No, we didn’t, intentionally or unintentionally, make an error in this title, nor did HGST. Formerly known as Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, the now Western Digital subsidiary has just revealed at a Linux tradeshow in Boston that it is close to shipping a hard disk with the highest capacity on a single drive. But while the 10TB SMR HelioSeal HDD will indeed make server administrators drool, it might be take some time for these to be come consumer products because of the support that needs to be implemented on the operating system side as well.
We’ve seen NAS solutions that boast of 24 TB capacities, but those are really just the aggregate of at most 4 HDDs, 6 TB each. And that’s for HDDs alone, as SSD’s have even to reach that much without costing you an arm, a leg, and even other limbs. Suffice it to say, 10 TB HDD is a dream come true, but getting there wasn’t, and might still not be, easy.
HGST makes use of two distinct HDD technologies to make its 10 TB drive possible, hinted in the name of the drive. The first is “HelioSeal”, which refers to the use of Helium to seal and fill the drive. This is a well known technique that was designed to reduce the friction produced by the mechanical read and write drive heads and also allows more disk platters to be packed in.
The second, SMR or Shingled Magentic Recording, is a bit more complicated. Traditional hard drives write to disk using non-overlapping magnetic tracks that run parallel to each other. This ensures that data on other tracks do not get corrupted or affected when new tracks are laid down. SMR, on the other hand, writes new tracks that partially overlap previously written tracks, which, in concept, look like roof shingles, hence the name. This allows drives to have an over all higher data density because tracks are thinner, but at the expense of a bit of data juggling as overwritten tracks need to be rewritten somewhere else to preserve their data, which translates to slightly slower writing speeds.
This juggling and optimization act is one of the reasons why HGST hasn’t been quick to market its 10 TB HDD. It is waiting for operating systems, especially Linux, which is most favored in servers, to get the necessary SMR support, which is now all in place. HGST plans to start selling the drives by the second quarter of this year. No price has been revealed yet, but the company promises a lower overall Total Cost of Ownership, which, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean the drives won’t be expensive.