there is no better solution to maximizing capacity than a helium-sealed HDD. We were the first to introduce this important breakthrough technology, and we’ve perfected it through four generations of products.

With a density 1/7th that of air, helium provides a low turbulence environment for the recording head to fly over the disk at nanometer scale. Starting with 6TB helium-sealed drives in 2013, our proprietary sealing technology solved a problem the industry had been grappling with for years. Several award-winning innovations and breakthroughs needed to come together in order to create the first helium-sealed HDDs – which you can read more about in my recent blog.

Then, through 8TB, 10TB and then 12TB generations, the company continued to innovate and improve the design, adding enhancements to the mechanical and electrical components, and improving the robustness and reliability of the platform. With the fourth generation He12, we added an 8th disk to the design, increasing capacity and even further lowering the cost per TB.

Helping the Cloud Fully Utilize the Power of SMR

Now, we’re pleased to introduce an extension of the fourth generation platform, leveraging SMR (shingled magnetic recording) technology to increase the useable capacity to 14TB. SMR uses a unique “overlapping” writing technique, to pack more bits into the same space. This way of storing data is a great match for hyperscale data center software architectures that rely heavily on sequential writes to store vast amounts of data.

SMR can be implemented in multiple ways. Working closely with key cloud customers, we have focused on the Host Managed (HM) implementation of SMR. Unlike other approaches, HM gives Cloud Service Providers (CSP) the most control over the way the data is written to disk, and ensures consistently high performance with no latency surprises.

We have also been actively involved with Industry Standards bodies, as well as the open source community, to make sure that APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), code samples, and technical information is readily available to customers, empowering them to fully utilize the power of SMR.

Armed with the additional capacity of the Ultrastar Hs14, CSPs will be able to leverage the TCO (total cost of ownership) benefits of the additional capacity, to provide even more value to their customers.

Helping Big Data Move Faster, and Fast Data Get Bigger

In a data-centric world, our ability to define the future of storage devices and systems helps businesses, and their customers, take advantage of the value and the possibilities data harbors through both big data and fast data.

Our heritage in HDD has enabled us to pioneer the helium drives and secure a future of higher capacity drives. The next time you store photos, stream a video, or build a website, your data may be stored on an Ultrastar Hs14!

Learn more about the Ultrastar Hs14 here.


[1] *One MB is equal to one million bytes, one GB is equal to one billion bytes and one TB equals 1,000GB (one trillion bytes) when referring to hard drive capacity. Accessible capacity will vary from the stated capacity due to formatting and partitioning of the hard drive, the computer’s operating system, and other factors.

[2] https://www.emc.com/leadership/digital-universe/2014iview/executive-summary.htm

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